Twitter Tools To Turbo Charge Your Microblogging

Move from Twitter beginner to Twitter ninja with free tools from TweetDeck, Twitbin, Twitterfox, Facebook, Twitterfeed, Qwitter, and others.

Mitch Wagner, California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

November 6, 2008

9 Min Read

Twitter's open architecture has allowed developers to build a wealth of third-party tools to help Twitter addicts power users get the most of the service. They include dedicated Twitter clients for the desktop, browser, iPhone, and BlackBerry, along with tools for automating Twitter, posting photos to Twitter, and managing your friends and followers.

Twitter On Your Desktop

TweetDeck is a cross-platform application for keeping up with a lot of people on Twitter at a glance. TweetDeck divides your Twitter messages into multiple columns.

One column shows the default Twitter view of messages from all your friends.

The second column shows only public replies to your messages.

The third column shows only direct messages, addressed to you privately.

You can customize columns, move them around, and add columns for a specific subset of the people you're following: For example, you might set up a specific group solely for co-workers, or your real-life friends, and set up a column on TweetDeck to follow just those people.

TweetDeck also supports realtime searches. For example, you might set up a column to search all of Twitter for all messages containing your company name. And you can also add a column for "TwitScoop," to see a keyword cloud of the most popular discussion topics on Twitter.

TweetDeck is public beta, but it's been public beta for a while and it's stable. It runs on Adobe Air, which supports Windows and the Mac. Air support for Linux is in beta.

Like TweetDeck, Twhirl is Air-based, so it runs on Windows and the Mac, with beta support for Linux. It connects to multiple accounts on Twitter;, which is a Twitter competitor; FriendFeed, which is a social networking aggregation service; and the Seesmic video blogging service. Twhirl lets you cross-post Twitter updates to Pownce and Jaiku, which are two other Twitter competitors; post images to Twitter, and search tweets. Twitter In Your Firefox

Twitbin and Twitterfox are two add-ons that let you send and receive Twitter in Firefox. Twitbin displays your tweets in a sidebar. Twitterfox is more sophisticated: It sits as an icon in your browser status bar, and lets you pop up a window displaying your latest messages. Twitterfox also notifies you when your friends update messages, lets you post links, and access multiple accounts.

Twittelator is a Twitter client for the iPhone.

Twitter In Your Facebook

The main function of the Twitter Facebook app is that it updates your Facebook status messages when you update your Twitter message. Not everybody on Twitter thinks this a great idea, many people think the two communities should be kept separate -- like Egon said in Ghostbusters, "Don't cross the streams." At first, I felt that way too. However, I tried the Twitter Facebook app a while ago, and found that I liked it, and my Facebook friends seemed to like it. Twitter users won't even see a difference -- it's strictly a one-way, Twitter-to-Facebook gateway. So I've stuck with it.

You can also use the Twitter Facebook app to read your Twitter messages and post to the service from inside Facebook, although I don't know why you'd want to do that.

Twitter In Your Pocket

Twittelator lets you take Twitter with you on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Using Twittelator, you can read messages from your friends and send messages, paste in links, text, and images, add a map of our current location, search tweets, and more. Twitttelator also has a $4.95 Pro version which lets you customize the look with themes, log in with to accounts, repeat (a/k/a "retweet") Twitter messages from others, view inline snapshots of other people's embedded images, search for nearby Twitter users, and find popular Twitter topics.

Download Twittelator or Twittelator Pro from the iTunes store.

TwitterBerry exists because the BlackBerry is not addictive enough. The TwitterBerry app lets you send and read Twitter messages from your BlackBerry, and post pictures to Twitter. Download it now by visiting on your BlackBerry.

Automate Twitter

Twitterfeed lets you point an RSS feed at Twitter and automatically update your Twitter account with links back to a Web page. The result looks like this -- that's the InformationWeek account on Twitter, which we built in a few minutes using our main RSS feed and Twitterfeed.

I also use Twitterfeed to send updates of my latest InformationWeek articles and blogs to my personal Twitter account, as well as updates to my personal blog.

TwitterFeed is pretty much set-and-forget; once you've set up your account and feeds, it runs automatically. You can probably figure out what TweetLater does just from the name: Give it your Twitter credentials, the text of a Twitter message, set a time at some point in the future, and TweetLater will post your message when you tell it to. I use TweetLater to automate the occasional promotional tweet, and sometimes I use it if I think of something in the middle of the night that I want to send out on Twitter during business hours, when more people will see it. TweetLater also lets you automatically follow anyone who's following you, and send them automated greetings.

FriendFeed is a relatively new option for automating your Twitter feed. FriendFeed is a service that lets users aggregate content from other Web 2.0 services. After you've configured FriendFeed, it aggregates all your Twitter updates, blog posts, Flickr photos, Facebook activity, YouTube video, StumbleUpon activity, Netflix queue, and more. All that activity appears in a single feed on your FriendFeed page, which other FriendFeed users can then subscribe to and comment on.

Last month FriendFeed added the ability to automatically post all that activity to Twitter. I've been playing around with it since then; so far I like it.

Send Your Pictures To Twitter

TwitPic is a service for posting images to Twitter. The result looks like this.

You can post from the TwitPic Web site, but most of the time you'll use a Twitter client on a cameraphone, such as TweetDeck, Twhirl, Twittelator or TwitterBerry (which we talked about earlier).

The TwitPic home page includes a real-time display of images posted to TwitPic.

Manage Your Friends And Followers

I don't like to follow people who don't follow me back. I'm on Twitter mostly for conversations. And you can't have a conversation with people who aren't listening to you. So when I notice that someone I follow on Twitter isn't following me back, I stop following them. I make a few exceptions to that rule, mostly for bot accounts such as BreakingNewsOn and googlenewsus, which post headlines.

The problem: Twitter itself has no built-in tools to make managing large number of friends easily.

That's where FriendorFollow comes in. The service groups your Twitter relationships into three groups:

  • People you're following who are not following you back.

  • People who follow you who you don't follow back.

  • People you're following who you follow back.

You can easily click through from your Twitter friends' names to their Twitter home pages and change their follow status.

Note that FriendorFollow is open to the public. Anyone can see anyone else's friend or follow relationships. Here's mine, for example.

Some people prefer Twitter Karma for figuring out reciprocal following/follower relationships, because it includes buttons for following and unfollowing. However, I prefer FriendOrFollow because of the way it sorts your followers into groups.

Twitter Karma just shows your followers and people following you in one list in no apparent order. Also, Twitter Karma requires you to give them your Twitter login and password.

Two Twitter Tools To Lower Your Self-Esteem

Qwitter sends you an e-mail when someone stops following you. The e-mail includes the ex-follower's login, and the last tweet you sent prior to their quitting you. I've been using it for nine days now, and haven't learned anything from it.

Qwitter tells me that these are some of the tweets that caused people to stop following me:

  1. @bynkii Been meaning to try LED football -- I was totally addicted to the game when I was about 16.

  2. My new IW article: Review: Firefox 3.1 Beta 1 -- The Best Is Yet To Come

  3. In the 80s I wore shirts with pocket for cigs. Now I wear shirts with pocket for iPhone. It's healthier, but doesn't make me look cool.

  4. @Sougent Also: Don't get in a pissing contest with a dog. You both get wet and the dog likes it.

  5. Doing my GTD weekly review. Last time I did it: About a month and a half ago. FAIL

  6. Rejected dialogue from the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey:" "Oh, my God, it's full of baked ziti!"

You can guess why a couple of these tweets caused people to drop me: #2 is self-promotional and #4 is vulgar.. But how about the others? Are people offended by 1970s video games? (1), ex-smokers (3), procrastination (5), or absurdist humor about 1960s science-fiction movies (6)?

So far, Qwitter is entertaining rather than depressing because it hasn't told me that somebody I actually like or admire has stopped following me. Usually, I don't even recognize their names. And I'm still seeing a net gain in the number of Twitter followers week-over-week. But I'm sure this will end in tears sometime soon.

Twitterholic shows you a rundown of the top 100 Twitter users. I'm not on the list, so I hate Twitterholic.

I haven't found an actual use for either of these tools, but they're interesting in a morbid sort of way.

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

Mitch Wagner is California bureau chief for Light Reading.

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