Thoughtful design has always been at the core of everything we do at Sprout Social. From the very beginning, our founders understood that providing a delightful and intuitive user experience is imperative to ensuring our customers’ success on social. And our customers’ success is paramount.
For Sprout, it’s been rewarding to develop and expand our user interface with our customers throughout the years. To deliver a quality product experience, we depend on hearing your feedback. And as time passes and needs evolve, it’s not only important that we modernize our look and feel, but that we also continue to make Sprout even easier for you to use.
Today, we’re thrilled to share Sprout’s design refresh. Over the past several months, many of our customers have upgraded to the new experience and the response has been tremendous. The design refresh is years in the making, and it’s now available for all users on all plans across Sprout’s web and mobile applications.
Highlights of the new experience include: further streamlining your workflows, improving accessibility, providing a more consistent design across the entire platform and setting up a framework to roll out new features, faster. Let’s dig in to learn more.
Why update Sprout’s design?
Investing in this design refresh allows us to continue delivering on one of our core company values to Seek Simplicity, as well as the high standards for intuitive and easy-to-use customer experiences that have always differentiated our product.Boo Fagan Director, Product Design Our goal is to make your job easier. The design refresh won’t change the way you work, it will only make it more effortless. Great design should not only make your workflows more efficient, but also equip you with a more delightful environment to work in.
The new interface maintains that user-friendliness you’re used to, while improving usability and design consistency. And the new consistent design system isn’t only an upgrade to Sprout’s overall look and feel. It also makes it easier for Sprout’s engineers to build and ship new features even faster.
While the new layout may look notably different, the core foundation of the Sprout you’re used to largely remains the same. Likewise, it’s even easier for new users to get up and running because the design elements used across the app are more standardized (e.g. the date picker in Messages will always look and feel like the date picker in Reports).
Visually, the design refresh gives you a more enjoyable environment to work in with a modern layout. Some of the ways we’ve improved our look include:
Less clutter, more focus
You can access the most important areas of Sprout with new, vertical navigation bars on the sides of the app. Names for the tabs and features are hidden, but you can still see them when you hover over the icons. By hiding these names on the surface, we’re reducing some of the clutter from your screen and removing distractions.
Try it out: Hover over the icons on the left and right navigation menus to navigate the new layout.
Doubling down on efficiency, we’ve made it easier to focus on your most important tasks by hiding our filtering and navigation menus. Previously, adjustable filters and menus were always shown on your screen whether or not you needed to adjust them. Now, our filter and secondary navigation menus are now collapsible. Hiding these menus gives you extra screen real estate and lets you quickly access these tools with the click of a button.
Try it out: Go to the Messages tab and toggle the Filters icon in the top right. For even quicker access, use the [ and ] keyboard shortcuts!
Aligning values and design
No matter how you’re accessing Sprout, the new interface should feel polished and easy to use. Which is why we’ve thoughtfully selected new fonts, colors, buttons and icons to improve usability across browser types, phones and operating systems, as well as support users with visual impairments and disabilities. Championing Sprout’s company values of Caring Deeply and Championing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, we place importance on a smooth and consistent user experience regardless of your circumstances.
Marketers are still asking, what is B2B influencer marketing? Here’s a definition I’ve been using over the past 5 years or so:
B2B influencer marketing is activating internal and external subject matter experts with engaged networks to advocate and co-create content of mutual value that drives measurable business goals.
As the groundswell around influencer marketing rises and becomes a normal part of the B2B marketing mix, the volume of information and misinformation on the topic also increases.
One of the most popular questions people also ask about B2B influencer marketing focuses on what makes a good business influencer? By now we all know that popularity alone does not make someone influential. It’s certainly important, it's just not the only thing.
As B2B marketers mature in their understanding of the role influence plays and how the dynamic of brand content co-created with industry experts plays out with customers, they begin to realize that other factors matter. Topical relevance matters of course as well as resonance of the topic amongst an influencer’s community.
The intersection of individual expertise, how well that expertise resonates with followers and the size of network creates a baseline of characteristics when evaluating whether a certain influencer might be a match.
But there’s more than that. Understanding what makes a great influencer is both art and science, soft and hard skills. The success of identifying, qualifying and engaging influencers is also directly tied to how they will be engaged and to what end.
Some people reading this might think that influencer marketing isn’t the magic pill some are playing it up to be. There’s a reason for that, because it’s not magic. It’s more like alchemy.
The reality is, there’s no one formula for the perfect B2B influencer, but there are some common characteristics that B2B brands should look for in varying proportions according to what’s important to a program or activation. I call those characteristics:
The 5 Ps of B2B Influence
Proficiency - In B2B marketing, the vast majority of those considered influential possess deep expertise in the field they work in. This is a significant difference from many B2C influencers who are often self proclaimed as influential with clever media creation skills.
As B2C influencer content and engagement tactics evolve, some are crossing over into B2B with a trickle of opportunists successfully creating influence amongst B2B audiences not solely for their expertise, but for a combination of adept social media content creation skills and some expertise. B2B marketers who do their due diligence will be able to filter accordingly.
Popularity - While network size is not the only thing, nor is it the most important thing, it is definitely a metric to consider. Some marketers swing in the direction of ignoring audience size altogether because of lower engagement rates with popular influencers. This is simply foolish. All things being the same, I’ll take 2% engagement of an influencer with a million followers over 2% from someone that has 1,000 followers.
What matters is how network size factors in with the type of influencer you need. For example, popular influencers aka “brandividuals” are often best for top of funnel content. Niche domain expert influencers are better for middle and end of funnel content. Engaging a brandividual and expecting conversions is just naive.
Personality - If you’ve worked in B2C influencer marketing and been exposed to all the characters there, B2B is going to seem a bit dry. Now there are some colorful characters in the B2B influencer community, no doubt. But personality is often a trait that needs to be uncovered when you’re working with some types of business influencers.
The good news is that savvy influencer marketing practitioners know how to plant the seeds that can grow and blossom within an otherwise introverted influencer. You don’t need them to be a colorful character, ripe with personality per se, but you do want them to connect with the passion they have with their craft and how their expertise can help others be successful.
Publishing - Content is the media that conveys the ideas of influence and while B2B influencers are not expected to produce the same types and quantity of content as in B2C, it is ideal when there’s a platform where the influencer publishes. At a minimum, that would be social networks but to be a B2B influencer, it’s most likely that also includes articles contributed to publications if not research, books and presentations.
Promotion - The value a B2B influencer brings beyond adding expertise and credibility to brand content is the ability to share what they helped create with their network. Trust of brand content is at a low, especially with advertising. Customers yearn for authentic content and the right kind of influencer collaboration can give them that, delivered via the influencer’s own distribution channels. That means social networks for course but also potentially blogs, email newsletters, podcast, LinkedIn Live, contributed articles or columns in industry publications.
I know some people reading this are thinking there could be even more P’s like being Prolific, Persuasive or Passion. Yes, there could be so many more but we have to draw the line somewhere! It's important to be able to manage the data and insights necessary to factor these characteristics into selection, qualification and engagement.
Some of these traits will not fully reveal themselves until you work with an influencer on a few content activations. Others will fluctuate over time and that is normal. It's important to understand that influence is a temporal thing. It is not fixed or permanent. It’s important marketers realize that before they disengage an influencer in the short term due to lower performance. The same goes for high expectations after great performance.
Organic influencer engagement is a little dynamic and what you don’t spend on paid influencers like an ad buy you will (in part) need to invest in relationship management, education and even tips that will help the influencers be more effective.
B2B brands with high influencer churn or low performance often apply “ad buy” perspectives to a what is actually a relationship driven effort. Mismatched expectations are not helpful for anyone, so think about the 5Ps as you evaluate and nurture your influencer community. Consider where of each your ideal influencers need to score on the 5 Ps in order to be a good match for the kind of activation you have in mind.
When there’s 5P alignment, there's happiness: for customers, influencers and your B2B brand.