Last week, we decided it was time to choose a comprehensive social media tool for our team at Trello. We are very active on social media, responding to users’ questions and sharing interesting tips and tricks for using Trello. We love engaging with users on social, but like many companies, we want to be more quantified in our approach.
So we sat down and made a list of all the things a perfect social media tool would need to accomplish to fit our needs:
1) Collaborative- More than one person manages our social media accounts. Since we get a lot of support questions through Twitter, assigning someone from the support team to answer those tweets is important.
2) Easy to use- Our philosophy on simplicity is seen in the product we built. Using something clunky with a poor user experience would be a big downer.
3) Analytics- One of our goals is to be much more rigorous about social media and the value it brings to both users and the company, so the social media tool of choice would need to be able to let us dig into and analyze data.
4) Comprehensive and cross platform- We don’t want to use 10 different tools to do 10 different things. And we’d like to be able to access our tool from both a web and mobile interface given the rapid nature of social media.
5) Filter- We get a lot of tweets, so the ability to filter the important from the irrelevant is crucial.
With this criteria in mind, we got down to work and decided to test each tool for one day. If we couldn’t figure it out in a day, it broke our easy to use rule. We identified five potential tools from a variety of “top social media monitoring tools” blog posts:
This is a rundown of our experience in hopes that we can make it easier for other people to choose the right tool. Keep in mind that we did not spend a lot of time analyzing each tool so there might be a lot of things we missed, and our needs may be completely different than yours.
SproutSocial was not 100% intuitive to use at first, but the collaboration features caught on with our team. We were confused as to why there were no tab notifications when a task was assigned, rather email notifications were sent. Who needs more email?
- Easy to use- Out of all the tools we tried, Sprout had the best user experience. It was intuitive to use.
- Collaborative- Tasks can be assigned easily to other members of the team, but it’s not immediately clear how you know a tweet has been assigned.
- Analytics- Sprout offers fairly robust analytics. However, recommendations for these insights are lacking. What do we do with this deluge of data?
- Cross platform- Sprout offers web access and mobile apps. However, there is no desktop application.
- Excellent support- The support chat feature saves a ton of time and their support staff is very knowledgeable and friendly.
- Publishing - Sprout makes it easy to schedule and publish posts, and creates bit.ly links for you as well.
- Slow- There appears to be a delay associated with posting through Sprout Social to social networks. Populating conversations or navigating between different parts of the site can also be slow.
- Depressing background- Sprout’s UI is grey and black. Staring at that all day is not the most visually appealing.
- No ability to filter tweets- Our stream is all the tweets, not just the relevant ones.
- No visible distinction if someone else on your team has already favorited a tweet.
- Lacking in notifications-The notification system for when you are assigned tasks is not very robust. If Sprout Social is not open in your browser then you have to resort to emails for notifications.
- Slow start-While most other tools wanted to get in touch with us right away, the rep who reached out from Sprout wanted us to do a webinar and talk in a week. Who has time for that? While I understand their wanting us to do some preliminary legwork, they have to understand that we don’t choose tools in a vacuum so those that can convince us of their value first will tend to win.
Bottom Line: SproutSocial was an out of the box, easy to use solution that provided interesting data.
HootSuite is built for managing multiple social accounts. It’s comprehensive and very customizable, if not at all intuitive.
- Collaborative- With Hootsuite, it was the easiest to see when tweets were assigned.
- Robust and customizable analytics tools- You can fairly easily build your own reports with HootSuite’s templates in mind.
- Comprehensive browser extensions and cross platform- Hootlets provide the ability to get the information you want when you want it. Also, while we didn’t get so far as to try the mobile apps, HootSuite provides them.
- Terrible UI- Using HootSuite feels like traveling back in time. The user interface is not intuitive and getting set up is nothing short of a nightmare. To be fair- it is totally customizable and built for large teams that have multiple teams (it seems) so the fact that it was hard to set up may just be because it was more robust than our use case.
- No filter for relevant tweets- We couldn’t figure out a way to view only relevant tweets in a timeline.
- Really complex- Figuring out how to use HootSuite apparently involves getting a degree or certification.
Bottom line: HootSuite offers a complex and comprehensive solution built for agencies or large teams managing lots of different handles and accounts. Its dated UI and complexity made it difficult to use and integrate into a daily workflow.
Mention makes it easy to filter out irrelevant tweets in a visually appealing way. This is its biggest selling point.
- Mention has the ability to alter your timeline so you only see relevant tweets. Its algorithm has the ability to “learn” what relevant means as you mark tweets irrelevant thereby creating a timeline that provides the most value to users.
The tweet above shows an automated tweet from our referral program. Mention gives us the ability to mark these tweets as irrelevant so they don’t appear in our timeline.
- Web application with good UI- Mention’s web application is easy to use and is very visually appealing. Desktop notifications are great to have, although Mention seems to still use email notifications for assigned tasks.
- Email from CEO- Right after we signed up, I got a friendly personalized email from the CEO which really humanized the product.
- Slow- While the product is visually appealing, it’s functionally clunky and slow when posting tweets.
- Collaboration- While assigning tasks is simple enough, there is no way to have an internal team dialogue within a task, which makes collaboration much harder.
- Analytics - The reporting features of Mention are not very robust compared with other products.
- No publishing feature - Unlike other tools we tried, there was no ability to schedule or post multiple tweets.
Bottom line: With a very visually appealing user experience and great filtering algorithm, Mention provides a lot of value. However, with little posting and scheduling ability, it leaves some needs unfulfilled.
At a $10k annual subscription, Meltwater was the only enterprise tool I looked at although the rep I spoke to mentioned many businesses of our size are customers.
This was the only tool I was not able to try myself. Meltwater does not allow the option of a free trial to play with the product. I was only able to garner the following insights by watching a sales rep use the product through screenshare (frustrating). Therefore my insights are brief.
An analysis of sentiment taken from Trello’s tweets using Meltwater’s analytics tools.
- Deep analytics- Meltwater provides useful and comprehensive analytics based on actions.
- Significantly Higher price
- Dated UI
- Too hefty- At this point, we would not be taking advantage of all the tools and insights an enterprise tool would have to offer.
Bottom line: Meltwater is an enterprise social media engagement tool that is too robust and expensive for us to consider- especially if we are not able to test the product before we buy.
*Cost is specific to Trello’s needs. For example, SproutSocial charges $99/user and Mention charges based on how many tweets mention your company.
**Since we didn’t get to actually try Meltwater, we couldn’t comment on its collaboration abiliies.
So where did we end up?
After our social media experiment and exposure to so many tools, we decided to go with SproutSocial. Great support really makes a difference as does the ability to do just about everything you need in one tool. While we have requested Sprout to consider changing or at least allowing users to customize their backgrounds (like Trello boards!), we will have to learn to live with staring at a dull grey background.
Interesting to note also is that no one solution will be able to do everything we want. For example, we are huge fans of Buffer but didn't include them on this list because their tool is only built for publishing. However, we will likely continue to use Buffer because of the strong analytics on a tweet by tweet basis.
If you’re going through a search of social media tools, don’t feel overwhelmed. While there seem to be hundreds of options available, we learned that by clearly articulating our needs we were able to narrow them down much easier than anticipated. Sitting down and discussing what you need and why turned out to be the best first step for our team.
Did you have a similar experience at your company with a different outcome? Please reach out to us, and let us know on Twitter.
Special thanks to Brian Cervino, Adam Simms, and Fyza Hashim for collaborating on this post.
Trello is not endorsing or disparaging any tool. We just wanted to share our experience to help others. Different companies will have different preferences.
Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello)!