Twitter Tools: HootSuite & TweetDeck Highlights

My brilliant techie friend Laura Zera put together this great Twitter Tools post for us. Enjoy!

LauraZera_OptimizedThoughts about how to best engage in Twitter have occupied a large part of my frontal lobe lately – even in my waking moments, which is sometimes disconcerting! How to make using Twitter easy is the other part of the equation. When I was a project manager, I searched for years for tools that could “do it all,” but never found a one-stop shop. I started out with the same hopeful approach in my Twitter search.

My goal is to become more efficient – less time on social media, more time for writing – and utilize a more elegant retweet option than the Twitter platform itself (e.g. for adding my own words in front of the RT). Now, if there hasn’t already been a cause of death recorded somewhere in the world as “drowning by Twitter tools,” I’m sure there will be soon. There is a gigantic list. I’m not going to sample all the flavors. Save that for Baskin Robbins.

Here’s a summary of the Twitter tasks discussed below:
• Reading tweets (by Timeline or by Lists)
• Tweeting, whether scheduled or live
• Identifying and replying to retweets, mentions and direct messages (DMs)
• Performing Twitter maintenance (includes tracking new followers/unfollowers)

Two of the most popular, multi-functional tools are the Twitter-owned TweetDeck, which can be run either as a computer application or a web app, and HootSuite, which is a web app. They both have mobile applications, as well. Both work well. I prefer HootSuite.

Hootsuite Pros:
• Easier to manage information. For example, you can create tabs, so you don’t end up with one screen of column-sprawl like you do with TweetDeck. I created a new tab just to show the lists that I want to monitor. To import Twitter Lists, go to ‘Add Stream,’ then select Lists from the options along the top. All of your Twitter lists should appear. To create a column, select the List you want, then click on ‘Create Stream’)
• Provides more control over the stream, e.g. inserts nifty zig-zag bar to show where you left off on reading tweets, and allows manual control of the feed refresh
• Offers a very tidy expandable/retractable view of conversation history
• Bonus! HootSuite allows you to save draft messages
• Bonus! If you’re scheduling a post from a FB account, it gives you 420 characters to work with, then will shorten the post for Twitter

Hootsuite Cons:
When retweeting from HootSuite, links may be cut off if the user doesn’t cut and paste the link into the ‘Add a Link’ box, which then shrinks it. I wish it wouldn’t allow the send it if a message is too long, but that safeguard isn’t offered.

TweetDeck Pros:
TweetDeck allows you to view a feed of your new followers. HootSuite seems to have purposely disabled that functionality. Also, TweetDeck’s Mentions column includes your tweets that others have retweeted, and HootSuite’s does not.

Both Hootsuite and TweetDeck systems provide a more elegant retweet function than Twitter, in that they allow you to choose your retweet default to be old style, which allows you to edit before sending, or new style, which just sends the retweet as-is, like Twitter. Both are useful for scheduling tweets, especially if you want to post from other social media accounts, such as LinkedIn, a FaceBook profile page or fan page, etc. Note that the only tool I’ve heard of that allows you to schedule recurring tweets is called Gremln.

That said, neither HootSuite nor TweetDeck provide the optimum interface for Twitter maintenance, in my opinion. I still find myself switching to other tools for tasks such as viewing new followers and keeping my following-to-followed ratio at an even keel. Also, in both TweetDeck and HootSuite, it’s hard to quickly look at a profile and identify if the person is following you. In the ‘old’ Twitter, the icon for the direct message envelope gives you a quick indicator. In the ‘new’ Twitter, when you click on someone’s name to open up their profile box, the words ‘follows you’ appear after their name. (People are being automatically switched to the new Twitter interface in batches, so if you’re still on the old one, you will likely be migrated soon!)

For the pure pleasure of reading tweets, I still like the uncluttered look of Twitter. And that part about wanting to be more Twitter-efficient? Well, while tools can help you accomplish more, they won’t grow authentic relationships with tweeps. To make the most of Twitter, you still need to invest time in building relationships. No software can replace that element, which I realize makes me kind of happy. I’ve enjoyed all the talented and creative people I’ve met in the last few months, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from them. In the end, my writing will be richer for it.

Have I missed anything helpful or important? Do you have a favorite tool that blows HootSuite and TweetDeck out of the water? If yes, then I hope you’ll share!

Laura Zera has lived and worked in Canada, South Africa and Cameroon and now makes her home in Seattle, Washington. She is currently working on her second book, a memoir about being raised by a schizophrenic mother. Laura’s first book (written as Laura Enridge), 2004’s Tro-tros and Potholes, chronicles her solo adventures through five countries of West Africa. Follow her on Twitter  and visit her blog at

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51 Responses to Twitter Tools: HootSuite & TweetDeck Highlights

  1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman February 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    Laura rocks at Twitter!

    • Laura Zera (@laurazera) February 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Heehee! Thanks, Jodi. I learned a lot through observation and also guidance of other good tweeps .

      • Ted Wagoner February 14, 2012 at 7:27 am #

        I loved the help. i am currently in the middle of the battle between the two. You have mentioned most everything except the pop up and alarm feature in tweet deck. I am often in other tabs like my email or yahoo and my tweet deck will pop up and chirp that i have received either a new tweet or a new DM. I appreciate that because if someone is going to take time to message me then i would like to follow up in a timely manner. If Hoot had this then I think I would use it all the time..Just my opinion. Thank You again

        • Laura Zera (@laurazera) February 14, 2012 at 8:13 am #

          Ted, that’s a good point, thank you. Are you able to set it to only alert you when it’s a DM or a mention? When I first tried TweetDeck, I found the pop-up to be distracting (it was notifying me of all new tweets) and ended up disabling it, but that’s just me!

          • Ted Wagoner February 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

            Hey thanks,,yeah each individual column has it’s own tools feature that you can set for pop ups and chime. I have only my mention and DM column set to alert.
            I need to learn how to use lists. i have tried and I think failed terribly. Do they help in organizing??Sometimes my TL is just moving to fast to keep up with.

          • Laura Zera (@laurazera) February 16, 2012 at 9:34 am #

            Hi Ted, I’m replying to your last comment below — there’s a small site glitch though and I’m not seeing a ‘Reply’ button below your comment. Anyway, regarding lists, yes, I find they really do help with organizing and tracking specific groups or industries or people. I have lists for things like travel, mental health, writers, book reviewers, etc. And I have a ‘faves’ list so that I can make sure I don’t miss the tweets of some of my closest tweeps. The trick is that once you’ve created some lists, try and set up a tab in HootSuite where you can import the streams of those lists. I have a tab called List Watch. The instructions to import the stream is up above in the post but let us know if you still have questions.

  2. Deryn Collier February 14, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Love the post Laura! I have fiddled a bit with HootSuite but in the end I always come back to plain old Twitter. I tend to stick to my phone for social media, so that, when I’m at my computer, I just write. I’m not great at following lists or hashtags… Though I keep meaning to be!
    I have downloaded a handy app called Follow Works which helps me keep my followers to following ratio steady, and I can do that from my phone.

    • Laura Zera (@laurazera) February 14, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      Oh wow, Deryn, that might be one of the best tips I’ve heard — sticking to the phone for social media, using the computer for writing! That would mean I need to increase my telephone touch-pad skills, however… I’ll have a look at FollowWorks, too. I’ve been using JustUnfollow, which is okay but I’m not in love with it.Thanks!

      • Molly Greene February 14, 2012 at 8:59 am #

        Ha! Use the computer just for writing, what? And remove all the distracting obstacles to word count? No more excuses? I think not :-O

  3. Jo VonBargen February 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Woot! Two of my favorite tweeps in one place. Woohoo!!! Laura, I can’t get Hootsuite to work on this laptop. Just freezes up. Tweetdeck…I dunno. I somehow don’t like their skin or layout. I used to use a lot, but they’ve now become Gremln. com. I love it! You can see all your timelines and Twitter feeds, friends, etc on one page and it’s wonderful for scheduling auto-tweets. And it’s froggy green, which I love! But, that’s just my opinion. Probably everyone else doesn’t have such a picky laptop like mine. I’ve learned so much from you and Molly, and so appreciate the camaraderie between all of us over the months. You guys are super wonderful friends to have!!

    • Molly Greene February 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

      Jo, I had to switch to Firefox to make HootSuite work properly for me. Intrigued w/the froggy green, though, I’m gonna check out Gremln. I’m with you, love the friendships – love you ALL! Pam, Deryn, Jodi, Laura, ALL of you. Mwah!

      • Laura Zera (@laurazera) February 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

        Jo, I so appreciate you, too! We have been able to build such a lovely Twitter community with Pam, Deryn, Jodi and the rest of the gang. So lucky.

        Since Twaitter switched to Grmln, I haven’t tried all the other bits and pieces (I’m now starting to use it for recurring tweets) and I didn’t know it had all that capability, so I’m glad you mentioned it.

        I’m a Google Chrome user, and haven’t had trouble with any of the tools.

        Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Pamela Beason February 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    I use Tweetdeck. Probably not as efficiently as I should, but it’s a great add-on to Twitter. Thanks for all the tips, and I’ll see you Friday, Laura! I see you’ve been to Belize, too. I’m pretty sure my brain is still there… I’m currently concocting a Murder at Half Moon Caye book…

    • Laura Zera (@laurazera) February 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      You’re most welcome, Pam, and see you Friday! I’ll reply via email re: location. Can’t wait to exchange Belize stories.

  5. Carlie Cullen February 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    What a great article! I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around Tweetdeck and Hootsuite and trying to decide which one to use. Your explanation made so much sense that the fog has cleared and I’ve now got a clear direction! Thank you so much, Laura. :o)

    • Molly Greene February 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

      Hey y’all! I’m a HootSuite girl, too. I never “took” to the look of TweetDeck – but variety is the spice of life! So deeply appreciate your visits and comments – I’ve learned a lot, love the discussion and thanks so much!

      • Laura Zera (@laurazera) February 14, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

        Hey Carlie, so glad that you found it useful. TweetDeck is okay, but most people seem to prefer HootSuite out of the two. Just something slightly friendlier about it, I’d say. If you ever have any questions, just shoot me a tweet!

  6. Diana Layne February 15, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    thanks for the comparison of the two. Has anyone tried Tweet Adder? It’s not free, but I’ve heard really good things about it–but…b/c it’s not free, I’d like to learn more about it. There IS a free 30 day trial but 30 days wasn’t long enough for me to learn twitter (said only as a comparison, lol)


    • Molly Greene February 16, 2012 at 7:09 am #

      Hi Diana! I have tried Tweet Adder. I don’t love it for many reasons, but if you want to auto-follow it will make your twitter life much easier.

      • Laura Zera (@laurazera) February 16, 2012 at 9:14 am #

        Hi Diana, thanks for your comment. I’ve never tried TweetAdder, but I did find a couple of product reviews for it online. Here’s one:

      • Ted Wagoner February 17, 2012 at 1:25 am #

        i am still pretty new to twitter myself. I signed in, got an address and then didn’t use for months. Then i came back to twitter this past year. I am not really that interested in followers. I would never want to just auto follow anyone, I recieve new follower info in my emails and then I go to their sites and look them over completely for many things before i choose to follow them back. Is that wrong?

        • Sharon February 17, 2012 at 7:35 am #

          I do that too. Nothing about social media is right or wrong, do what is best for you…

          • Laura Zera (@laurazera) February 20, 2012 at 10:28 am #

            Ted, Sharon is spot on — do what feels best for you. That said, don’t be afraid to try different tools, techniques and practices. The good thing is that you can change them any time you want, or even stop completely if you don’t like something! And a big goal is to have fun — that shines through on Twitter and makes the reciprocity and tweet exchanges all the more enjoyable for both sides.

  7. Sher A Hart February 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    I’m late to the party but always interested in ways to reduce my twitter time in favor of writing. Now that I see how many more tweets I have than followers, I’m sure I can cut back. I’ve been using Hootesuite but am going to try that Gremlin tool, at least for posting my blog posts. Because I really do want to finish my book–again. Rewriting in first person. Thanks for the great post!

    • Laura Zera (@laurazera) February 26, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      Thanks for stopping by, Sher. Finding the Twitter/writing balance is tough; I’m still working on it! But using a tool with a tweet scheduling option can really help. It’s one of the most useful things of all the different functions in these tools. Hope the rewrite goes well!

  8. Jeff Faria March 2, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    “To make the most of Twitter, you still need to invest time in building relationships.” True also of Facebook, etc. Good post, thank you.

    • Laura Zera (@laurazera) March 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

      Thank you, Jeff!

  9. Julia Tomiak March 4, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    Thanks for this post! I’m in the middle of choosing between the two, and your comments have been very helpful. I didn’t realize I could schedule with Tweet Deck- I’ll have to check that out. In Hoot Suite, I’m having trouble viewing some of my streams- I try to scroll down the list, and it automatically bumps me back up to the top- Frustrating! I’ll stick with both until I work out the kinks… but that doesn’t sound efficient, does it?

    • Laura Zera (@laurazera) March 4, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      Glad it was helpful. Regarding the HootSuite streams, I haven’t had the ‘bumping’ issue, but I dislike how when you refresh a stream of imported lists, it leaves out gaps of hours (from the time that you were last logged on until the time you refresh) and only displays about the last 90 minutes worth after you’ve refreshed. That only seems to be the case with lists, though. Anyway, hope that you find your favorite tool and happy tweeting!

  10. Imelda Evans April 22, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    Hi Laura
    I use both, one on the desktop and one on the iPad. Best of both worlds!

    • Laura Zera (@laurazera) April 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

      Indeed! TweetDeck and HootSuite thank you for being an equal-opportunity employer. Thanks for stopping by, Imelda! (One of my favorite names ever, too!)

  11. James McCann May 2, 2012 at 2:57 am #

    I used Hootsuite up until a week ago but continuing refresh problems (on iPad) forced me to switch. I now have Twittelator and love it; all the functions I need and uncluttered too.

    Now I just need something to come up with hilarious and followable content…

    • Molly Greene May 2, 2012 at 6:43 am #

      That’s a new name – I will have to check it out! As for content, I hear ya …

      • Laura Zera (@laurazera) May 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

        I’ve never heard of that one, either. Thanks for the head’s up. New stuff coming out all the time… and lots of different tools out there… .

  12. Barbie Van Horn June 4, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    Nice article. I use Hootsuite but have never imported the lists. This helps!

    • Laura Zera (@laurazera) June 4, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      Hi Barbie, thanks for reading and glad you found something helpful in there.

  13. Michael P June 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    Molly & Laura –
    I also wanted to put another tool on your radar – it’s not really new, because it’s been around for a couple years, but it just got a total UI refresh and is way better now:

    • Molly Greene June 4, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

      Hey Michael, thanks. Haven’t heard of this tool before, so I googled it to be sure you were legit :-O Curious if it offers anything different/better?? Thanks so much for the read and comment!

      • Michael P June 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

        I know! It’s been really under the radar, and it should be – it’s amazing, and I’m trying to help it get on the radar.

        The 3 major things Pluggio has that neither Hootsuite nor TweetDeck have are…

        1) The Friend Finder – this lets you put in a keyword or hashtag, and it will show you other people who are talking about that so you can follow them.

        2) Dripfeed tweets – this lets you fill up a queue of tweets without having to pick a time that they get posted, and they’ll be posted at regular intervals throughout the day (following limitations you specify)

        3) No information overload! It’s not a multi-column format, so you aren’t slammed with all the info at once – it’s laid out more like an email client with folders, and has an unread message counter so you can see any people, groups, lists or searches that have unread messages for you to review

        Hope that helps!

        • Molly Greene June 5, 2012 at 10:13 am #

          I like the drip feed for tweets. A major on my wishlist would be to schedule tweets at the same daily forever without having to input them again – so far only Gremln does this.

          • Michael P June 5, 2012 at 11:44 am #

            Oh that’s a good idea… I’ll pass that on and see if the developers can add that

  14. cindy June 9, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    A few weeks ago I signed up for HootSuite premium and have not used it once. I’m going to try Gremllin and Twitter Adder. This was a great post and reinforced my thinking that Hootsuite isn’t right for me.

    • Molly Greene June 9, 2012 at 6:56 am #

      I only use Hootsuite to schedule short-term tweets to promote a new blog post! I prefer the actual Twitter platform to view tweets.

  15. Chris June 21, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    Laura, great article but I am still not convinced on some of the suggestions found in the comments here. Ideally I want a tweetdeck quality device that will allow me to import a bulk list of tweets and then drip feed them according to a humanised schedule. Sadly there is nothing that will do this for free and the ones that do do something like it co$t too much. I hope a developer out there writes a plugin or something for Tweetdeck after reading this.

    Thanks for writing this article Laura… got me thinking.


    • Laura Zera June 26, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      Hi Chris,
      Thanks for your input. I think I might know of something that does what you’re looking for and is pretty inexpensive but I’m sitting in an airport with my Netbook and the info is on my laptop at home. Will have a look tomorrow and get back to you… .

      • Molly Greene June 29, 2012 at 10:17 am #

        Hi again Chris – Laura found the tool she mentioned. It’s called AutoTweeter: It’s client software (instead of a web app) and will pull tweets from a batch that’s set up in a spreadsheet. It’s $15 for the full version but you can try a free version that has some restrictions on it. I tried the free one before going to HootSuite and it seemed decent, just more than what I needed at the time. Tech support was responsive, too. Hope that helps!

  16. Larry Crane July 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Whew! My head is spinning. This post and comments is the best ever. I just need to sit and try to digest some of it. I’m using TweetDeck but not well, I’m afraid. Thank you all for the info. It’s the greatest.

    • Molly Greene July 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      Hey Larry, so glad you found Laura’s post helpful – and thanks for stopping by my blog!

  17. Tracy Swindale April 24, 2013 at 6:25 am #

    Great article and excellent follow-up information in the comments. Just wanted to say that I use both Hootsuite Pro & TweetDeck and continually switch between. Love TweetDeck for “Interactions” stream and really wish Hootsuite would add a “New Followers” tab! The Contacts button is absolute rubbish.

    Also, you mentioned that Hootsuite doesn’t show RTs of your tweets – well I have that stream on mine: On the “Add Stream” button, select social media account and then select “My Tweets, Retweeted”. Hope this helps.

    • Molly Greene April 24, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Thank you so much, Tracy!

      • Laura Zera April 24, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

        Thanks, Tracy!

        The thing that I’m not crazy about with regard to HootSuite’s “My Tweets, Retweeted” stream is that it only shows you which of your tweets were RT’d and how many times, but it doesn’t show *who* did it so you can thank them!

        I just read a good post on some of newer tools. They have both paid and free account levels, and some of them look like they could be fun and helpful: