Useful Twitter Tools and How to Use Them

New twitter tools are available on a daily basis. No one can keep up with them unless you spend an entire day to test and use them every day. That was unfortunate in some ways, because I often miss some cool tools.

As part of using Twitter, I often wonder if it is possible to do such and such with it, not knowing that such tool already exists!

That leads me to believe that one of the keys to using Twitter effectively is to know which options are available out there and which tool is the most suitable for certain application.

For the same reason I explained above, it is not possible to cover every tool. So consider this as an unfinished post, I may add and remove Twitter tools as they become (un)available.

Twitter Clients

Most people start with the web interface and move on to a specific Twitter client. If you haven’t done so, you should really try them out and pick your favorite. Twitter client not only helps making your updates easier, but it usually also integrates other time-saving and useful tools.

TweetDeck

  • Twhirl. Currently this is the most popular Twitter client based on Adobe Air, so it runs on at least Windows and Mac platforms. Twhirl also integrates with Twitter Search and TweetScan.
  • TweetDeck. Another Adobe Air desktop application to post updates to Twitter and break abundance of Twitter information into more manageable pieces.
  • Digsby. Digsby incorporates email, instant messenger and social media in one neat application. Its support for Twitter is not as complete as other clients, but it is worth mentioning because this is what I use right now.

General Twitter Search

Previous tweets are archived. That means you can tap into collective minds of the public by searching Twitter. What you can use this is limited only by your imagination. You can perform simple niche research for content ideas, find out what your audience wants (it is more effective than survey before it is spontaneous), review what’s happening in the past about certain events or incidents and so on.

Here are currently my favorite tool for searching Twitter data:

  • Twitter Search (previously Summize) as the name implies allows you to perform search on Twitter, but it is more than that. For instance, if there is a conversation about a tweet, you will be able to display it easily.
  • TweetScan. This is another Twitter search tool, but with auto-refresh so I could just leave the page open and see new tweets as they become available.
  • Monitter is certainly more than a simple Twitter search. New tweets appear in real time and you may narrow down your search by geographic area too.

All those tools let you grab the RSS feed of your search results so you may get new items right inside your news reader. If you need to monitor tweets with your existing query, this saves a lot of time.

Tag Search

Hash tags are useful to tag certain events in Twitter. For instance, if you tweet something related to the Mumbai incident, you should use #mumbai to make it visible when someone search for it.

Hashtags

Twitter Search performs this type of search very well, but if you want a nice trend graphic for the hashtag, #hashtags will do it for you. The only downside is, currently #hashtags is a bit slow and incomplete.

Topical Search

TweetScan is a useful spy tool. If you know an established expert in your niche, use it to see which keywords he uses most often.

TweetStats represents the data in TweetCloud, which is much like tag cloud but for Twitter. With this tool, you will be able to track tweets per hour, tweets per month, tweet timeline, reply statistics and more.

Popular URL Search

Around the Twittosphere, people are constantly throwing links to refer to external resources. After all, Twitter’s limitation of 140 characters doesn’t allow you to do much. (Of course, you will be using URL shortening service to fit the URL into one message.)

twitt(url)y

The question is, what’s hot around the twittosphere (twittersphere?)

Twitt(url)y is like Digg, but instead of letting the users vote, it counts for the number of mentions in the tweets. The more people talk about a URL, the higher the rankings in Twitt(url)y will be. This tool is useful if you want to spot popular topics using aggregated Twitter’s data.

Search Result Monitoring

Of course, I mentioned above RSS feeds from Twitter Search and other tools. Just feed these RSS feeds to your news reader and you are set.

You may also consider Google Alerts to monitor news and Technorati for the blogosphere. Although this is not a Twitter tool, it is important to realize that conversations often jump across multiple media.

It may start with a blog post, to a Twitter message, and then back to the blog. Monitoring both worlds ensures you get the whole picture.

Twitter Automation

Automation is not a bad thing, as long as you use it sagely. There are certain types of content that are suitable for automation and you will not lose any value of not twittering it live.

The problem is, if it requires response, you’d better make sure you are available to interact with your followers. Again, these tools are powerful but be careful not to kill the conversational aspect of Twitter.

  • Tweet Later. This tool not only schedules your tweets, but also auto follow new followers — if you so choose, and send them automated welcome message.
  • Twuffer. Another service that allows you to tweet now but let it appear later.

Miscellaneous Tools

These are tools and services that make Twitter more useful and interesting. Some tools are integrated into Twitter clients, which is neat to have. After all, integration keeps you in the flow, which is one of the most important factors to make Twitter more usable.

If using Twitter is straightforward, people are more likely to use it.

TwitPic

Here are a few tools that may help you:

  • TwitPic allows you to share pictures on Twitter. It includes an API so you can post pictures from your phone or directly from the site. It is also nicely integrated with Twhirl.
  • Everyone seems to have their own favorite. Snipr is by default used by Digsby, my Twitter client (that also supports instant messaging). Twurl.nl lets you get statistics of your URLs, which can be useful for tracking your URLs. If you’ve ever tried to fit in one more character into your tweets, perhaps you’d prefer the shortest URL shortening service, which is is.gd.

The above tools are there to help you become more productive in using Twitter. If you already used some tools and they work for you well, there is no reason why you should switch. After all, what you want to do is to get things done.

Happy twittering!

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