At least once a day, sometimes more, somebody tells me that they don’t use Twitter because they can’t keep up with it, that it’s too fast, too “now”. I understand what the sentiment is, but really it just doesn’t make sense. Twitter is too good for communicating with groups and individuals, for learning new things from like minded people, and for getting useful information. So, if you are using Twitter but aren’t sure how to make the most of it, or if you are thinking about diving in, this article is for you.
Did you know that you don’t have to use the main web page for your Twitter communication? There are some neat applications available to you for free that will help you sort things out. My favorite desktop application by far is Tweetdeck. You should go download it right now, install it, sign in and then come back and read this.
Are you finished installing? Good. Let’s move on.
If you click the picture above you will get a much larger view of the Tweetdeck layout. I’ve made notes on the page in red text so you know what you are looking at. I’m going to bullet point a few of the features that make this product such a must-have for anybody that uses Twitter.
- The ability to easily view replies and direct messages. The replies (in the picture it is the 2nd column from the left) are from people that use your screen name in tweets. It doesn’t matter where in the tweet it is (beginning, middle or end), Tweetdeck does a great job of picking them up. This is really handy so I don’t miss something that may be said to me or about me. I like to try to respond to most comments. Afterall, Twitter is interactive like a cocktail party, not one way like a lecture.
- Creation of custom groups. This is huge for me. Although I follow a lot of people, I certainly don’t know them all personally. I created a group called “Friends” (in this picture, 3rd from the left) that is exclusively for people that I know personally. I like to keep an eye on this so I can see what is happening in the lives of the people that I know the best. As far as I know, you can create as many groups as you want. I also have groups called “Tech SFO” and “Tech LA” so I can keep track of goings-on by geography, and some other groups that are related by the type of person that I am interested in keeping track of. While the public stream on the far left (All Tweets) is like the entire newspaper, the individual groups are like sections of the newspaper (sports, business, etc.) The newest release of Tweetdeck has a little button (+) that you can click in an individuals tweet that adds them to a group of your choosing. I love this feature!
- TwitScoop. I keep this column open because it shows trends that people are discussing on Twitter. This particular screenshot has an interesting mix of boobies, congress and earthquake. Mashable is squarely responsible for putting boobies up there for the first time that I’m aware of, with their article about Victoria’s Secret coming to mobile phones. You can click on any word to be taken to a web page that will show you different people that are using the particular word.
- URL Shortening. Have you seen all those links people put up on Twitter that look odd like http://is.gd/3IZL ? That is a shortened URL. Since Twitter only allows 140 characters at a time, you don’t want to take up all of your space with some crazy long link to a website. Using Tweetdeck, simply copy/paste your link and press “shorten” and it will automatically be truncated and added to your message. Pretty slick!
- Create search groups. The night of this writing, I am heading out to Mindshare LA. I was curious who is going, so I easily made a group in Tweetdeck that searches the public timeline for anybody that says “Mindshare”. Within a few seconds I got a list, and it continues to update as new people mention it. This is a great feature for anybody that wants to keep track of their brand or product, or to find new people to follow that may have common interests as you.
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