Five ways tools can help you tackle Twitter

The basic Twitter.com platform is surprisingly inflexible. For example, it doesn’t allow you to schedule tweets for later, monitor how many people have clicked on your links, combine multiple accounts or view more than one stream of information at a time. So most people who embrace Twitter use a variety of tools and apps to improve their experience.

1. Dashboard

Two of the most popular dashboards are Tweetdeck (which started out as a separate entity but was bought by Twitter in May 2011) and Hootsuite. Both are free and let you view several streams simultaneously (for example your own tweets, replies to your tweets, direct messages or your timeline) in adjacent columns. They’re also good for managing multiple Twitter accounts at the same time, and scheduling tweets.

The main difference is that Tweetdeck is a desktop app – so it’s not ideal if you hotdesk or work from several locations, while Hootsuite is browser based and therefore more portable.

2. Scheduled tweets

Buffer offers even easier tweet scheduling, where instead of programming in a time and date for each tweet, you simply set a pattern. For example, you could program it to send two tweets a day, at 12.30pm and 3.30pm, Monday to Friday. Then you just fill up the dashboard with your tweets and drag and drop them into the order you want.

It also tracks the performance of tweets sent through Buffer, letting you know how many clicks, retweets, replies and favourites they received, as well as their potential reach.

3. Collaborative tweeting

If you’re setting up a Twitter account that several people will contribute to, GroupTweet is well worth a look. It allows multiple users to post tweets to one account, either through the GroupTweet dashboard, or via their personal account using the relevant @ address or hashtag. The basic version is free, but if you want to be able to moderate and schedule tweets, you’ll need to upgrade at a cost of $4.99 a month.

4. Collating tweets

On Twitter.com, your tweets don’t stay around for long. If you need to retrieve something that you tweeted, or was tweeted to you, more than a couple of weeks back, you’ll be lucky if you can still find it. Searching in Google can help, but it depends how far back you want to go.

Rather than digging around to try and find important tweets after the fact, ‘favourite’ them at the time. Or if you’re having a discussion and you want to save all of it, use Storify. It’s great for saving brainstorming sessions for later – here’s one of mine discussing the differences between lunch, tea and dinner (a brainstorm of such epic dimensions that I still haven’t written the article I intended to).

5. Performance analysis

It can be tempting to try to measure your Twitter performance, but proceed with caution. Basically,  you’re already doing it right  if people are talking to you, RTing you  or opening your links, and if your number of followers is growing.  However, if you do want a little feedback, there are services available. Just remember to take what they say with a pinch of salt, and not get too caught up in the idea of ‘performance’ – after all, it’s about communication and relationships, not numbers.

One interesting service is Crowdbooster, which shows you which of your tweets have been most popular and how many people they have potentially reached (it calls these ‘impressions’). It also reminds you about tweets you haven’t yet replied to, offers you the opportunity to schedule tweets for later and even advises you about what it thinks is the best time of day to tweet to your followers. If you just want to use it with one Twitter account, it’s free. To add more, you’ll have to pay ($39 a month for ten accounts, $99 a month for 30 accounts).

A more controversial service is Klout, which scores your ‘social influence’ between 1 and 100 based on data such as follower and following numbers, retweets and interactions. Its accuracy, however, is debatable. For example, it thinks I am influential not just about Brighton (fair enough, I live there) but Afghanistan and the Chicago Bears (neither of which I recall ever tweeting about).

Over to you
What tools do you use and recommend, and why? We’ll be writing more about Twitter in the new year, so we’d love to hear your tips. You can either comment below or tweet us on @EmphasisWriting.

Want more guidance on how to write for Twitter? See our Four tips for effective tweeting.

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