In the world of online blogging, there are many tools to accomplish the tasks you need to do each day. There are tools to help you share content, tools to help you manage social profiles, tools for curation, tools for post scheduling, tools for keyword research and much more. When one tool achieves most or all of the functions you need from day to day, that tool becomes one of the top-tier pieces of software in the industry.
Today, three of those tools are presented front and center, to be compared, and the best among them chosen. These three are Sprout Social, Hootsuite and Raven Tools.
How easy is the program to use? Each of these three have their pros and their cons. For example, Hootsuite keeps everything in a very nice columned layout, with all the information presented front and center. Your top layer of navigation is your social account, which is the master control for each social platform beneath it. This allows several people to manage a different set of profiles from different accounts, all within the one Hootsuite window. To some, of course, it’s too cluttered to be useful; it’s just too overwhelming. This is particularly true when you have accounts to manage on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn, FourSquare and others all at once.
Sprout Social is very streamlined by comparison, choosing instead to hide information until you dig for it. This makes for a cleaner, more crisp outlook, with a little hit to usability. Still, you’re able to customize it to an extent, showing you what you really need to know where you want to know it. Once you get used to where certain tidbits are hidden, it’s easy to use.
Raven Tools is by contrast very stark and grey. The color scheme notwithstanding, there’s a certain beauty to the way Raven lays out all of your information. Because of the extra functionality that comes with Raven – more on that later – there’s a lot to get used to, and it can be very overwhelming. That said, like Sprout Social, when you know where to go, Raven becomes a very potent solution with intuitive navigation.
Hootsuite has some very good analytics, but there’s one problem; they’re locked behind a paywall, like some kind of free to play service. As of January 2014, uberVU has been integrated into Hootsuite, giving you some real time data and a lot of deep information, once you display it as you need. Hootsuite is great, but can get expensive, particularly for larger sites or networks of blogs.
Sprout Social is a great source of analytics presented in a slick way. You could almost screenshot your readout and use it as a ready-made infographic, it’s that slick. All the information you could want to have is there, so you’re not lacking depth beneath the shiny surface.
Raven Tools color scheme is stark, and the color choices they’ve made for their reports can be a bit jarring. However, the vast amount of options within Raven Tools more than makes up for this; Raven Tools is one of the few analytics apps that allow you to sync your webpages, your social media pages, and much more – all under one roof.
Content Publication, Scheduling and Curation
Hootsuite was designed around collaboration and content management, and it excels in this arena. You can manage multiple accounts by the profile, you can schedule posts, you can save drafts; anything you could want, you can do.
Sprout Social is much the same. Both platforms have some internal basic trend analytics to help show you what’s going on in your profiles, so you better know what to post to cater to the current atmosphere.
Raven Tools, likewise, has robust content management options. It has deep collaboration and campaign management options, and it’s directly integrated with Google Analytics, to show you what you need to know right away. You’re also able to access quite a bit of free support, particularly since you’re paying for the service.
What makes Hootsuite unique? Primarily it’s their integration with mobile devices and mobile apps. They have 119 apps that integrate with Hootsuite for a wide range of additional features, 98 of which are free to install. They also have the Hootlet, a tiny bit of code you can plug in to your browser at any time to access your account from anywhere, on any computer. It’s still in beta, and it’s a little buggy, but it’s a function no other suite has tried to implement.
What about Sprout Social? Where’s the uniqueness come in? Well, for one thing, they have a smart inbox with a deep form of keyword monitoring that puts Google Alerts to shame. It also has a great messaging system, integrating Twitter in its UI. Integration with some other social apps, like Salesforce and Zendesk, also comes standard.
Raven Tools, in addition to integrating directly with Google Analytics, comes with a great deal of PPC tools as well. It’s more than just a content management system; it’s an all-in-one SEO and blog management suite. Pretty much anything you could want to do, from SEO, to social, to content management, to PPC is available in Raven Tools.
Hootsuite has four tiers of plans: free, pro, small business and enterprise. The free plan manages up to three social profiles and gives you basic reporting, message scheduling, app integrations and two RSS feeds. You need the $10/month plan to access more enhanced reports, premium apps, dashboard setup, support, advanced analytics, security and team functions. The small business plan enhances those features for $50/month, and the enterprise plan is determined by your needs when you enroll.
Sprout Social offers a free trial and four tiers of service, from Deluxe to Premium to Team to Enterprise. The cheapest plan is $60/month, making it more expensive than the small business plan from Hootsuite. It offers their unique inbox, real time monitoring, publishing and reporting for up to ten profiles. The premium, at $99/month, includes all of that in addition to 10 more profiles, helpdesk integration, advanced reporting and more. The team version allows three collaborators but costs a high $500/month, but gives you all-hours weekday support, custom branding and up to 30 profiles.
Raven Tools has a 30-day free trial, with the Pro and Agency plans available once this trial is up. Pro costs $99/month and gives you unlimited campaigns, unlimited access to 20+ tools, automated branded reports, up to 20 social monitoring searches and email training. The agency version is $250/month and gives you unlimited users, up to 50 monitoring searches and more.
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