6 tools that help businesses tame Twitter

If not managed properly, Twitter tweets can quickly become overwhelming
  • (Computerworld (US))
  • — 10 August, 2011 01:57

Twitter can be a powerful business tool, not to mention a valuable source of metrics data and feedback. If not managed properly, though, Twitter tweets can quickly become overwhelming -- sifting out the nonsense to get to the nuggets of useful information can become a full-time job. Thankfully, there are a variety of tools you can employ to help your business manage Twitter and cut through the noise.

This article takes a look at six of those tools and examines what they have to offer to help you efficiently manage your Twitter social network. We'll explore how effective the tools are for building a loyal Twitter following, the features available for sending or scheduling outbound tweets, and what capabilities exist to monitor Twitter traffic to build your brand and respond quickly to any negative comments.

(Note: More general Twitter clients such as TweetDeck or HootSuite also contain some management functions, but this article focuses specifically on Twitter management applications.)

MarketMeSuite

Price: $5.99/month or $34.99/year

MarketMeSuite bills itself as the "Social Media Marketing Dashboard," and the title seems appropriate. The main window of MarketMeSuite looks a lot like TweetDeck, with various streams of incoming content filling different columns. But the left pane of MarketMeSuite is filled with options and tools to help you manage your company's social media presence.

MarketMeSuite lets you schedule tweets to go out on specified days and at specified times -- even years in advance. You can also target Twitter users based on language and location, so you can filter out Twitter followers who are unlikely to become your customers and build a following of pertinent users. MarketMeSuite reply campaigns let you track conversations on Twitter based on keywords so you can stay engaged on topics relevant to your business or tweet threads related to your business. (The application also works with Facebook.)

You can use Twitter more efficiently by setting up your company blog or other sources of information your customers and followers might be interested in to automatically tweet via RSS feeds. MarketMeSuite can be configured to send you an email when your brand or product is mentioned on Twitter, enabling you to stay engaged in the conversation and to respond quickly to any negative comments.

One of the driving forces of Twitter for most users is reciprocity. It is a sort of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" mentality, where if you follow a Twitter account, there is some expectation that the user will follow your Twitter account in return. MarketMeSuite lacks some of the reports and analytics of a product like Sendible, but it does include tools that make it easier to unfollow unproductive Twitter accounts.

MarketMeSuite has a single price of $5.99 per month, which includes unlimited accounts, free updates, tutorials and support. MarketMeSuite also offers a half-off deal on the annual plan, priced at $34.99.

Nimble

Price: Free (individuals); $10/user/month (Nimble Team)

Nimble is more about consolidating social networking efforts and streamlining participation on social networks. It lacks some of the more advanced management and metrics functions of the other tools featured here, but its simplicity, the way it lets you track your various contacts and its team features can recommend it.

The Nimble screen is clean -- almost austere. With Nimble, you can add your email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, and then view all of the messages and status updates as a single stream. (While some may find it useful to monitor all their services at once, I actually found that this method added exponentially to the noise. It's a matter of personal choice.) I did like how you can click on an individual contact and be able to view all your communications and interactions with that one contact -- and then respond to them within Nimble. It also pulls in all the available social networking information about that individual, giving you a great deal of useful data in one place.

Where Nimble really adds value, however, is when you have a team of individuals working with social networks for sales or marketing. Nimble Team ($10 per user per month) lets you select individual messages or status updates and use them as a basis for assigning tasks -- for example, if a client has tweeted about a problem with your product, you can assign a team member to follow up. Nimble gives an organization the tools to pull all of the different message streams and all of the relevant users together, and manage them all more seamlessly.

However, when you do import your contacts, make sure you do it carefully. For example, you can only import a maximum of 5,000 Twitter contacts; because I allowed it to import all my contacts, I ended up with 4,955 Twitter contacts in Nimble (I'm not sure what happened to the other 45). I would have been better off using the drop-down menu to import just the 200 or so Twitter accounts that I follow.

Nimble Contact is free for individual use. Nimble Team is $10 per user per month.

Sendible

Price: $9.99/month for Solo; $19.99/month for Marketer; $49.99/month for Business; $99.99/month for Enterprise

One of the most comprehensive tools available for managing social networking activity -- including Twitter -- is Sendible. Sendible gives you the tools to send out updates and communications through a variety of services, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email and more.

Once you add your Twitter account to Sendible, you can tweet instantly, schedule tweets for a specific time and date, and set tweets to recur at certain intervals. You can track messages and monitor how many times shared links are opened. Of all the products I looked at, Sendible has the broadest range of tools and reports for monitoring Twitter account metrics and analyzing the success of your company or brand on Twitter.

Sendible also gives you tools to keep track of how your company, or its products or services, are being discussed on Twitter or other social networks (using a sentiment analysis engine to find positive and negative mentions), and prioritizes which mentions or posts you should respond to. You can view your activity within a My Reports tab on Sendible, or you can configure Sendible to send an email at regular intervals summing up social network activity related to your brand or company. You can also manage Sendible accounts with an iPhone app.

Sendible also lets you automatically follow other Twitter accounts with similar interests, and it can automatically send a welcome message to any Twitter user who follows your account. One thing that would make Sendible a better tool is to include a feature like those in TweetAdder and MarketMeSuite that also automatically unfollows unproductive accounts.

Sendible also lets you view Twitter lists or create new lists, to limit the number of Twitter accounts populating a stream.

Sendible has a confusing array of pricing plans ranging from $9.99 per month for the Solo plan (which lets you send up to 400 messages at a time with a maximum of 15 social network accounts and 500 contacts) up to $99.99 per month for the Corporate plan (which lets you send up to 32,000 messages at a time with a maximum of 400 social networks and 32,000 contacts). The different plans offer varying caps on the number of contacts that a given message can be sent to, the number of social networks that can be managed and maintained from Sendible, the maximum number of contacts, and so on.

Tap11

Price: In pre-release; price not yet set

This tool is more focused on analytics than the others covered here. Tap11 lets you monitor the vast Twitterverse to listen to what is being said about your company, track how much exposure your tweets get, discover which Twitter accounts wield influence within your industry and receive email alerts when news relevant to your products or services breaks.

I really like the analytics tools and reporting in Tap11. It is valuable from a social media marketing perspective to be able to track and monitor the audience for your tweets. You can send the same message out with different wording or at different times of the day, and monitor to see which tweets are getting the most exposure. Information like this can help you optimize your social media marketing efforts.

Like many of the other tools reviewed here, Tap11 lets you work with Twitter more efficiently by letting you schedule outbound tweets. However, Tap11 is not as robust when it comes to features for managing -- adding or unfollowing -- Twitter followers.

One advantage Tap11 does have over most competing products is mobile integration. Sendible has its iPhone app, but Tap11 has apps for iPhone and BlackBerry.

As this was being written, Tap11 was still a pre-release trial; pricing had not yet been set.

TweetAdder

Price: $55/1 profile; $74/5 profiles; $110/10 profiles; $188/unlimited profiles

TweetAdder provides a variety of tools for managing and streamlining your Twitter activity. TweetAdder tries to help you grow your Twitter following by, among other things, automating tweets, retweets and replies.

An Overview screen provides a simple, at-a-glance synopsis of the current state of affairs for your Twitter accounts (TweetAdder can handle as many accounts as you purchase TweetAdder licensing for). A green power icon indicates that automation is enabled for a given feature -- such as sending retweets or @replies -- while a red circle icon illustrates that the automation is disabled. Just select a Twitter account and click on the "Open User" button at the bottom to access the configuration and make any changes for that account.

One of the ways TweetAdder helps minimize the noise is by allowing you to automate the following and unfollowing of other Twitter accounts. You can automatically follow accounts based on interests or keywords, follow users who follow a specific account, or follow back Twitter accounts that start following you. If there are Twitter lists that you would like to follow, you can also automate the addition of accounts from the list to your list of Twitter accounts to follow.

This approach has pros and cons. While you may increase the number of accounts following you, you could also end up following hundreds or thousands of Twitter accounts that you aren't really interested in, that have no real interest in your product or topic, or that aren't even following you in return. TweetAdder also lets you automatically unfollow accounts that are not following you back. You can also set up a "white list" of Twitter accounts that are off limits for unfollowing, meaning those that you want to follow regardless of whether they follow you back or not.

For each of the various tools in TweetAdder, you have the ability to control how often the automated service runs, how many accounts can be followed or unfollowed in a given session, and what the maximum number of follows or unfollows is per day. You can also establish thresholds to direct TweetAdder to stop following or unfollowing when your ratio of accounts following you to accounts you are following reaches a specified threshold.

Aside from helping to manage Twitter followers, TweetAdder can also manage tweets. You can use TweetAdder to automatically send out tweets, retweet tweets from specified users or tweet messages from an RSS feed. TweetAdder can also be set up to automatically reply when a tweet mentions your Twitter account, and to send a direct message to new followers, which you can use to direct new Twitter followers to your website or Facebook page, or to promote a specific product or service.

There are TweetAdder versions for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux (the Linux client is a beta version). TweetAdder pricing is based on the number of Twitter accounts being managed: $55 for one account, $74 for five, $110 for 10, and $188 for an unlimited number of accounts.

TweetRoost

MediaRoost

Price: Free (1 user, up to 3 accounts); $14.95/user/month (up to 25 accounts per user)

TweetRoost lets you monitor, save, categorize, schedule and analyze Twitter traffic from up to 25 accounts (if you use the for-pay Pro account). When you sign up for TweetRoost, you are set up with your own subdomain of tweetroost.com (such as computerworld.tweetroost.com), which is where you log in to manage your TweetRoost account and oversee your Twitter activity.

Twitter clients

TweetRoost displays your default stream with the status updates from the accounts you follow.

Click to view larger image

On the surface, TweetRoost behaves like a typical Twitter client application. It displays your default Twitter stream with the status updates from the accounts you follow, along with a box at the top where you can add your own updates. A column on the right displays information about your Twitter profile, including the number of accounts being followed and the number of users following your Twitter account.

At the top of your page, there is a field for searching Twitter. In and of itself, searching Twitter is not new or unique, but TweetRoost lets you save your searches and continuously monitor the search terms for new updates. This can be a great method of tracking feedback and comments related to your company, or specific products or services.

With TweetRoost, you can manage your Twitter accounts more efficiently by scheduling updates and messages. TweetRoost also includes some built-in metrics. You can review retweets and mentions in either table or graph form over different periods of time and monitor trends in followers of a given Twitter account over time.

Two things I like about TweetRoost are its ability to save tweets and its integration with Klout. Twitter is a dynamic medium; there is such a high volume of tweets that old ones disappear quickly. TweetRoost lets you maintain your own local database of tweets, mentions and direct messages in a searchable database for as long as you like.

Klout is a site that ranks the scope and reach of your social networks with a Klout score. It is a simple, yet effective tool for monitoring how your social networking efforts are working when it comes to establishing your brand and influencing followers. Your Klout score can be integrated into your TweetRoost analytics and reporting.

TweetRoost is platform-agnostic (because it is a Web-based service). It is free for individuals, but the free version is limited to a single user and a maximum of three Twitter accounts. For $14.95 per user per month, you can sign up for the TweetRoost Pro account, which lets you add unlimited users and up to 25 different Twitter accounts to manage. There is a 45-day evaluation period that provides free access to the features of a Pro account, but it is limited to three users and three Twitter accounts.

Bottom line

When it comes to simply managing your Twitter account and minimizing the noise on Twitter so you can focus on the tweets that are important -- or at least relevant -- TweetAdder comes out on top. It offers the best bang for the buck with one-time pricing rather than monthly or annual subscriptions, and it has a clean, simple interface.

However, for a more comprehensive application that provides a sophisticated toolbox for managing social media in general, I choose Sendible. Sendible is like a Swiss Army knife for social media marketing that makes communicating with followers or customers a more streamlined and efficient process, while also providing the reports and analytics to help you figure out what works and what doesn't.

My only complaint about Sendible is the price. If you want a less expensive platform for managing social networks, MarketMeSuite is a very capable tool as well, and the $34.99 deal gives you the ability to manage unlimited accounts for an entire year for less than the cost of managing only 15 accounts on the Sendible Solo plan for three months.

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Tony Bradley

Computerworld (US)
Topics: Internet-based applications and services, twitter, internet, social media
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