Last time I was discussing the challenges in deciding which Twitter tools to use once you've decided you're going to use Twitter at all. And when I say "use" I'm focusing on your role as a distributer of content.
I want to reiterate that this isn't as big a decision as, say, choosing blogging software. If you decide to change blogging software it can be a real pain (and expense) to do so. But Twitter management tools tend to have three things in common that make them wonderfully interchangeable:
- Free Versions - pretty much all the tools have a free version that will work for the majority of people. You don't have to make any financial investment to try the tool out.
- Low Learning Curve - the tools don't take a lot of time to learn how to use – so you don't have to invest inordinate amounts of your time to discover if one of them is going to work for you.
- Won't hoard your content - because the tools are basically taking content from Twitter itself (and just displaying it in a more useful way), your core content is on Twitter, not stuck inside the tool. You can even use more than one tool to read the same content in different ways if that's what works for you.
So it's not that hard to switch between them or even to use more than one tool at the same time! While I offered some hints last time on mobile tools, this becomes more relevant as we look at the tools you'll consider for desktop usage.
In fact I actually use four or five different tools to manage my Twitter accounts. Between active posting, list management, direct message conversations and statistics, there isn't one tool so far that has met all my twitter-ing needs. While this obviously isn't ideal from an ease of use perspective, it is great that I at least have the option to use as many tools as work for me i.e. using Co-Tweet to answer all of my direct messages or using HootSuite to publish all of my posts. This is only possible because the tools happily pull all of the relevant content *from Twitter* instead of storing it in their own database. So I never actually *have* to choose.
Here is a breakdown of some of the available tools that I think are worth checking out:
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TweetDeck - known for it's desktop version but also has a mobile version. You can monitor multiple accounts, tweet from multiple names, and setup pop-up alerts. There's also an iPad version.
CoTweet - great when you'd like to give multiple users access to the same Twitter account or even assign specific posts to an individual user to respond to. Because of it's multi-user and assignment features it's a great tool if you plan to use Twitter for customer service and has attracted large brands like Starbucks, JetBlue, and Coca-Cola. They do offer a feature-rich free version. As of the writing of this article it is desktop only.
Twhirl - like CoTweet and TweetDeck, Twhirl can handle multiple accounts and has all the features you'd expect. Note Twhirl was acquired by Seesmic in 2008.
HootSuite - a great tool (and my personal favorite) with a user-friendly interface. All the standard Twitter functions plus the ability to track keywords and trends, post directly to Facebook, schedule posts, put followers into groups and the ability to manage multiple accounts. You can also track clickthroughs on your embedded links. HootSuite has both desktop and mobile versions.
Twitbin - Twitbin is actually a Firefox extension that allows you to view your Twitter accounts as a sidebar in your browser. This setup allows you to easily keep a constant eye on what's happening on Twitter. Wonderfully convenient. For those who want to make Twitter a central communication tool holding real time conversations and posting multiple times per day this "always on" setup may be the tool for you!
SocialOomph - people really debate the automated direct reply issue. I like it beacuse although it can be annoying having to delete DMs that aren't very useful, it can also be a quick way to learn more about the person you just followed -- what someone puts in their direct message, and sends to every single person who follows them is telling. Or if you ask a good question in your own automated DM, it can be a way to learn something about the person who just followed you. SocialOomph has a good tool to enable you to create an automated DM as well as lots of other features.
Which Twitter desktop app do you use? Did I leave yours off of the list? Have you had any great or challenging experiences with any of the tools above?
One of the most important things you can do on Twitter is actually engage other users. While the list above tackles some of the basics of posting, next time I look forward to getting into tools for engagement and for measuring your success.
Follow me on Twitter. Special thanks to Dave Clarke, Communications Strategist at Churnless, for his excellent help in compiling the data for this article! You can ask Dave about his favorite Twitter tools at @thedaveclarke or ask me more about mine at @maishawalker.
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