Tweet Toolbox: How Ten Simple Tools Make Twitter Work for Me (Part 2 of 2)
Sara Heins |December 20, 2011
This post was originally written by Carrie Royce.
1. My Swiss Army Knife: Hootsuite
If you manage one account – socializing on behalf of your company or your personal brand – Twitter itself is probably an adequate application for the job. It’s fun and user-friendly. For tweeting on-the-go, you can download the Twitter app for your Smartphone. (As of this writing, running the redesigned Twitter website from your iPhone is a pain in the arse.)
But if you run multiple accounts like I do, you’re going to need better gear. I think I was up to about three accounts before I started pulling my hair out. Today I (and my marketing team) still run those three accounts plus about a dozen more. On top of that, I enjoy helping other peeps at Red Nova Labs get started and keep going. My latest victims are Chris and David. I’m like the Jehova’s Witness of Twitter around here, “Do you know the true meaning of a tweet, my brother?”
So I like the social media dashboard built by Hootsuite, although I believe Mac users prefer TweetDeck for pretty much the same features. For me, it’s like using Outlook instead of Gmail: I can see everything in front of my nose, communicate with others, and refer back to old notes without getting lost in a pile of windows and ads.
But it’s so much more than that: With just a click from the main screen I can retweet, reply, follow, unfollow, report spammers, block tweeters, slam auto DMs, monitor my employees’ tweets, and schedule tweets for the future—which I do only to keep from dominating my followers’ feeds and LinkedIn updates.
On that note, it’s worth mentioning that Jeff Widman (founder of PageLever) gave the crowd a little spank at SMX Advanced about scheduling out tweets, saying “The reason you don’t want to auto post is that you lose the opportunity for social interaction.” It’s a valid point. Be social—babbling broadcasters get ignored.
2. My Chisel: Hootsuite (or Bit.ly)
I think I’m up to about a thousand words right here, which was my target length for the entire blog post dangit. Somewhere in the universe Poppy at Mini Storage Messenger is chuckling.
For a raconteur like me, it’s tough to reduce observations and thoughts down to fewer than 140 characters. I find that I have to chip away carefully so that I don’t sound like a teenager or a gangsta—two of my biggest Twitter peeves. If I had to do that and still include complete URLs in my tweets, it would be Game Over.
Fortunately, Hootsuite enables me to shrink links right on the dashboard. Hoot! And you know what’s truly awesome? Those gobbledygooky links still carry link juice (watch for a later article on Twitter and its growing influence in SEO).
For the search nerds among us, a link-shrinker works by issuing a “301 redirect,” a technique for making a webpage available under many URLs. When you shorten a link, you are redirecting a click to the destination URL. A 301 redirect is the most efficient and search engine-friendly method for webpage redirection.
If you don’t want to get knee deep into a paid management system like Hootsuite or TweetDeck, Bit.ly does the same thing. Of course, Twitter recently launched its own link-shrinker, but as of this writing, there are no tracking tools behind it. Tracking is half the battle…
3. My Multimeter: Hootsuite (or Bit.ly)
The best feature in the whole Hootsuite suite is its analytics.
Social networking takes time and dedication, whether your goals are business or personal. And as anyone who’s been in marketing for a while can tell you: You want to be able to show a return on that investment so you’re not shut down after a week by your in-house business bloodsuckers. No disrespect intended for my venerated CEO—Okay well maybe just a little disrespect. In fact, if your CEO is a bigger harpie about social networking ROI than my CEO, Hootsuite won’t be enough for you; you’d better get TwitAlyzer.
While Hootsuite analytics can’t show you how many people read your tweets (estimates are that fewer than 2.5 percent of tweets are actually consumed by human beings), it can show you how many people clicked your links. I find that handy for helping me stay on the pulse of my peers. What’s interesting? What’s valuable? What’s completely inane?
You might find it intriguingly obvious to learn that my most irreverent blogs and tweets are the most popular. Anyone here read Lenny Bruce? Anyone? Anyone? For example, when I tweet something like “CULTURE OF DRINKING: Why smart people drink more and stay up later http://ow.ly/4ZZan,” I observe four times more clicks than usual. Cracks me up.
There is a significant social drawback to Hootsuite’s and Bit.ly’s analytics systems, however. If you want to track the popularity of a link that you’re RE-tweeting, you have to reformat it and use the old-fashioned “RT @” handle. Last I heard, Twitter was trying to do away with “RT @” in favor of the direct retweets (their goal: to keep spammers in check). So even though I’m trying to have good Twitter karma and give credit where credit is due, by reformatting I’m hindering the original tweeter’s ability to track the link’s success. I don’t like that. In that case, the only way the content-originator can track is through the blog’s on-page analytics.
4. My Leather Toolbelt: Hootsuite for Mobile
My compliments to Hootsuite for managing to pack its most useful features into a simple mobile app. Even after three of those potent blue moztinis at the SMX SEOMoz party in Seattle, I was still able to operate Hootsuite and tweet things that I would later regret. What has two thumbs and loves to tweet roughshod at conferences? This gal.
5. My Old Tin Cans: Twitter Karma (or Friend or Follow)
When it’s time to clean off your workbench, the simplest solution for sorting the nuts from the bolts is a couple of rusty ol’ tin cans. In this analogy, the follows are the bolts. The followers are the nuts. And the coffee cans are sorting applications like [the aptly named] Twitter Karma and Friend or Follow.
Unlike narcissistic or paid tweeters who are more about numbers than communications, I don’t “bulk unfollow” very often. I’m what I would call an organic tweeter—I’m more about personally building quality connections than counts. And I actually scan my feed, not like those “power users” who are following 22,368 accounts. Come on.
That said, sometimes I do feel that I’m following more accounts than are useful to me, and I need to sweep up. People might have stopped tweeting, started junk-tweeting, switched accounts, switched account managers, lured me to follow through one method or another and then left, or just plain decided they didn’t like me. I don’t like people who don’t like me. I’m likable. Oh okay, I’m tolerable. Either way, I don’t want to follow them anymore either.
That is, unless they are awesome and just don’t have the bandwidth to return-follow all of us cerebral groupies, like @mattcutts at Google or Marty Weintraub of @aimclear (in the squealing tone of a tweener Beiber fan, “I love you Marty!”). I need to be careful not to accidentally unfollow marketing and comedy supermen, or P!nk.
And so, I really like the un-pretty app Twitter Karma—clearly the creation of a developer. With a quick “whack,” Twitter Karma pulls up all of my followers and follows, and draws plain little green and red arrows to show who’s playing nicey-nice. It’s far easier than using Twitter to sort through contact lists.
Twitoria is another little accessory app that helps Tweeters clean up. This one shows which follows haven’t tweeted in a long time so you can either give them a kick or give them the boot.
Twitter has rules about the ways independent developers can use its API, and bulk-unfollow features are a big no-no. So you can’t dump out a full tin can of nuts all at once. If you’re actually using the program to network, you shouldn’t want to. Even so, a little housecleaning is a smart way to keep your timeline tidy. I think I’ve bulk-unfollowed three times in the past year, and I probably removed a total of 100 tweeters each time. For a client, I once removed over a thousand follows, but that was a special case. The previous social network adviser had built such a big crap-pile of unrelated tweeters that I almost chose to start over.
6. My Beating Stick: Qwitter and Fllwrs
If I actually had an old fashioned corporeal punishment tool in my kit like “the stick” or “the belt” my kids might not lose so many of my things or make a shambles of my garage. Still, I like the analogy: Fllwrs and Qwitter tell you when a follower has left your contact list permanently, then give him a little “spanking” with a public mention.
No, it’s not against the rules for someone to be annoyed by your tweets about fine stinky cheese or your fabulous new Groupon knockoff, and thus unfollow. It’s the rapid-fire bulk-unfollowers I’m talking about spanking.
Something that we conscientious tweeters loathe is people whose main – and often only – purpose on Twitter is to build up a following that outpaces follows. I find this thinking idiotic, even for paid tweeters. Obviously these guys have been reading articles that suggest the numbers impact their Google ranking or their curb appeal or other such nonsense. While it may be true that Twitter authority does influence search rank, the nuts-and-bolts numbers alone won’t cut it; it takes social clout, recirculation volume and content longevity too. If an account is tweeting crap about wang-extenders and smokeless cigarettes, its rank is climbing nowhere fast.
The typical tactic is to follow someone, wait a few days for them to follow back, and promptly unfollow. In fact, just this week I was unfollowed by 23 unrecognizable people simply because I didn’t hastily follow back. This morning I was followed by five new people who have over 20,000 followers. “Bella” from Phoenix has 136,000. Gosh, she’s “just a girl with a dream who loves shoes and sharing opinions” according to her profile. We’re all going to float around like dazzling angels if we follow Bella!
What do you want to bet that all five of those accounts will unfollow me within 72 hours? I’d even enhance that bet by throwing down that four out of five of them use automated tools and have never even laid eyes on my avatar.
Twitter itself does not currently alert you when you’re dropped like a cheap suit by surface skimmers. That hardly seems fair since it’s the only reason the tactic works.
By signing up for Qwitter, you’ll receive a weekly tally via email of unfollows. Fllwrs goes so far as to make it public. The first time I saw my own automated tweet that said “This guy, this guy, and this guy just unfollowed me on Twitter” I burst out laughing. I guess that’s my idea of a good time: public Twitter floggings.
7. My Portable Radio Airing the Game: Twubs
Twubs is a recent discovery of mine since SMX Advanced, with sincere thanks to Jennifer Lopez(Community Manager at SEOMoz). As I clicked to refresh my #SMX timeline during the session “Yes Virginia, Tweeting is SEO,” Jennifer mentioned in passing that the Twubs app is indispensable for professionals who gobble up hashtag tweets. She was right. Twubs turns hashtags into useful feeds, chatrooms and photo albums. It keeps me in-the-know during presentations—such a nice complement to my ADHD.
For example, at SMX conferences the official hashtag is #SMX. Individual sessions are also given numerical hashtags like #18a. As speakers share their insights, hundreds of the sharpest minds in the search industry tweet thoughts and responses in real-time to the speakers as well as to colleagues, peers and followers who aren’t present.
And so, for the rest of that conference I sat with my laptop open to my Twubs feed, scrolling by like a stock ticker with details of what my peers heard and nailed as the critical highlights of any presentation. In turn I was able to pause the feed and respond, comment or retweet any characters that caught my eye.
8. My Vise: Twitpic
It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s the case, then a pic is the only way I’m ever going to squeeze a thousand words into a 140-character tweet.
Twitpic does the squeezing. And it’s almost effortless. I just upload a picture or video to my account and Twitpic spits out a pretty little tweet with a short link. I have posted media to TwitPic from my phone, from the site, and from email.
And here’s a fun tip I got from Vicinity Games’ Nate Allen at last week’s Venture Friday: combine Twitpics with hashtags for the ultimate communal photo album. In the gaming community, for example, tweeters show off screenshots of their progress every Saturday with the hashtag #screenshotsaturday.
9. My Hammer, Screwdriver and Pliers: _Twitter
The accessory apps listed in this post make Twitter work better for me. But like I said in the beginning, you can get by and build a great network with just the fundamental tackle of Twitter. For that matter, let me drive home the workbench analogy by saying it doesn’t really make sense to get into more advanced construction if you don’t first learn how to swing a hammer.
For me, Twitter itself is still the best place to (1) read back through individual timelines, (2) shop for great tweeters worth following, and (3) assess my follower situation (thank you, creepy unwashed man disguised as ten skanky teens who each just followed me in a failed bid to tweet me about laser hair removal).
I especially like Twitter’s “list” feature—even more so than the built-in recommendation engine. When I find that I’ve been added to a list, or that or someone I regard highly has built a list, I will casually explore that list for smart, witty minds in my fields of interest. (NearbyTweets is sometimes interesting to play with too.)
Unfortunately, Twitter fails almost as often as it succeeds. Its most recent fail is the “mention alert,” which by default emails you any time your @handle is mentioned on Twitter. It’s a spammers delight that delivers messages and Trojan shrinky-links straight into your email box from a source (Twitter.com) that’s already passed muster. (You can turn that default off in your account settings.)
Seeing my mentions when I log in to Hootsuite or Twitter is plenty of notice for me. But if you actually like_Twitter’s alert and only wish it did more_ advanced monitoring of people who sing your praises, you might try TweetBeep—although I think it’s fantastically overpriced as an accessory app.
To its credit, Twitter is trying. In fact, it probably does a lot of stuff I’m not even aware of because I’ve come to rely so heavily on Hootsuite (read: I’m getting lazy). My question is, will Twitter keep trying at the expense of its independent developers? Tough position for a business to be in—especially one who hasn’t quite figured out the big picture on monetization.
10: My Ned Flanders: Neighborinos with Good Stuff to Borrow
My most favored tweeters are mostly discovered through real-world observation and interaction. To quote a tweet by Jon up in Seattle last week, “Technology can only do as much… A human must intervene to go further.”
Nowadays as I run head-first into the fog, I seek out Twitter handles more so than email addresses. After all, I might not necessarily want to rendezvous with random people I meet (email), give them my professional stamp of approval (LinkedIn), stalk them (FourSquare) or stay alert to their new baby’s every poop (Facebook), but I do want to see what they’re learning and absorbing out there, as well as get snippets of feedback to the things I’m learning and absorbing. It’s a casual conversation, continued.
Twitter is cool and unique in that it facilitates that kind of relationship-building both ways, publicly (which pretty much keeps things clean and safe). You might see a sharp mind on Twitter and arrange to email / meet in person, or meet in person and choose to continue chewing on his thoughts like an online brain eater bot from Skyline. (Come now, the movie wasn’t that bad.)
Twitter is a great gauge for determining whether any type of real-world connection is worth pursuing. For the most part, it’s a positive experience. As Jon has said on his blog, “Those of us who are active on Twitter are not only friendly and helpful (for the most part), but we also want to meet more people like you!”
So what about me, how’m I doing? I’ve now written over 3,000 words all about my Twitter Toolbox while lambasting a fair number of annoyances; am I keeping up my end of the tweeter bargain? Here, I’ll grade myself on TwitterGrader. Today I got a 94%. And TwitterCounter predicts 20% growth in my account next week. I’m not sure I believe that last part, and my rank on Twitter is kind of sucky (582,324 out of about 10 million TwitterGraders), but still, 94% is an A, so I think I deserve a gold star and another cocktail.
Follow me at @3cocktaillunch.
P.S. My Wish List: A Twitter Nail Gun
I hate automated messages. I’m using the word “hate” here. About automated messages. Every time I get one of these, “Hi thanks for following. Let’s meet up on FB too where we can use more than 140 characters! LOL http://www.facebook.com/connectwithdork,” I want to do a heavy finger-flick to their cranium. Instead I unfollow. These tweeters know better. They must know better. So why Why WHY?! Do they continue to auto DM?
I suppose I could use TrueTwit validation or a similar app to guard myself from asocial malarkey, but that just strikes me as a speed bump to connecting. Me, I almost never validate myself via TrueTwit. Besides, in an irritating twist of irony, TrueTwit automates a DM to a potential follower ensuring that the follower can’t DM.
To me it says, “Greetings nameless, faceless follower; at this microscopic moment in time, I am busier and more important than you. Because I do not want to see your auto DMs, I am sending you this auto DM. In order for me to condescend to tweet with you, you must click once more into the void. Thank you and have a pleasant afternoon languishing in your cubicle.”
And so, here’s my plea to the Sears or Dewalt or even HarborFreight of Twitter developers: I want some type of tool that virtually shoots auto DMs before I see them, without adding follower-hurdles to my account.