The Right Tools for the Right Jobs

Twitter.com's Direct Message View

I was teasing Brian about how he could simply/easily refer to when I last sent him a direct message via Twitter. He replied calmly that it’s easy to do if you’re looking at the view of direct messages on Twitter.com (see above graphic). Er, um. He’s right. Because I spend my time in Hootsuite (affiliate link), where because it’s a 3rd party application, direct messages fall off the screen at some point. Of course, this means we have to think about the various tools we use for marketing, for communicating, for media making, and question how we use them and for what.

The Many Twitters

Some people use Twitter.com as their primary Twitter viewing portal. This makes sense, because that’s where you sign up. But with that single-column view, that’s like reading your newspaper if every single article was written in a single column, scrolling downward into infinity. It’s just not an easy view.

For VIEWING a lot of Twitter information at the same time, you’ve gotta go with something like HootSuite or Tweetdeck or the like. (The difference between those two is that Hootsuite is a web-based multi-column app, so you can use it everywhere without installing software, and Tweetdeck is primarily a desktop app.)

For getting all the data being sent your way, you’ve gotta go back to Twitter.com, because everything else is passing that data through an API, meaning that there are limitations on how much information can be received, and you WILL lose information, unless you’ve only got about 5 followers and are following 10 or so people. Even then, I wouldn’t swear by a 3rd party app for delivery of every message.

For scheduling tweets and advanced management, you have to go with something like CoTweet (if you have groups) and/or Hootsuite. There are other tools, but those are probably the top of the heap.

For listening to Twitter, I just cook searches using http://search.twitter.com and export the results to an RSS feed that I throw into Google Reader to check at my leisure. If you want something a bit more advanced with monitoring tool companies and the like, there are tons to consider. I list these every three or four blog posts about software, so I’ll stun you and NOT list them. If you want more on listening tools, grow bigger ears.

Twitter vs Foursquare and the Like

Twitter is a place for information to flow back and forth. You can use it one-way, like a newsfeed, or you can use it two-way, like a watercooler tool. Neither is wrong or right.

Several people pipe in their other lightweight social application data into Twitter. For instance, they point all their Foursquare and Gowalla check-ins into their Twitter stream. It depends what you’re hoping to do with the OUTPUT of your Twitter presence whether that’s a good idea. If you’re just documenting your life in all dimensions, then who cares? Do what you like.

But there are other interpretations. For instance, I know a freelance professional that has Foursquare wired into his or her account. Near as I can tell, this person spends at least 10 hours a day traveling from coffeeshop to coffeeshop. Sure, if you don’t have an office, that’s cool. But with multiple checkins (rarely more than an hour between location changes), I know that this person can’t be all that busy, because unless this is part of his or her exercise plan, I know that he or she isn’t in meetings. So, you see my point.

And, is Foursquare as chatty as Twitter? Not that I’ve seen. People don’t want you “tweeting” in Foursquare.

What about Twitter to Facebook and Back?

I’ve been asked repeatedly about a service like Ping.fm, which allows you to post multiple updates from one status bar, seeding those updates into Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and elsewhere all with one push. With much respect to the people who MAKE the service, I’m not a fan, and here’s why.

The Facebook community (people who live on FB instead of Twitter) don’t much want tweet-level interactions with people. They like their back and forth to be a bit meatier, and also they want people to use the richness of the tool. Every “@davidbthomas – lol!” is a thorn in their side. Using a hashtag on FB (unless perhaps when you’re being jokey) isn’t often well-received either.

My personal advice? Even if you intend to update both similarly, craft a different message for Facebook than you do for Twitter and decouple the interactions.

Ditto Twitter into LinkedIn. When I’m looking at your LinkedIn status and it’s just a bunch of lame tweets because you thought it’d save you time, I “hide” your LinkedIn status. Suddenly, any chance you had of capturing my attention is gone in a blink, and it won’t come back, because no one ever goes, “Hmmm, it just doesn’t seem like I have enough status update messages to read.” Am I wrong?

It’s All Open to Interpretation

You don’t have to do it the way I’m talking about above. You can swear that your tool of choice is the best one. You can argue for Ping.fm. I don’t mind. Besides, you’re doing it wrong. But these might be some things to consider, as you hone your usage of social media tools.

What do you think? How are you doing it differently? Any questions similar to what I’ve covered above? Anything where you’re just plain curious about some OTHER set of tools or interactions? Go ahead and ask in the comments. There are no stupid questions! (Not true, but I promise not to laugh at YOUR stupid question.)

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