by Laura Zera
Thoughts 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 multi-functional tools are 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.
• 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
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 allows you to view a feed of your new followers. HootSuite does not. 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.
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.