If you’ve not heard about Twitter, you’re quickly becoming one of the minority here in North America. And if you’re not using Twitter, you could be missing out on a new tool that could end up being as important as email.
Does that sound like a hyper-inflated and grandiose statement? It might, but the numbers are speaking – no, shouting – the amazing facts: Twitter is rapidly becoming one of the most useful tools available. And it’s free.
A Quick Explanation
Twitter is described as a micro-blogging service for sharing short updates by answering the question “What are you doing?” And while that purpose is a large chunk of the current usage of Twitter, the growth that Twitter is experiencing has more under the surface substance than the narcissistic rantings of the self-obsessed.
Started back in early 2006, the service was an experimental project for a company in a different market. 2008 was the year Twitter really started gaining momentum, with Twitter growing 1,382% from February 2008 to February 2009 (according to Cnet.com). In February, 4 million people in the U.S. visited the site, up from 2.6 million the month before, according to the latest data from comScore. Clearly, this kind of growth has significance that deserves some exploration.
In addition to being a free text-messaging service with a limit of 140 characters, Twitter offers a very open API (that’s techno-speak for being open to developers to make stuff that works well with Twitter). As of this writing, Twitdom.com has tracked over 670 applications that work with Twitter. A remarkable fact that gives us the starting point for this article.
As a quick note, the two applications specifically highlighted in this article are both widely recognized as two of the best apps available today. Personally, I use them both and have found them to be incredibly useful. At the end of the article, I’ve included a list of other tools that I’ve used and found useful, too. Your mileage may vary.
TweetDeck for Your Desktop
Since Twitter has a simple interface available via any web browser (twitter.com), keeping up with conversations can be easily handled when you only follow a handful of people. In fact, I know many people who have added a simple plug-in (Power Twitter) for the Firefox browser to beef up the basic interface.
Yet it’s easy to see how having lots of people following you or your ministry can become difficult to manage one page at a time in a browser.
TweetDeck allows the user to group people into categories (called Groups) and sort those groups in unique vertical columns. The immediate benefit is obvious: sorting by affinity, job position, job type or relationship organizes dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people into unique views.
Further simplification, and much of the power of TweetDeck, is the ability to filter current columns by keywords. In this way, it’s easy to keep up with people that are mentioning your church, pastor, ministry or subject that you want to know about. Furthermore, filtering provides an easy way to cut the clutter of conversations that otherwise would simply take time and space on your desktop.
From a ministry perspective, using Twitter as a megaphone means providing your followers with updates, changes in location, times or even inclement weather cancellations. This one-to-many approach offers incredible real-time access to the cell phones of your congregation. With TweetDeck, you can not only send your updates but see how people respond to these updates in real-time, too.
The interface is fairly straight-forward, but little extras aren’t obvious at first glance, such as the ability to hover over the icon of each person you follow, which brings up even more options for organizing and interacting with people. With continual updates, this software continues to mature nicely. The recent addition of a Facebook feed creates a welcome addition for condensing time and effort required to stay up-to-date with the equally explosive popularity and usefulness of Facebook. You can even make updates to Facebook from right within TweetDeck, either in conjunction with your tweets or independent of them.
Keeping up with large groups can be a real time sink and productivity killer, so having a simple and neat way to streamline the usage of Twitter is a high value proposition of this free software available for both Mac and PC.
Tweetie for Mobile
For those on the go who need a way to manage Twitter – and have an iPhone – this full-featured mobile application provides a very robust way for organizing Tweets, people and even multiple Twitter accounts.
Tweetie boasts a very intuitive interface and the kind of tools that make other mobile apps feel inadequate. In many ways, Tweetie represents the greatest combination of useful features in a simple, unified experience.
For example, every aspect of interacting with tweets (posts) is possible, just as if you were sitting in front of your web browser on Twitter.com. Posting tweets, retweets, deleting tweets, browsing friends and followers, following and unfollowing people, updating your Twitter location and saving searches are all possible in this impossibly small app. Tweetie even overcomes one of the biggest complaints of the iPhone by adding a landscape orientation keyboard for typing.
For church administrators/techies that need mobile access to every church Twitter account, Tweetie offers complete control of multiple Twitter accounts. You can even send Direct Message texts (basically, private messages) to email so that you can respond more fully to important messages. Tweetie even knows when one of your tweets didn’t go through due to a network failure (called a “Fail Whale” due to the whale image shown during failures) and will resend tweets upon encountering a Twitter network error.
Though not free, the $2.99 price tag is an incredible value that is worthy every penny.
Of course, not everyone has an iPhone, so this amazing app doesn’t do you any good if you’re using any other smart phone. Still, it’s one of the most impressive apps for the iPhone and, in my opinion, is far and away the standard by which all other mobile Twitter apps should be judged.
I’ve included a partial list of apps and tools that will fit your style and needs regardless of your phone type or computer (PC and Mac are both represented on page 44). There are tools being developed all the time to help you aggregate and better organize your life on Twitter. As the medium evolves, we’ll be sure to keep reporting so you can continue to be up to date with how to most effectively use these tools.
ceTwit – http://www.freewarepocketpc.net/ppc-download-cetwit-v1-3.html
MoTwit – http://www.mitreo.com/motwit_twitter_palm_os/
Twidroid – http://twidroid.com
TwitterBerry – http://www.orangatame.com/products/twitterberry
TwitterFone – http://www.twitterfone.com
Twitterific – http://iconfactory.com/software/twitterrific
Desktop Apps: :
M.A.T.T. – http://www.themattinator.com
Nambu – http://www.nambu.com
Power Twitter – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/9591
Twhirl – http://www.twhirl.org