I’m guilty of it. I refer to Sprouter as the “Twitter-like tool” for startups and entrepreneurs. Until now, that’s what it seemed to be. Field to enter your update limited to 140 characters? Check. The ability to follow others or be followed by others? Check. A direct message feature? Check. A “favorite” feature? Check.
But this week, Sprouter began sprouting. The new homepage reflects a growing vision: Now you can get help with your startup by asking questions of a one of a panel of experts who may be on-hand in real-time or will respond relatively promptly to your queries. Panelists include marketing and word-of-mouth expert Saul Colt (formerly of FreshBooks); serial entrepreneur (and podcaster) C.C. Chapman; Amber MacArthur (aka Amber Mac), who founded MGImedia and is on hand to answer questions about video; and Maggie Fox who founded the Social Media Group.
Sprouter has also been sending out weekly newsletters that profile up-and-coming entrepreneurs and companies, as well as offering live webinar sessions with their experts. It’s now positioning itself as much more than a Twitter-like tool and wants to be seen as an educational resource for anyone starting — or growing — a business.
In an era when Twitter wannabes are rampant (Jaiku, Plurk, Blippr), it’s interesting to watch those that stretch themselves beyond the microblogging format. What are these companies good at, and what will they do well? And which services should we be using?
Time will tell what these companies can accomplish. Is Sprouter really going to be the go-to site for entrepreneurs when the competition in that space is so intense? Sprouter may break the mold because it comes from a far more social and interactive place than, say, magazines like Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. Adding webinars and near-real-time live feedback from experts is a smart way to compete on the content front.
There’s an expanding resource on Sprouter to help you get fast answers from credible people about the business of running your business or starting a new venture. Plus, you get a Twitter-like tool to meet and converse with other entrepreneur-minded folks, which makes for a more focused, less cluttered message stream.
Stay tuned for another sprouting of features later this year from Sprouter. I’ll give you one hint: Need money?
How are Twitter-like tools such as Sprouter fitting into your communications landscape? How will Sprouter’s new features help you?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Report: The Real-Time Enterprise