I know we’ve gotten a bit Twitter crazy here on ZNF lately, so I promise this will be our last post… for a little awhile, at least. With that in mind, I cramming several Twitter topics into this one article: software, tools, and etiquette.
As a quick refresher: Twitter is a web service, born from a brainstorm, to provide and peruse real-time updates. How you use it is up to you. I’ve found it valuable as a “micro blogging” tool. 140 characters is often sufficient to issue a brief opinion and/or link to an interesting tech-related story. It’s also been handy as a means of communicating both privately and publicly with readers, blogging peers, and PR professionals. In fact, Twitter replaced SMS for me at CES this year. Twitter’s usage is rapidly accelerating and they’ve just landed $35 million in Series C financing.
Desktop Twitter Software
While Twitter may have humble beginnings as a simple web page, their open API has led to all sorts of clever clients and integration. What actually inspired this topic was Scoble’s Twhirl versus TweetDeck desktop application showdown. He prefers the screen-encompassing nature of TweetDeck to follow and interact with over 64,000 people. I don’t follow nearly as many and prefer something with a smaller visual footprint. For many like me, the IM-esque client Twhirl is the answer. But I’ve even found that to be inefficient and a distraction. I’ve pretty much settled on running Twitter.com in a dedicated Firefox tab when I want to fully engage, and use the TwitterFox Firefox plugin to check in while preoccupied with other tasks – it’s ever-present, yet remains inconspicuous until called.
Mobile Twitter Software
At the moment, there are many more mobile clients available to iPhone owners than found on other platforms. And, as an iPhone owner, that’s where we’ll start.
Prior to the launch of the iTunes app store, I ran Twinkle on my jailbroken iPhone. Despite the periodic crashes and photo upload issues, it was an attractive and quick application with location based services (LBS). But due to continual bugs, an iffy design decision (requiring a Tapulous account), and a slow release cycle I moved to the overpriced Twitterrific ($10) shortly after the app store opened for business. To this day I’ve used Twitterrific and it was my weapon of choice for live “blogging” portions of CES. However, the app does have a few shortcomings. It’s visually polished and great for basic reading/replying, but advanced features like Twitter searches or following/unfollowing members are still out of reach. Which is why I also run both Tweetie ($3) and Twitterfon (free). The similar clients are powerful and economical, although a few interface quirks prevent me from utilizing either full time.
The only other mobile platform I can speak to on a first hand basis is Blackberry. For a long while TwitterBerry was the only real app. And it’s pretty solid, other than the accidental public replies to private/direct messages (DM). However, it’s about to be lapped by SocialScope (currently in beta) which plugs into numerous social networks.
Regardless of handset and irrespective of OS, both m.twitter.com and SMS provide a means of Twitter interaction without requiring a dedicated download.
Another great tool is actually a Twitter property. Summize was acquired and rebranded search.twitter.com. As you might expect, it provides powerful Twitter search functionality – allowing you to keep an eye on trends or track who’s said what and when. It’s often how I look up my old tweets and to see how my thoughts have been re-tweeted. Unfortunately it’s still a separate web site, although many third party Twitter software clients tap into it.
While 140 characters isn’t much, every now and then I say something meaningful. Which is why I’ve integrated my Twitter feed into the ZNF sidebar to the right. There are a variety of tools to do this, with all sorts of functionality – including automated blog posting consisting of a days tweets or firing off links to your Twitter account with each new blog post. I’ve settled on Twitter Widget Pro simply because it integrated into my WordPress theme most cleanly and efficiently. When I find a free few minutes to customize some CSS, I intend to migrate onto Twitter’s own HTML widget.
Lastly, quite a few coattail riding sites have sprung up that provide all sorts of information on you or your followers – such as Friend or Follow and Twitter Influence Calculator. I find these to be an occasional brief yet fun distraction, but lacking in much real value. Before partaking, keep in mind many of these services are capable of spamming your followers and might even swipe your credentials.
How to Lose Followers
While most engagement advice focuses on acquiring followers, I’d like to offer a few tips on how to keep the followers you have.
Like blogging, be generous with your links. If most tweets are URLs directing me to your website, I’ll probably drop you. Related, if your links take me to FriendFeed instead of the source article, I’ll probably drop you. If you ask me to “please retweet,” I’ll probably drop you. If you offer tips on how to pick up more followers, I’ll probably drop you. If you solicit donations, I’ll probably drop you.
Of course, none of this should be taken personally. It’s just that everyone has limited time and attention – this is my way of maintaining a high signal to noise ratio, while trying to converse with hundreds of people. I recognize most folks follow me for my tech insight, and it’s clear that the occasional fast food or Starbucks tweet loses followers. So, in turn, I will also try to stay “on topic” and not abuse your trust.
It’s entirely possible to keep an eye on Twitter, like a blog, without actually joining. Each member is provided a unique web address and RSS feed that you can visit or subscribe to. Keep up with all of Team ZNF and our extended family here: Dave, Mari, Brent, Davis, Dale, Bruce, Todd, Steve. Additionally, many of the companies we cover are active on Twitter… such as: TiVo, Sonos, Real, Slacker, Pandora Verizon, Sprint, and SugarSync. And if we’re not following you and should be, by all means, please drop your name/link in the comments.
My final parting thought: How might the quality and nature of conversation change if follower/followee counts were kept private?