Sprout Social crosses 10K paying customers, introduces new team performance reports

By Michael Carney , written on April 22, 2013

From The News Desk

The line between a corporation’s social media presence and its overall marketing and customer service efforts is getting blurrier every day. This reality dictates that social media is no longer the domain of the eager intern or entry level associate, but is a business function that demands large, specialized teams whose activity must be managed, measured, and optimized.

Since launching three years ago, Chicago-based Sprout Social has been one of the most relied upon tools in both the enterprise and among SMBs (small and medium businesses) for managing an organization’s presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Gowalla, and other networks. With little fanfare, the company has grown to more than 10,000 paying customers, according to CEO Justyn Howard, approximately 10 to 15 percent of which are enterprise in scale – including AMD, Nokia, Yahoo, Microsoft, McDonald’s, Pepsi, Nike, UPS, Hyatt, Twilio, and Yammer. This customer base now spends 25,000 hours per day on the platform and manages more than 6 million customer conversations daily – a number that has grown six times in the last 12 months.

Given the growing importance of social media in the enterprise, and the sophistication with which these functions must now be measured, Sprout is introducing several of new reporting tools aimed at management. The first of these tools, the Team Report, tracks activity on the individual user level, showing each team member’s total posts, replies, and daily average over time, as well as the number and percentage of assigned tasks completed, first response time, and task resolution time.

As famed management consultant Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured, gets managed.”

Sprout has long allowed managers to assign and track tasks, but the new report adds additional metrics to compare performance within teams. Anyone who has ever been spent time among a sales, marketing, or customer service team has likely seen leaderboards, competitions, and other gamification strategies used to drive performance. This new report is simply an extension of that philosophy, baked directly into a social media management platform.

The Team Report is available as part of Sprout’s Deluxe and Premium SaaS plans, although all Standard plan subscribers will get a free 30-day trial. For companies subscribing to one of these service tiers, the report is available to the account owner and all admins by default, but the visibility settings can be adjusted to meet an individual team’s needs.

In addition to the Team Report, Sprout recently debuted its free Engagement Report which relies on algorithms to identify messages likely needing a response and measure the brand’s subsequent responsiveness. Performance is displayed in terms of organizational response rate and average response time, which are then compared to industry and peer-group benchmarks. Each company is ranked in terms of industry percentile in terms of “social responsiveness.”

Underlying these fancy new reports is a social media management platform that includes monitoring and engagement tools, a smart inbox for combining social feeds from multiple platforms, and team collaboration tools. The company’s ViralPost tool, for example, was introduced last summer to suggest the optimal time to deliver content based on audience usage and engagement patterns and content velocity, among other factors. Now, managers can identify their top performing team members and those in need of “encouragement.” All Sprout tools are available via Web and mobile.

Looking ahead, Sprout is currently piloting a Salesforce integration which will likely be available to the public next quarter, Howard says. The launch of this tool will follow similar recent tie-ins with Zendesk, UserVoice, with others likely to follow.

“The market is not clear yet on how it wants to connect all these SaaS products, or how it can get value from doing so,” Howard says. “But we think we can build some compelling integrations.”

The company is competing for enterprise dollars with Spredfast, Sprinklr, WhoSay, HootSuite, CommerceSocial, Adobe, and SalesForce, among numerous other competitive products. Sprout’s advantage has been its ability seems to have been its ability to deliver simplicity, both in its overall user interface and its analytics products. The newly launched reports should add to this reputation, but all in all are unlikely to sway a potential customer’s decision when comparing products.

Sprout Social has raised $11 million across two rounds of venture financing from NEA and Lightbank, with the most recent being a $10 million Series B round in February 2011. Given the time that has elapsed since, and CEO’s acknowledgement that the company has grown to 65 employees and is not yet profitable, it would seem that Sprout is due for a subsequent fundraise. Howard is playing coy, however, simply saying that it’s something he’s beginning to think about.

“The reputation of an organization today comes down to how it shows up in social conversations,” Howard says. “I think we’ve quietly built a crazy product and cool customer base to help companies thrive in this environment.”

The company’s 10,000 customers, including several blue chip enterprises, apparently agree.