Despite the emergence of new social networks such as Google+, Twitter hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. If you are just getting started with the microblogging service, you might have heard something about Twitter applications or clients. What exactly are they and do they offer anything special that you can’t get from the regular old web interface?
Before going too far, we should nail down some terms. There are two main ways to use Twitter: official apps, which include Twitter.com, Twitter for iPhone, Blackberry or Android, and third-party clients or applications, such as Hootsuite, BufferApp, SocialOomph and many more. These third-party apps also come in desktop, web and mobile flavors.
One major benefit of using Twitter clients is the customization they allow for reading and organizing tweets, as well as finding new users to follow. People don’t use Twitter in exactly the manner envisioned by the company, so third-party developers have stepped in to add the functionality they want.
Some applications allow you to quickly scroll through a number of self-defined columns each containing a particular list, keyword, hashtag, or core Twitter function. Trying to keep track of so much information on the Twitter web interface would be a much more cumbersome process. Other clients allow you to tag and organize your followers into different types of groups that can do much more than the official Twitter lists.
Another major reason people use Twitter applications is that they support advanced management of your Twitter account. You can schedule tweets so that your messages will be posted at any time in the future. This can be a great strategy if you have a lot of content to share but don’t want to bombard your list of followers. Many clients also integrate with other services, such as the Bit.ly url shortener, which makes posting links much more convenient.
Many third-party apps also allow you to post to multiple accounts seamlessly. If you have a personal account as well as one you use for professional networking or a blog you own, you’ll want to be able to easily post content to both accounts without having to log in and out all the time.
Finally, many social media management tools allow you to control various accounts, including Twitter, Facebook LinkedIn and more, all from one central dashboard. For a business or organization trying to engage with its audience or monitor feedback and mentions, a third-party client can save a lot of time and energy.
The line between official and third-party apps can get a little hazy, however. TweetDeck, one of the most popular applications for managing Twitter, Facebook and other social network profiles, was recently acquired by Twitter, so it is now an “official” app. Additionally, Twitter has recently unveiled a new web interface which intends to offer many of the popular features that were only possible through a third-party app.
It’s clear that Twitter is trying to gain market share for its official apps, and some speculate that it is acquiring third-party Twitter apps with the intention of gradually shutting them down. If you use the social network, how do you prefer to post your tweets?
Andrew Walsh is the owner and editor of Social Web Q and A. He is a freelance writer, academic librarian and web entrepreneur. Check out his book Savvy for the Social Web.