I’ve been testing several social media managers to continue the brand consolidation of everything Bolesian — and to help make updating the Social Mesh a much easier, and more centralized task.  I used to spend all day writing new updates for each, individual, social network.

Yes, handcrafting unique updates is always best, but sometimes time and tide work against that noble effort because you’re propagating old work instead of creating something new.  The rise of Google+ Pages Vanity URLs broke the handcrafted dam.

My first shot into managing all the social profiles — LinkedIn, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ Pages — was HootSuite.  I ultimately found the Hoot experience overwhelming and brittle and I hated using their image network and link-shortener.

Next, I tried Buffer — a good choice, but the vanity URL shrinker did not reliably work across all profiles, and images posted to my Twitter stream would not natively expand in view.  You had to click on the images to get them to show even though they were in the Twitter image bin.

Enter Sprout Social.  Yes, Sprout Social is expensive — a free 30-day trial does not equate with a free account like HootSuite and Buffer offer — but I knew NYU and other big organizations were using Sprout Social and, I thought, even though I now have over 20 social profiles to manage, and Sprout Social limits me to 10 accounts on their $39.00USD per month first-tier plan, I should still give them a try.

The first thing you notice about Sprout Social is they are proactive and aggressive on Twitter.  I like that a lot.  You mention them and you are immediately engaged in a conversation:

If there’s technical trouble afoot, you are transparently handed off to Sprout Social tech support and they won’t give up on you until you’re satisfied:

The next thing you notice about Sprout Social is your colorful and informative homepage.  Everything you need to know about anything is presented right there on your home screen.  Stats. Actions. Interactions. The whole stew!

Creating updates for your social profiles is easy.  Choose your networks, and write your updates!  Sprout Social will immediately send the update, or let you schedule the update instead.

Sprout Social also has a Queue that helps you schedule updates at specific times throughout the day.  You don’t get the fancy “ViralPost” feature to help you choose the best time to publish an update — that feature is reserved for the $100.00USD per month plan — and that hurts.  HootSuite’s AutoSchedule appears to be similar to ViralPost, so if you’re cunning, you can enmesh those HootSuite times into a post queue schedule on Sprout Social.

When your posts are in Queue, you can look at your schedule to see when the updates will be delivered for posting on the social network.

The greatest feature on Sprout Social is the universal Inbox.  It is always updating and always flowing.  You don’t have to do anything.  Just sit back and watch the updates scroll in — every time one of your posts successfully goes “live” in the social mesh, that update rolls into your Messages view.

With one, quick, look, you know if your networks are propagating or not.  You can also respond to people and send messages and be just as proactive as the Sprout Social staff.

Sprout Social is ideally made for working in teams.  You can assign tasks and communicate on terms — so if you have a big gang of thinkers to manage, Sprout Social is an excellent way to bring the hive mind together as one.

In addition to the beautiful webview interaction, Sprout Social is also available for use on your iPhone:

Here’s what Sprout Social looks like on and iPad:

Sprout Social just works.  Inline images show up right in my Twitter stream.  My Boles.co Vanity URL link shortener expertly works without any muss or fuss — and that one feature right there saves me $20 a month against HootSuite’s $10 a month plan that would include an additional $50 monthly fee if I were to use my Boles.com Vanity URL link shortener!

See?  Sprout Social SAVES YOU MONEY!

There are a few frustrations I have with Sprout Social.  I’m leaving behind 16 Google+ Pages because I can’t afford a more expensive monthly plan — I guess that doesn’t really matter, though, because right now, with Sprout Social, you can’t update more than one Google+ Page at a time.

Having to update each Google+ Page hand-by-hand would truly be awful, so forsaking 16 pages for the grace of the 10 social profiles I currently have in Sprout Social is an evil necessity.  There is also no native support for LinkedIn Groups or App.net.

Sprout Social is a delightful service built on a strong team of responsive people. The beauty of the website portal design and stunning look of the iOS apps makes the entire experience wholehearted and special and — the best part of all — is that you want to use the hardy service and not avoid the daily task of keeping up with mending the mesh.

With Sprout Social, you can speed along the events of your day. You start. Sprout Social finishes. You can’t ask any more than that from any service partner.

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