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Using Twitter: Tools for Productivity (Pt. 1)

Creative Commons License photo credit: Matt HammTwitter bird logo icon illustration

I’ve received a lot of questions about Twitter. People want to know how to use it effectively. In particular I’ve been asked

  • How can I keep up with different Twitter communities?
  • Can I auto-follow people when they follow me?
  • Can I tweet pictures and video?
  • How can I use my Smart Phone to keep up with Twitter?

And so many more questions. You know what? There’s an application that will answer each of these questions (and even many I didn’t list). Twitter has spawned so many third-party applications it’s hard to know what’s useful and what’s not. This article will introduce you to several Twitter applications that can help you get the most out of your Twitter community. The list is not exhaustive, so if you are using an application I don’t mention, please leave a comment telling me about it and why it’s a must-use app.

How can I keep up with different Twitter communities?
The best way to keep up with your Twitter account and your community is to install a desktop application. I have used Twhirl and TweetDeck. Both run on Windows or Mac platforms and are free, but TweetDeck is the most popular of the Twitter desktop applications.

Both Twhirl and TweetDeck offer easy URL shortening, searching, one-click RT (retweeing), DM (direct or private message), favorites, etc., and personalization of application (you can change the colors).

Apart from what they have in common, I have found that each of these applications offers something the other doesn’t. Twhirl allows me to keep track of my three Twitter accounts (one for each of my blogs) in three small windows. I can be logged in to each account and the accounts update automatically. Although that feature is great, Twhirl does not let me set up groups of people (e.g., real-life friends in one column, family in another column, tech bloggers in a third column, etc.). TweetDeck does allow me to set up groups, but does not allow me to log in to multiple accounts at the same time. For me, TweetDeck is the winner because of grouping feature.

Other applications that users have suggested to me:

  • Power Twitter is a free Firefox add-on that looks, well, powerful.
  • Tweetie for the Mac. It’s on sale for $14.95 until May 4, 2009 then returns to its original price of $19.95.

Can I auto-follow people when they follow me?
Yes, you can auto-follow people who follow you. You can even send an automatic direct message (DM) to someone who follows you. I don’t recommend either of these ideas, though.

First, if you auto-follow everyone who follows you, you can end up with a few things:

  • People will start following you because you auto-follow and they want more followers. This is fine if you just want to increase followers (yours and theirs) regardless of value to a community.
  • If you auto-follow everyone who follows you, you’ll be receiving updates from those people as well. Some will be spammers, some will be friends, some will be irrelevant, etc. Granted, if you use an application like TweetDeck, you can filter some of that out, but overall you’re going to be inundated with unnecessary updates that clog your Twitter stream.

Second, there are few things hated more in Twitterland than the automated DM. I would avoid it all costs. It’s considered spammy and more than a few Twitterers will unfollow you for it.

All that being said, here is the application you’re looking for: TweetLater. I’ll be talking more about TweetLater on Wednesday.

Can I tweet pictures?
Just like with blogging, pictures can enhance your Twitter experience and add to your community. TwitPic is an application that uses your Twitter log in information to allow you to post pictures quickly and easily to your Twitter account. You can upload pictures from your phone or your computer.

How can I use my Smart Phone to keep up with Twitter?
These days just about everyone has a Smart Phone and it’s ridiculously easy to Twitter from them.

BlackBerry applications: Twitterberry and Tiny Twitter. compares the two applications to help you choose: Twitter On Your BlackBerry.

iPhone applications: Twitterfon and Twitterific (Note: Twitterific is available for your Mac OS for $14.95, but is free a free application for your iPhone). There are actually many, many applications for your iPhone. You can go to the Apps Store in iTunes and do a search.

Android application: Twidroid

Additional Reading and Resources

You can follow me on Twitter at @chilihead or @bb101.

A version of this article was cross-posted at BlogHer.

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