To the casual user, Twitter looks like a simple bulletin board of often useless status reports. Yet, smart marketers are starting to find Twitter feedback quite essential to their overall social marketing plans. Filtering and organizing Twitter feedback is one area where the right application is crucial to success.
"Twitter is all about listening, understanding, and participating as a marketer," says Art Sindlinger, vice president/activation director at Starcom USA. "We try to help our clients use Twitter with a real intent in mind. This is much more than just purchasing media."
We decided to ask a wide variety of marketers who are living and breathing in the space which Twitter applications they currently can't live without.
Known as the "air traffic control center" by Twitter execs, Tweetdeck is by far one of the most popular of all the Twitter applications currently available. This fast-paced application enables the user to "stay in touch with what's happening now" by collecting contacts from programs such as Twitter and Facebook in one place, all at once. Users can customize Tweetdeck with groups and columns to organize followers, or set up automatic updates to find out what others are saying about you.
"Tweetdeck is the ultimate time management tool," explains Christi Day, emerging media specialist at Southwest Airlines. "I'm constantly using Tweetdeck to monitor words such as SWA and Southwest. Plus, I use it to find out what our competitors are up to. I also love having the ability to retweet and add photos quite instantly."
New features include a TweetShrink option that can take any lengthy post and cut down its characters to fit it into Twitter's 140 character limit, plus an option to translate tweets into a different language. "We are always using Tweetdeck to monitor conversations within the cancer community," says Brooke McMillan, online community evangelist of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. "We're looking for those tweets mentioning that someone has recently been diagnosed with cancer. We then contact them on behalf of the organization to offer support."
Tweetdeck's ability to join together both personal and professional accounts is also a big plus for execs. "Personally I use Tweetdeck because of the ease in monitoring a range of keywords and managing multiple Twitter accounts at the same time," says Jonathon Nafarrete, a Los Angeles-based social media consultant. "The ability to sync and share between my Tweetdeck iPhone application and my desktop is a big bonus too."
Twitterific was one of the first iPhone Twitter apps to come into the market. Created by IconFactory and the winner of last year's Apple Design Award for Best iPhone Social Networking Application, Twitterific lets users view tweets or microblog posts and publish their own while on the go. Users love the filter icon, helping to keep track of @replies and direct messages. Multiple logins are another essential feature of this application.
"We are constantly working with bands with multiple band members," says Ashley Heron, senior manager of marketing at Lyric Street Records. "Using Twitterific allows each member the chance to tweet on their own personal iPhones to the band's shared account. (Lyric Street Records recording artist) Rascal Flatts actually used (Twitterific) to have fans suggest what their third single off their latest album would be. While we consider the Twitter community to still be a small part of our audience base, their feedback is vitally important."
"There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy." This simple posting on Twitpic earlier this year put this application on the map for millions to experience. Twitpic lets marketers and normal folks like you and I upload and share photos over Twitter. The app is free to anyone with a current Twitter account. "I have recommended to my clients to use Twitpic in order to help them publish photos from their mobile phones into their Twitter stream," says Nafarrete. "Sometimes a picture is worth more than 140 characters."
One of the fastest-growing Twitter apps out there, Tweetie is known best for its ease of use and design. Multiple accounts found in a single column view are perfectly simple and appropriate. Myriad available shortcuts combined with the intuitive user interface makes Tweetie a great way to breeze through the Twitter world without the clutter of multiple columns. "Our new artists have really utilized this platform in order to have constant and daily contact and accessibility with their fans," says Heron.
Competing with Tweetdeck in app dominance, cross platformer Seesmic gives marketers real-time search results along with a clean and simple desktop. "It really helps me keep track of groups and different searches they are doing," says Mari Luangrath, owner/president of Foiled Inc., an online gourmet cupcake order and delivery service based in Chicago. "It's such an excellent way to pinpoint customers. In fact, we started using Twitter before even officially launching our website. Approximately 90 percent of our customers have come directly from our mentions on Twitter."
Twitturly is a free service that tracks the links people are tweeting about on Twitter and then categorizes them based on popularity and freshness on the homepage. A popular feature to Twitturly is the Top100, said to be Twitter's first personalized news service, showing marketers the top tweeted links among all those the company is following. "It's really hard to predict what the Twitter user is going to think and do," says Dan Michel, webmaster for Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger relief charity. "(Twitturly) helps put some context around the trends you see in the Twittersphere. It's great... plus it's free."
A leader in social advertising, Twitter Sparq helps marketers virtually trigger and spark conversations with users who are responding in the Twittersphere. Sparqs are meant to encourage constructive comments and worthwhile feedback. "In the world of social media, this is innovative conversation at its best," Michel says. "In our case, we are encouraging people not only to contribute dollars, but also to contribute to our cause of carrying the message forward."
Statistic and spreadsheet lovers are sure to devour Twittercounter. Stats include numbers of followers on the account, average growth of followers per day, overall Twitter ranks, and predictions on the future. "I wouldn't say this is the best app to use or the most reliable, but it does spit out some impressive numbers and pretty charts," Day says.
For larger sized clients who have multiple individuals managing a Twitter account during office hours, CoTweet is the answer. CoTweet is a great tool for a team to manage and effectively monitor their Twitter account. One or more users can be monitoring Twitter at the same time, and it also allows everyone to see who has replied to incoming Tweets and threaded conversations.
Twitterfeed is a widely popular tool because it automatically allows tweets to be published from any RSS feed. The downside of overusing Twitterfeed is that you may lose the human touch and community engagement. "You're better off in the long run contributing value to the Twitter community and having high interaction with your followers," Nafarrete says. "Nobody likes a noisy robot that never listens."
With new applications created for Twitter on a daily basis, marketers are cautioned to not use any third-party applications that do not use the OAuth functionality to verify or sign into Twitter. "The last thing any company or marketer needs is for their account or their identity to be hijacked," Nafarrete adds.
Tricia Despres is a freelance writer.
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