Becoming familiar with Twitter in its native state is important. But as you get more comfortable you may find yourself wishing there was a better way of doing things. Using Twitter effectively means posting multiple times a day, staying on top of a fast feed, and keeping track of a growing list of followers, which can consume an amazing amount of time. I’ve tried many things in my quest to tame the Twitter beast and have settled on a handful of free Twitter management tools that truly make my life easier. I will share these tools below.
As a reminder, I use Twitter mostly for business so regular posting and staying on top of industry happenings is important to me. This discussion will be from that perspective. These tools all offer a great free version which is why I am highlighting them here. As time goes on, you may find yourself looking for more functionality, which is certainly available for those who are ready to purchase the premium versions. Until that time arrives, here are a few to try:
Feedly (for curation):
In addition to helping you stay current, reading and sharing articles that are relevant to your industry demonstrates your knowledge, nurtures relationships, and is a great way to give back to the Twitter community. This is referred to as curating content. But it only works if you actually read the articles you post so you absorb the information and can share insights. Feedly can help with this task.
Feedly allows you to access all your favorite industry publications and blogs in one place. Articles are presented as they are published and you decide how you wish to categorize and view them. Personally, I like the “title only” view which allows me to scan the list quickly, flag anything of interest, and discard the rest. I can do this whenever I have a spare minute as the tool is accessible from all of my devices. When I’m ready to set up some posts, I go straight to my flagged articles, read through them, and choose what I want to share.
Tweetdeck (for listening):
As your account grows, keeping up with your Twitter feed can quickly become unmanageable. In my last post about Twitter, I explored the concept of lists, but even lists can be cumbersome if you are viewing them natively. A listening tool can really help and Tweetdeck is a great place to start.
Tweetdeck is owned by Twitter, but it allows you to view incoming tweets in side-by-side columns. You can filter each column by whatever criteria you like – lists, hashtags, keywords, or simply your home feed. You can also tweet, reply, and retweet right from within the tool.
Tweetdeck’s display is similar to another tool called Hootsuite, except it’s 100% focused on Twitter. If you like Tweetdeck, but wish to manage multiple social media platforms in one place, consider exploring Hootsuite as it is also a great option. But if your primary concern is managing your Twitter feed, Tweetdeck will do just fine.
Buffer (for post scheduling):
Most people who post to social networks regularly will eventually consider a scheduling tool. Scheduling allows you to set up all your posts at once but releases them at regular intervals throughout the day – freeing you up for the listening and engaging part of social and/or (Gasp!) working on other tasks.
Although scheduling is available through Twitter native and Tweetdeck, I prefer to use Buffer. Buffer is the perfect example of a company that does one thing really, really well and they offer a robust free version of the tool that is perfectly functional for basic use. The interface is easy to navigate and there is an app available so you can schedule posts on-the-go. Buffer also provides a browser extension so you can add posts to your queue while you explore the web.
If you choose to use Buffer, don’t miss this great article on Buffer Hacks that points out tips and tricks for using the system that you might not notice otherwise.
A word of caution. If you decide to schedule your posts it’s helpful to have a system in place that alerts you to emergencies that might make scheduled posts distasteful. For instance, sending out cute kitty photos while everyone else is tweeting about the latest natural disaster may come across as a little off-base.
Audiense (for follower management):
As you follow more people (and more follow you) managing your followers natively becomes challenging. There are many tools that can help, but Audiense is one of my personal favorites.
Audiense provides a dashboard with insight into your Twitter connections. For instance, it identifies relationships that are reciprocal, accounts that unfollow you, and those that have gone inactive. It also offers demographic data and reports on the best times to tweet. This is just the free version! But, the free services are capped at 5,000 social contacts. For a monthly fee, Audiense will track additional contacts, go deeper into analytics, help you benchmark against your competitors, and collaborate with team members.
There are many amazing tools available to manage social media activity. Those listed above are just the free Twitter management tools I’ve found most useful. Your needs will change over time based on your level of participation and the social channels you prefer.
You will see headlines suggesting that the use of certain tools will allow you to manage social media in just a few minutes a day, but if you’re participating in social media with any sort of intent you will quickly realize the fallacy of that concept. Tools can help and some will even offer to post for you, suggesting articles based on your prior activity. But do you really want to trust your reputation to automation?
Managing your online image requires time – there is no getting around that, but with the right tools you will begin to feel that you are using your time effectively.