When I first started using Twitter, I was a huge fan of TweetDeck. Being able to put twitter users into columns made it much easier to manage who I was following. My columns include local people, nonprofits, and social media rockstars. On days when I was a little short on twitter-time or maybe just interested in what was going on in my area of town, I could scan one column, such as local tweeters. I also set up a column to track mentions of my own user name. That way, I wasn’t overlooking any replies sent specifically to me. Being able to do these customizations is a feature to look for with any tool.
Seesmic is another desktop application that is similar to TweetDeck. Like TweetDeck, you create columns based on people you follow. It’s also very easy to include other social media accounts, like Facebook or LinkedIn. I didn’t see a feature that allows you to schedule tweets, which is important for people who want to plan ahead.
Although I still log-on on TweetDeck occasionally, I started using HootSuite earlier this year and wrote my initial impressions on my social media blog. I love that you can add other social networks to your dashboard, such as Facebook. Since I manage multiple Facebook pages, I set up a tab simply called “Facebook”. Each column on this tab has a different Facebook page. At a glance, I can see if there was any activity on the page without having to log-in and pull up the different pages.
A version of HootSuite released last summer includes Google Analytics in the dashboard. This is especially useful for people using twitter to generate business leads. You want this kind of detailed data to see what’s working and what you may need to change.
Twitter can be a very useful way to promote the work you do and stay connected with professionals in your field, but it is important to be able to easily manage your account so that your time does not become all-consumed by Twitter. Try out a few different tools to see which one works best for your purposes. And let me know if I missed any good ones.