educationtechnologyinsights

Sprout Social: A Collaborative Platform for Dynamic Social Communication

Justyn Howard, CEO and Founde Let’s wind the clock back five decades when Herbert Marshall McLuhan, the late Canadian philosopher of communication theory, coined the term ‘Global Village’ and predicted its emergence. McLuhan envisioned one world interconnected by an electronic nervous system. As a thought experiment—if McLuhan were somehow transported to the twenty-first century, he would be as taken aback as appeased at the manner in which his prediction has actualized. Be as it may, the art of technological discovery has steered us to an emphatic point all the same. Few can refute the role of social media in condensing our vast world into a ‘Global Village.’ Social media bears the potential to connect with primary stakeholders of any business, brand, or organization; billions of them spread across the globe. Notably, it is heavily influencing the way education is getting delivered today. “The idea of learning levitates when educational institutes and students communicate freely,” begins Justyn Howard, CEO and Founder, Sprout Social. “We exist to help streamline and enhance those conversations. Our platform is packed with powerful features but stays out of the way to let clients easily engage with people and build lasting relationships.” Malcolm Forbes, the publisher of Forbes Magazine, famously said, “The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” It introduces people to newer ideas and incites the acumen that inherently arises at the wake of stimulating possibilities. On that account, it’s only fair that the impact of social media is being felt deeply in the education landscape.

When Howard founded Sprout Social in 2010, he envisaged his company to function as a bridge between businesses and their respective customers. Today, Sprout Social is a social media management platform created to help clients grow their social media presence. The web application integrates with multiple social networks and helps organizations extract real business value out of social media through effective engagement, publishing, analytics, and more. From social media management and marketing to social customer care and social media software for agencies, prospective clients can choose how Sprout fits their bill.

Smarter and Faster Communication

Sprout’s Social Media Management Platform is armed with cutting-edge features ranging from a unified smart inbox and advanced scheduling tools including ViralPost to social CRM tools and sophisticated analytics with unlimited custom reports. The features extend to monitoring, publishing, account structure, and mobile. “In higher education, universities have recognized that social media is an increasingly effective and relevant way to communicate with thousands of enrolled students, prospective students, and even larger worldwide alumni,” observes Howard. Multiple departments within a university, usually, manage their own social channels and profiles. Sprout Social streamlines communication between departments and improves team workflow across the university. “We help clients foster a consistent social experience for their audience and accurately measure the results along the way,” assures Howard.

Imperative to an educational institute’s prospects is remaining engaged, interesting and relevant to stand out among hundreds of potential competitors. This occurs through a deep understanding of the nuances of social media and its role in higher education.

Sprout Social helps clients foster a consistent social experience for their audience and accurately measure the results along the way


Choosing the Right Social Network(s) and Structuring the Account

Keeping pace with the changing trends; Sprout Social, from time to time, conducts insightful webinars on the subject of social media in education. The most recently concluded webinar featured four distinguished speakers who shared their wisdom on the matter. Chris Barrows, Social Media and Mobile Products Coordinator at NYU reckoned, “When it comes to choosing social networks, it’s always ‘Quality’ over ‘Quantity.’” According to Barrows, once the client identifies their audience and knows where to find them; it leads to precise planning while affording more time to strategize a campaign in an attempt to shape larger audiences. It’s best to focus the efforts on a select few networks rather than being dormant on every other available social site.Once the most effective social networks have been decided upon, it comes down to structuring the account. The question that stands out in structuring is, if it’s better to rely on one centralized social team or delegate responsibilities to various stakeholders. Joel Renner, Manager of Digital Strategy & Career Systems, the George Washington University—School of Business surmised, “It’s entirely a case to case scenario. Centralized set-up can work exceptionally well if the right access and training is imparted, for the communication to get through.” Depending on the scenario, various stakeholders can be incorporated on a timely basis, which allows users to maintain the right tone and ultimately, send the desired message out. “Training provides the right insight into the kind of analytics emerging off the network reports. This makes the users feel included, even if they don’t have their own set-up,” Renner asserted. Whether the client chooses a centralized social team or delegates responsibilities to various stakeholders, Sprout Social delivers effectively. For instance, Sprout ‘Publishing’ schedules, queues, and publishes messages to the desired network site. It covers the entire publishing process and collaborates the client’s content. Maintaining a cohesive presence and ensuring the various channels seem like a unified effort is of paramount importance as it leads directly to the ‘content’ on the account.

Content that Resonates and It’s Analysis

“The content sprouting out of an account must be well-timed for it to be powerful and engaging. The audience will, then, pause at the feed and connect deeply with it,” assured Meghan Jagnow, Manager for Marketing and Communications, University of Tennessee. The data—metrics and reports—can be pulled on a weekly, monthly, or semester basis. This helps clearly understand what works and what doesn’t.

Strategies can be implemented and replaced based on the insights gained through analytics. “Sprout Social incorporates all of these aspects in its Social Media Management Platform and it works. The success of our clientele is testimony to that fact,” prides Howard.

Crafting the 'Ingredients for Success' into the Platform

Milwaukee-based Marquette University approached Sprout to address the challenges they were facing in their social media efforts across departments. In the words of Timothy Cigelske, Social Media Director of Marquette, “We lacked proper standardization ranging from siloed social profiles and divergent messages to slow responses that led us to gross inefficiencies.” The entire system lacked strategic oversight; wherein, divisions required independence to engage respective audiences, leading to inconsistency. The ability to define the success of a campaign was hindered by varied social voices, publishing tactics and measurement practices. Sprout Social deployed as the centralized platform, encouraged team collaboration and streamlined strategy implementation. Sprout delivered individual departments the flexibility to engage their own communities, along with increased visibility among the university’s social strategy leads. “It’s imperative under such scenarios to create consistent goals and success metrics for all social communication, brand messaging, and analytics in the short term,” observes Howard.

"We are in the midst of an educational revolution, where the influence of social media is radically changing the way education is being delivered"

Using Sprout Social, the Marquette team has better positioned the University for long-term success by increasing social engagement with past, present, and prospective students. “We’ve seen 140 percent increase in Facebook fans and 40 percent increase in Twitter followers over the course of a year,” states a delighted Cigelske. Marquette has seen 86 percent increase in total social interactions and 26 percent increase in mentions and retweets year over year. Significantly, there has been consistent reporting across all departmental measures and improved workflow by assigning tasks, viewing team activity in real time, and sharing customer information within Sprout.

Evolving in Leaps and Bounds

Social media is taking giant strides and has fast become the front door entry into any line of business. “We are in the midst of an educational revolution, where the influence of social media is radically changing the way education is being delivered,” perceives Howard. Students deserve the choice to spend time socializing in an effective way without hampering their academic performance. The social networking sites create virtual worlds that drastically differ from reality. Therefore, authorities must ensure that students develop the cognitive and intuitive ability to analyze the amount of time they want to spend on social media. One of the goals of teaching and learning is to support and improve student engagement. “We, at Sprout Social, will continue to explore ways in which social media tools may help accomplish this goal. We are confident, our tools will continue to help create an important learning community, facilitate active learning, and improve communication among and between students and universities,” Howard concludes.

- Richard Taylor
    February 03, 2016