Five Twitter Tools For Business
Endless analysts, "social media experts" and pundits are telling you that it's imperative that you develop your Twitter presence. Yes, yes, yes...but what can you actually get out of it and what are the best tools with which to do this? We'll cleverly side-step the first question, thank you. As for the tools, here are what we consider the top 5 twitter tools worth some of your precious time.

1. CoTweet

Use: monitoring and interacting, scheduling tweets
Strengths: monitoring, multiple account support, team features, conversation view, free (for now)
Weaknesses: pricing likely to change, still in beta

Having secured over a million dollars of funding back in July, CoTweet not only has cash in the bank but an impressive list of existing clients including Ford, Starbucks and Microsoft (who is using CoTweet to help with its upcoming Windows 7 launch).

CoTweet helps companies monitor and interact with customers who use the micro-blogging service. You can monitor multiple twitter accounts, ideal if your company has multiple brands.

You monitor keywords and trends, to watch for spikes in mentions of a product or questions about a service that may need addressing.

Tweets can be viewed as conversations to make following a thread easier. Rosters can be set to assign monitoring duty and tweets can be assigned to other employees to deal with any customer issues or queries.

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 The Co-Tweet Client Interface - Link Statistics

Additionally, tweets can be scheduled for posting, perhaps to help as part of a teaser campaign, or just to provide regular updates when staff are otherwise occupied.

Links in your tweets can be tracked and, naturally, everything can be archived and the stats for clicks on your links can be analyzed.

Additional features include:

  • Multiple accounts and users
  • Monitor keywords and trends
  • Assign tweets to others
  • Threaded conversations
  • Rich profiles and click tracking
  • Scheduled tweets

CoTweet is still in beta with a paid-for solution expected sometime that will offer improved analytics and other features. The services is currently free, as in beer. Find out more at www.cotweet.com

2. TweetDeck

Use: monitoring topics and groups, tweeting, Facebook and MySpace integration
Strengths: monitoring multiple topics, multiple accounts, iphone support, free
Weaknesses: need VERY wide screen for more than a few topics

The Twitter website is next to useless for dedicated or business users. TweetDeck is an Adobe Air application that simplifies using the service and allows users to follow a wide number of topics on one screen.

If gathering information is essential to your business, you can follow as many topics as you wish, all on the one page.

Users can send tweets or direct messages with automatic URL shortening. A recent update to the rapidly evolving application also lets users update Facebook and MySpace accounts, allowing companies to maintain a constant message across the most popular social sites.

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Tweetdeck User Interface - Search Results Pane

TweetDeck can handle multiple accounts and a version is also available for iPhone users.

This is a highly practical tool for instances where a small number of  employees are in charge of social interaction. We do recommend that you get them a really wide widescreen monitor to view all the feeds they'll be monitoring.

TweetDeck is free to use. Download it from www.tweetdeck.com

3. Radian6

Use: social media monitoring and responses
Strengths: broad monitoring, analytics, response management, CRM integration
Weaknesses: poor sentiment tracking, Flash UI can be clunky, high entry price point

Reputation is all-important to any company and it can be easily damaged in the fast moving flow of the Internet, particularly on a service like Twitter where trends (good and bad) can blossom for the whole world to see.

Radian6 provides the basis for your engagement with any community, including Twitter. A subscribing company can see what their customers are saying in a measured way.

From compliments to complaints and requests to what the competition is saying, all this information can be accessed and displayed as alerts, charts and reports. Armed with that information, you can manage your response in a calculated way.

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Radian6 can monitor more than just Twitter. It monitors your brand across the entire social web and lets you actively engage with your customers.

Radian6 is available on a subscription basis. Find out more at www.radian6.com. For a less pricey alternative, you can also check out Scout Labs. We also have a growing list of option in our software directory.

4. Twitterhawk

Use: local, targeted tweeting
Strengths: saves your company from spamming the uninterested
Weaknesses: could still be considered spammy

Twitter is a global tool, which is fine for those with a global reach, but if you have a more targeted market or are doing something in a specific region, area or city -- you'll want to narrow your message down a bit, if not a lot.

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Twitterhawk

Twitterhawk helps narrow down your radar sweep to find people in a certain area, discussing a certain topic. Using that audience, you can then send a suitable tweet that should interest the recipients.

Tweets could be for something as simple as an offer of buy-one-get-one-free coffees at a coffee chain or announcing store sales in a certain area.

Twitterhawk charges US$ 0.05 per tweet but users get 10 to try for free, to judge the potential response.

Find out more at www.twitterhawk.com.

5. Twitterfeed

Use: automatically share RSS content via Twitter
Strengths: quickly expands content reach
Weaknesses: if done poorly, can be annoying

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Twitterfeed offers a practical feed-to-Twitter transformation service

Many companies have blogs or other content sources and are happier spreading their message in long-form rather than Twitter's restrictive 140 characters. However, they can still make their message accessible to the Twitter crowd via Twitterfeed.

This free service will push the content of an RSS feed to Twitter, ping.fm and other micro-blogging services. Its only a three-step process to link-up your Twitter account and then to connect an RSS feed.

You can add multiple feeds, specify some feed parameters (e.g., the frequency of updates, pre-pended text, etc.) and once set up, updates posted to the feed will automatically appear on Twitter. Whenever a new update is detected the header and a link are posted to Twitter and the receptive masses will come calling.

For the more advanced user, multiple feeds can be filtered and mashed together via a service like Yahoo! Pipes and then plugged into Twitterfeed.

Twitterfeed is available for free. You access the service at http://twitterfeed.com.

Going Further

One item we are definitely fond of -- and which many of these tools leverage -- is Twitter's own (near) real-time search engine. That's an important one, we can all agree.

Globally, what we'd really like to see is a lot more tool consolidation. With so many tools in the market, managing 100% of your twactivity is still burdensome. Here's looking forward to the emergence of some super tools.

And yes, this list probably overlooked someone's favorite tool. If you think you've got your hands on the dog's bollocks of Twitter tooldom, do tell in the comments below.