Sprout Social, a social media management firm, has revealed it's been approved by Twitter to join the sparse ranks of other Twitter Certified Products, as an Engagment and Analytics tool (only six other firms hold this position). To gain this approval Sprout had to prove to Twitter that it was something that "makes Twitter more valuable to businesses." According to the company its recent approval by Facebook onto that platform's Preferred Developer status means it's the only company to hold both credentials.
Sprout's CEO Justyn Howard exclusively briefed Fast Company on the details. Sprout appealed to Twitter, he explained because it's "helping companies engage with their audience more efficiently, if they manage a large number of Twitter profiles, as an example, or if they've got multiple people or departments to work with those profiles. Social media wasn't really built with that sort of intelligence—it doesn't know about multiple users or what has or hasn't been read, all those sorts of things that make it valuable for business."
Think of it as "business functionality added on top of Twitter or Facebook," or perhaps analogous to bolting a new tool onto your lawnmower so now it can also do mulching. "What we know of Twitter and Facebook's models is that they're very advertising based, that's where the revenue comes from," he added. "There's something interesting that happens: The more successful a company's social media advertising is, and the larger their audience becomes. And as that audience grows they need tools to be able to manage it...So it's very symbiotic for Twitter to have a tool like us."
Sprout's success could be taken as a measure of the rapid spread of social media as both a customer engagement tool and advertising channel for brands. The company has boosted its client base by 10% to over 11,000 in a little over a month, and Howard says that revenues grew 750% over the last year. And as an indication of exactly how broad an advertising channel social media has become, Sprout's clients range from mega corporations like McDonalds to large-scale political campaigns.
Twitter and Facebook are hinging their future revenues on advertising and advanced social interactions between brands and customers like this, although both firms approach the matter differently. Facebook is in the news right now because it's said its basic premise of having positively-identified users is failing, and growing "fake" or duplicated profiles are damaging its promise of delivering extremely highly-targeted advertising. Twitter's more open profile encourages a different kind of interaction, as exemplified by its recent prominent role in the Presidential election, Hurricane Sandy and the upcoming Twitter Fiction writing event. Research has previously indicated that Twitter's ad sales are double that of Facebook's, and the company has recently indicated it'll expand promoted tweets to the Middle East.
[Image: Flickr user eldh]