Twitter: The Basic Tools

You’ve got questions–I can find the answers. Today’s question, “What are the best tools and apps for Twitter?” I’ll do what my mom said never to do and that’s answer a question with a question– “for what?” There are tools for measuring, tools for scheduling, tools for aggregating, tools for people with less than 500 followers, tools for people with more than 10,000 followers, and so the list goes on.

While looking at aggregate sites and blogs, I found Six Best Twitter Tools for Business, Ten Twitter Tools to Organize Your Tweeps, and even 99 Essential Twitter Tools and Applications. Wow–99 essential tools. Are there enough hours in the day just to manage all those tools for Twitter? Let me just take a Sunday drive through some of this and try and find some good ones and some worthless ones.

1. Schedulers: Rebecca Metz is someone I follow on Twitter. Rebecca tweets a lot–she is a curator, much like myself, who tweets out helpful information to her followers and URLs of posts she runs across. She is an advocate of scheduling tweets–you can compose several when you have time, and then schedule them at intervals so your followers don’t get overwhelmed with 6-10 tweets in a row. A lot of people do this with blogs as well. Nifty idea because it releases you from some of that Twitter urgency. But if you’re not a curator, I’m not sure you need a Twitter scheduler. If you write a blog, however, a scheduler might help you promote it. Blog tipsters advocate sending out three tweets for each blog post–one early in the morning, one midday and one at night. A scheduler can do this for you. She recommends Socialoomph, as have several others. Check it out if this appeals to you.

2. Aggregators: There seems to be two main aggregators out there: Tweet Deck and HootSuite. These tools allow you to manage (or watch) several aspects of your feed (or multiple feeds) at once on one screen including your running feed, your mentions (@), your direct messages and any hashtag feeds you are following (#). I manage two main Twitter feeds–one for the department and one for myself. An aggregator makes it a lot easier. I use Tweet Deck because I started on Tweet Deck. They are both pretty much the same–you can post to Facebook, LinkedIn and a number of other social media sites from each with multiple accounts. You need one if you manage a feed for an organization or just don’t want to be forever switching views on your Twitter home page.

A sidebar about aggregators: There are a lot of webinars or “conversations” going on out there using hashtags (#) and these tools make it easy to monitor them and follow your feed at the same time. Although beware, I am hearing more and more stuff lately about multi-tasking lowering your IQ.

3. Twitter feed embedders: There are a number of different apps out there for embedding your Twitter feed in everything from a blog to a web page to your LinkedIn profile to “you name it.” This is a little more space consuming than just adding a Twitter icon to an online location that links to your Twitter feed. Look to the left on my blog and you will see what this looks like. I can set the number of tweets I want my readers to see.

Many social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn to name a couple) offer a number of embed options just as apps like Tweet Deck offer posting services to a number of social sites. I use these in my personal sites–my blog, my LinkedIn profile, my Netvibes aggregator…but we don’t have our department Twitter feed embedded in our website. It takes too much space. But cross promotion is pretty important. Your Twitter home page offers these under the “Goodies” button at the bottom of the page or you can download them from the web as well.

4. Picture Apps: You gotta have one if you want to include pictures in your tweets. If you want to post pics from your phone or collect all your Twitter photos on one site, you need an app like TwitPic.  You’ll need an application that assigns a URL to a picture for viewing on Twitter. TwitPic is like Flickr–it’s just a hosting site for pictures.

5. Apps I don’t get or need: Almost every app in the article above citing 99 essential twitter applications are non-essential in my book. If you are in need of tracking tools for Twitter or tools that can evaluate your bottom line in terms of followers, popularity of your feed and so forth, you will want to look at tools like TweetStats or TwitterGrader. These operate something like Sitemeter or Google Analytics do for a website or blog.

I am going to leave you with a suggestion to check out the article above on 99 essential tools, even after I poked fun at the idea. There might be something there that catches your eye, especially if you are a more serious Twitter user than I am. If I had time to sit on Twitter all day, I might consider 80 or so of them. There are also a number of good Twitter tutorials on YouTube–Pam Dyer gives you her top ten here. You can search and find more than you could watch during the next Celtics-Lakers game.

Got any favorite Twitter tools? Would you mind sharing in the comments?

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