For people who are serious about their Twitter account, Twitter clients are a welcome change from the Web-based Twitter.com. Third-party clients allow users to manage their conversations, easily view replies and direct messages, follow certain keywords or trends, administer lists, keep up with groups, and, in some cases, watch their Twitter analytics. But with multiple Twitter clients available, how do you know which one to choose? Here is a breakdown of a few of the most popular clients.
TweetDeck is a desktop application that allows you to view your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Buzz, Foursquare, and MySpace accounts all from one client. Like other Twitter applications, it interfaces with the Twitter API to allow users to send and receive tweets and view profiles. According to August 2010 tracking from Twitstat, TweetDeck is the most popular Twitter application, falling second only to the original Web-based option.
The pros: TweetDeck has many features that make it extraordinarily popular. It’s easy to use and learn, so it can be appealing to casual Twitter users. Also, unlike other Twitter clients, TweetDeck automatically shortens your URLs as you type them in, so you don’t need to use URL-shortening services such as bit.ly, or even take the extra step of pasting the URL into an internal compressor. The response time with TweetDeck is often faster, too; while TweetDeck responds in real-time, other clients only refresh every few minutes.
The cons: TweetDeck also has some features that are not so user-friendly. First, it’s a downloadable application, so you have to install the client on your computer to use it. While this isn’t a big deal to most people, it might make you uneasy – especially since you’ll have to download a new version whenever the system requires upgrades. Another issue with the downloadable model is that, if you plan on doing your social networking from multiple computers, you’ll need to download TweetDeck onto every computer and recreate your settings on each one – they’re saved by computer rather than username. The application also takes up the entire screen, so unless you have two monitors or an additional computer, it’s impossible to view the entire layout. Finally, although you can schedule tweets using TweetDeck, you have to leave the TweetDeck client open for the tweet to send.
The pros: A professional client for managing multiple social networking accounts, HootSuite is a Web-based platform, which means you don’t need to download it and your setup will be the same no matter which computer you use to log in. You can set up an account for your company and track team workflow across sites such as Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and more. HootSuite has convenient custom URL shorteners and file uploaders, which allow you to view the analytics of the URL or file and see how many users clicked on it. The client also makes scheduling messages for future release and saving drafts of messages incredibly easy, so you can effectively manage your social media time. Additionally, HootSuite’s layout features both columns and tabs, offering a flexible organization that allows each user to structure their columns however they like.
The cons: The main disadvantage to HootSuite is that it’s not entirely a free client – if you need more than five social networks and one RSS feed, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid account. Another issue is that it’s difficult to include multiple names in an @reply on HootSuite – while the Twitter Web client and TweetDeck both allow you to add names to your reply by simply hitting the “reply” button as many times as you like, HootSuite will erase any existing text in the tweet box and replace it with the username of the person to which you’re replying. To reply to multiple people, you’ll need to manually type in their names, or copy and paste them into the message box. Finally, there’s no way to clear the columns, so tweets you’ve already seen can build up, with no way to remove them from the feed if you want to.