“What are you doing?” the question atop Twitter.com asks.
The obvious answer is reading the never-ending flow of tweets rolling past your eyeballs. The micro-blog messages may only be 140 characters in length, but they can end up consuming a huge amount of time. Especially if you’re trying to tap the popularity of the hot social networking service to build up your business brand on the Web.
While Facebook feels right for organizing social events with your friends and catching up with old faces from your high school yearbook, Twitter feels more pointed in its use. Savvy users create Twitter accounts to discuss a specific topic or with the goal of widening their business circle. Twitter also offers a lower barrier to attaining information – you don’t need someone’s permission to follow them.
So while most Facebook friends’ lists total about 100 to 200 users, certain Twitter accounts can attract thousands of followers. For those users, that single column of unfettered information at Twitter.com is suddenly too hectic to manage. You’ll need a Twitter client to deal with that sort of content.
ITBusiness.ca decided to take a closer look at two Twitter clients that are popular right now – TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop. Both are based on Adobe AIR and run on Windows or Mac computers, and both have grouping abilities and multimedia support. But which one is right for your business goals?
Richard Brewer-Hay may be the chief blogger of San Jose-based eBay Ink, the online auctioneer’s official corporate blog, but he’s also a self-professed Twitter addict. He’s been using Seesmic Desktop for several months to feed his addiction, after making the switch from TweetDeck.
“I just didn’t find the toggling between different accounts as user friendly as I liked,” he says. “On Seesmic, I was also able to manage user lists much better.”
In his free time, Brewer-Hay stays true to his namesake by making beer. It’s enough of a hobby that he’s got a Twitter account dedicated to beers. Using Seesmic, he’s able to keep the accounts separate and seamlessly switch between the two.
Adding separate accounts for Twitter or Facebook is simple in the latest version of Seesmic. Along the left-hand column, you click the “+” sign next to accounts and enter your log-in information. Then Seesmic automatically starts pulling information down from the Web and organizing it for you.
Seesmic allows you to break your information feed up into different columns. You can break away your @replies or direct messages into separate columns that stack out to the left of your screen. You can also separate the people you follow on to different user lists. There’s no limit to the number of columns you create – you just have to scroll through them horizontally once you fill your desktop.
Brewer-Hay organizes his list into 10 separate groups, including “social media”, “e-commerce”, and “buyers and sellers” for eBay users. He follows over 1,200 people on Twitter, so the groups come in handy.
“All the people that are using eBay who’ve followed me, I follow back to I can see what their user experience is like,” he says. “eBay changes the marketplace on a regular basis and now I can see what the general consensus will be on those changes.”
On his two-monitor work computer, Brewer-Hay always has Seesmic Desktop open on his second monitor. He’ll often answer questions that eBay merchants have about his blog posts, or direct questions that are asked to the right people at eBay.
During eBay’s latest quarterly financial results conference call, he also tweeted the results as they were released. It was tricky to come up with the right language to be SEC compliant in 140 characters or less, but the exercise received a good response.
“I think that it’s great a company the size of eBay is on Twitter and transparent,” the blogger says. “Getting involved in the conversation is very important, being a part of the conversation and getting results from the conversation aren’t the same thing.”
Users taking part in conversations on Seesmic have quick access to commonly-used features on Twitter. There’s a URL shortening field that offers several different services to choose from and users can also drag and drop an image to be uploaded and shared via TwitPic.
Seesmic’s Facebook integration is a step up on TweetDeck. It offers the ability to add Facebook friends to user lists, and you can also “like” a friend’s status. But you can’t comment on it from Seesmic.
User tweet complaints
A search for Seesmic in Twitter reveals some complaints about posts going to the wrong account, some errors, and a heavy footprint. Here’s some examples:
- @guy: “Damn Seesmic Desktop keeps posting 2 my Facebook instead of my Twitter account. Deleted Facebook account from SD to keep that from happening.”
- @MegCanada: “Seesmic Desktop – Why so many errors?”
- @lizmar: “I tried seismic but it kept screwing up my comp performance”
The most recent version, v0.25, was released April 3 and patched on April 28. It’s the tool of choice for Josh Chandler, an 18-year-old student and part-time entrepreneur in the UK.
Chandler is working on a Web site that will involve media collaboration in real-time, but it’s not ready for prime time yet. Until then, he’s building up a following for his company blog with the help of TweetDeck – following 1,987 Twitter users and being followed by 1,562 users.
“Twitter is becoming such an interactive medium that people understand you on a more personal level,” he says. “It really shows that this level of conversation can benefit a blog or a company.”
Twitter users who visit Chandler’s blog are the readers who visit the most pages at an average of nine page views per visit.
Similar to Seesmic, TweetDeck allows you to organize your Twitter friends into groups and then view them in columns that are stacked horizontally across the page. You can also view columns for different search key words that will automatically refresh, or a column dedicated to your @replies or direct messages. The latest version also adds Facebook friend status as a column. A user can have a maximum of 10 columns at once.
The main design difference from Seesmic is the absence of a navigation panel down the left side of the page. Instead, all of your desktop is dedicated to viewing messages. Columns are created using buttons along the top of the window.
“I like to click in and out of different conversations,” Chandler says. “I don’t have to be following these people to be able to follow a conversation.”
Key word filters help Chandler find the business leaders that he wants to follow and the conversations he wants to take part in.
TweetDeck has integration with TwitPic so users can upload an image directly to the service or preview a posted image in the application. There’s also the option of using the 12 seconds service to record a Web cam video of yourself and upload it, or have a column fed with StockTwit information.
You’ll have some help when typing your tweets. TweetDeck will autocomplete usernames for @replices or direct messages and you can auto-include hash tags when replying to a specific conversation. There are also six URL shortening service easily accessible from the application.
Facebook integration is limited to reading the status of your friends. You can’t “like” or comment on their status. Nor can you add them to groups, as with Twitter users.
User tweet complaints
Many complaints from Twitter users about TweetDeck refer to dropped Tweets or hogged resources. Though many say it has a lighter footprint than Seesmic. Here’s a sampling.
- @slatrat: “I quit Tweetdeck: it destroyed my Macbook Air.”
- @benwaring “TweetDeck does not like my previous tweet.”
- @screenrant: “So today Tweetdeck is only updating when I hit the refresh button… Maybe that’s not such a bad thing?”
Brian Jackson is a writer for ITBusiness.ca and can’t decide what client he likes better. Read his Tweets, no matter what client they’re from, @brianjjackson.