July 30, 2009

Five Twitter Tools You Should Try

tools of the tradeImage by oneblackbird via Flickr

I have found that Twitter is an excellent way to interact with readers of Atheist Revolution and learn about what is happening outside the U.S. But I am always on the lookout for new ways to add capabilities or simplify Twitter-related tasks. In this post, I'll introduce you to five Twitter tools you should be using.

In no particular order, here are five Twitter tools I use regularly and recommend to others:

1. TweetLater

TweetLater provides many functions, everything from automatically sending tweets on a predetermined schedule to automatically following users who follow you. I do not use all of the many functions, and in fact, there is one that I will caution you to avoid like the plague, but I do regularly use TweetLater's auto-follow and follower vetting functions.

First things first, I strongly caution you against using TweetLater (or any other service) to send automatic welcome direct messages to those who follow you. I made the mistake of doing this before I knew any better, but it is considered bad Twitter etiquette and will lead people to unfollow you.

I use TweetLater to automatically follow anyone who follows me, however, I always use the "vet new followers" function. Whenever someone follows me, TweetLater gives me 72 hours to visit the TweetLater page and decide whether to approve (i.e., follow) the new follower, ignore them, block them, etc. This prevents me from following spammers, Christians who want to convert me, or people who have not been on Twitter long enough for me to be able to evaluate whether they are worth following. I also use TweetLater to automatically unfollow anyone who unfollows me.

2. Tweepular

Yes, Tweepular has one of the most unattractive interfaces imaginable (unless you are a 13 year-old girl), but it is another tool I use regularly. Remember how I said that I vet new followers in TweetLater and that one of the groups I tend not to automatically follow are those who are too new to Twitter for me to evaluate? With Tweepular, it is easy to give them another chance and to make sure I haven't missed any good folks.

With Tweepular, I can see all followers with whom I have a reciprocal relationship, those who I'm following who aren't following me (I do keep a small number of news sources in this category), and those who are following me but who I'm not following. This last category is the one I pay the most attention to. By merely holding the cursor over their name, I can see their Twitter bio, last tweet, location, etc. Tweepular allows me to follow them individually or all at once. Very handy.

3. Mr. Tweet

Simply put, Mr. Tweet is about helping you find relevant people to follow. Mr. Tweet provides you with daily updates listing Twitter users you might be interested in following. It lets you recommend others that you find worth following and get recommended by others. I caution you against spamming requests for people to recommend you and simply trust that it will happen if you continue to use Twitter effectively.

One of the coolest things about Mr. Tweet is how much information it gives you about the people it recommends you to consider following. For each recommendation, it shows you which of your friends are following them and how often your friends interact with them. This is extremely useful in helping you figure out whether to follow someone by showing you what sort of user they are.

4. Twibes

Twibes is one tool every Twitter user should use, especially you atheists. It is a way of forming Twitter groups on various topics so that those interested in the topic can come together for more focused interaction.

Twibes has an "atheists" group, and this can be useful in a couple of ways. First, browsing those who belong is a great way to find relevant people to follow. Second, one can interact with members of this group by sending tweets through the Twibes page. That is, if you want to tweet something only to members of this group, you can do so.

5. Monitter

Monitter is a very different sort of tool in that it is about content rather than follower management. If you want to use Twitter as a source of information, Monitter is for you. You enter up to three search terms and can see three simultaneous live Twitter streams in which the term is relevant. I used Monitter to keep track of developments in Iran after the election by entering #iranelection in one window, but because I didn't want to miss out on atheist-related info, I had #atheist in another window. I can't remember what was in the third window, but knowing me, it was probably something like #horror or #mac - you get the idea. Just be forewarned, Monitter can be terribly addictive.

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