Twitter can be a powerful business tool if you know how to manage it properly. Scheduling tweets is one way to stay active on the network without having to actually sit in front of it all day, for example. Here's a quick list of 4 tools that allow you to do just that:

Buffer

I wanted to review Buffer first because the app's approach is a bit different than most tools in this pool. Rather than scheduling tweets yourself, Buffer attempts to bring a sense of spontaneity back into the mix. You simply enter a tweet and click the "Add to Buffer" button and the app schedules the tweet at a future hour.

This approach is nice because it doesn't interrupt the flow of tweeting. You can be active at whatever time you feel like and tweet as you normally would, but your updates will go out at specific times rather than all at once. Plus, you don't have to take another minute out to schedule those times. 

As an added bonus, clicking the "Suggest me a Tweet" button yields a nifty quote for those with writer's block. Here's a shot of my own account -- I clicked "Suggest me a Tweet" four times and added each update to Buffer:

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The times in which my tweets in the photo above hit the wire were predetermined by Buffer, but I can go into the settings panel and change them to better fit my needs if I want. Buffer then remembers these defined times and uses them for any future tweets. 

On average, Buffer has reportedly increased click-through rates on tweets by 200% in the first three weeks after sign-up. Add that little stat to the level of convenience -- extensions for every major browser exist, meaning you don't have to actually visit the website -- and it's certainly a tool worth checking out.

"We genuinely want to help you create an authentic and honest appearance on Twitter because we believe that there are no 'short-cuts' to succeeding on a platform where engagement is so crucial," Buffer's creators explain on the app's official website. "We know that Buffer is one solution amongst many out there. You will often find us recommending a variety of tools on our Twitter account or on our blog. We believe that providing the best value for your particular situation is far more important than a quick sale of our product."

The service is free if you only need to keep 10 items or less in your account. More features and a larger queue are available to power users at US $10/month for a professional account or US $30/month for a premium account.


Hootsuite

Designed by an agency, the browser-based HootSuite takes on a dashboard approach that is best suited for marketers. A user can  batch schedule up to 50 unique messages to be sent out at the times of their choosing. 

You can also set up streams for the types of content you wish to monitor, including news feeds and mentions. These streams live in customizable tabs, which can be organized by account, network or content:

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Recent additions to the platform include a calendar view for planning and scheduling tweets across networks -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare -- and limited permissions for enterprise teams.

Like Buffer, the platform is free under the basic plan, or US$ 5.99 per month for pro. 

 

 

Sendible 

Like HootSuite, the browser-based Sendible tool also lends you the ability to send scheduled tweets to various networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn -- but without all that visual razzle dazzle. Think of it like a mix between HootSuite and Buffer:

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Once you enter an update, you can tweet instantly, schedule tweets for a specific time and date, or set tweets to recur at certain intervals. Messages can be tracked and monitored, and there is a broad range of tools and reports for monitoring Twitter account metrics.

The pricing ranges from US$ 9.99 per month for the Solo plan (up to 400 messages at a time with a maximum of 15 social network accounts and 500 contacts) up to US$ 99.99 per month for the Corporate plan (up to 32,000 messages at a time with a maximum of 400 social networks and 32,000 contacts). 

TweetDeck

Most of you are probably already familiar with TweetDeck -- Twitter purchased the client earlier this year for somewhere around US $40 million. The Adobe AIR desktop application interfaces with the Twitter API to allow users to send and receive tweets to various networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Foursquare) and view profiles.

Scheduling a tweet is similar to the Sendible process -- it takes some work. Click on the “Schedule this Update” button (a little clock) and you are shown a calendar. Click on a date and do your thing: 

 

 

The app is totally free and available on mobile devices as well, so those on a budget might want to have a look.