Five Twitter tools I use

For those of you new to the Twitter game, here are some of the tools I use and my thoughts on them.

I wouldn't call myself a power Twitterer, but I've been using the brevity-focused social network site since last April, largely via auto-posted headlines from my Alpha Doggs network research blog. More recently, I've gotten into the habit of posting other comments. As a journalist, I find Twitter especially useful for tracking hot topics.

For those of you new to the Twitter game, here are some of the tools I use and my thoughts on them (last summer we posted a more elaborate slideshow highlighting tools). I will say that some of these programs tend to take their sweet time about dishing out results, but a lot are still new, even in beta. I should note that I tend to avoid using tools that require me to hand over my Twitter password: After all, hackers now have their claws into Twitter. And I've yet to start using Twitter on a mobile device. (Watch a slideshow of 12 tips for safe social networking.)

Without further ado, the tools:

—  TweetDeck: It's an Adobe Air application currently in public beta that runs on Mac, Windows and Linux systems. It's useful for divvying up the people you follow on Twitter into groups (though wish I could create even more than the eight groups I have: Network World, CIOs/network execs, vendors, analysts), making it easier to follow their Tweets vs. doing so within the basic Twitter interface. It's also easier to Tweet from there than the basic Twitter interface in that you can immediately shorten your URLs within TweetDeck. I've seen some users dismayed that when they go to close a group they've created that they've actually deleted. Confess to doing this once myself.

Had given the widgety desktop client Twhirl a whirl, and sort of liked it, but in the end found it a bit pesky so haven't been using of late.

Twellow: Unsatisfied with Twitter Search and even Advanced Search, I've taken to more often using this Twitter Yellow Pages to search not only by keyword in Tweets, but by keywords in Twitterers bios. Found Twellow helpful in pulling together this list of 12 CIOs who Twitter.

Twitter Grader: Kind of fun just to see how you rank on Twitter and to learn who the Twitter rock stars are. I scored an 85 out of 100 last time I checked. A solid B-plus... Though I suspect there might be some grade inflation going on. The program gives out an awful lot of 100s. Also features TwitSnip, a bookmarklet for tweeting content from any Web page.

TweetStats: Provides colorful graphs of how many tweets you write by month and time of day and interface. I've been averaging 2.1 a day. That doesn't seem too obnoxious, but I suspect I've got the potential to become insufferable. The site claims it has 50,000-plus users.

Tweettag: Another search tool, which searches by Twitter tags, typically front-ended by a # symbol. One nice feature is that when you search on a tag you are presented with a tag cloud of related tags.

A few additional tips for those of you new to Twittering to consider:

— Stick your Twitter address onto your e-mail signature, Facebook profile, etc. to spread the word.

— Colleague Julie Bort advises that you can search for keywords and then toss those keyword searches into your RSS feeder to help you find friends to follow and to use Twitter as a way to get the "scoop" on things.

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