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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Twitter Tools Review: TweetDeck vs. HootSuite

Which one is right for you?
If you're more than a casual Twitter user, there are two tools you should consider that will greatly enhance your ability to communicate with associates/clients or for marketing your business or building your brand on Twitter and other social networks. This Twitter Tools Review takes a look at TweetDeck vs. HootSuite.

Sending a tweet here or there can be accomplished with the standard Twitter interface, but when you have a lot of messages to put out or a group of people you'd like to work with, then you need to look into either TweetDeck or HootSuite. Which one is right for you depends on what you do on Twitter and to whom you want to communicate. Both are FREE. Although, HootSuite has a Pro version that offers more features.

Both user interfaces have a similar look and feel (see below), however, the biggest initial difference is that TweetDeck is a downloadable software and HootSuite is web-based. If you work at the same computer all the time, either will do. However, if you are moving from computer to computer, HootSuite will easily move with you.

TweetDeck User Interface
HootSuite User Interface
Both have customizable columns and can send updates to Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Pages, LinkedIN, Foursquare or MySpace. Both will handle multiple Twitter accounts, too. TweetDeck allows you to include Google Buzz on your updates, while HootSuite offers, WordPress and mixl.

You can update one, some or all of your accounts by clicking send. Or with TweetDeck, you can select to send by hitting the ENTER/RETURN key - which I love. HootSuite's FREE version limits you to 5 accounts. TweetDeck, I'm not sure what the limit is, but several years ago I had all 16 of my Twitter accounts on it. With one click, I could update them all. (And don't ask why I had 16 Twitter accounts.)

A nice feature that HootSuite has is that all of your accounts are on tabs. You can look at the activity on your Twitter feed, click a tab and

Both offer built-in URL shortening. However, HootSuite requires you to paste your URL into a special window, then click SHRINK and your URL is placed after the last text entered. TweetDeck shortens URLs automatically. You paste the URL after the last entered text and a second or two later, it is shortened. It saves a click and your cursor is automatically placed after the shortened URL, saving keystrokes and mouse clicks.

Retweets and Replies are only positioned differently on each program, but all of the same functions are available.

Sending pictures and media are simple with both. No real difference there.

Both offer the ability to schedule updates in advance, where an update can go out at a specific date and time.

If you have a lot of updates to program in for future transmission, TweetDeck has an edge there. The calendar functions are relatively similar. But setting the time is where the two programs diverge. HootSuite has drop down time on the hours and minutes, and it uses a 12 hour clock, so you have to select AM or PM. TweetDeck uses a 24 hour clock.

Being a blogger, I know that not everyone is staring at their screen at the same time of day or even on the same day of the week. I send my blog posts on various intervals over a few days or a week, depending on the length of the interval between updates. Changing the time is extremely quick and easy with TweetDeck; HootSuite requires more clicks to get the same thing accomplished - and you have to be aware of AM or PM.

For someone that does marketing, I'd say TweetDeck has the edge there. It's also quicker to compose an update with a link and send, since shortening is inline and you can use the ENTER/RETURN key to send. Scheduling is easier and quicker, too.

TweetDeck also has an auto-fill feature, so that all you do is type in @ and the list comes up. You can type in any letter and the list starts paring down. I send tweets to Las Vegas businesses and many of them have LV in their Twitter name. If I type in LV, all of the people I'm following on Twitter will come up on a list I can easily scroll through until I get the right contact.

If you are following more than 500 people, Twitter's standard interface only auto-fills the most recent 500 people you are following. So, if you have a list over 500, and tweet to them frequently, TweetDeck may become your standard way of using Twitter.

I have yet to find any type of auto-fill feature on HootSuite, and it would be an extremely beneficial feature.

Where HootSuite has a huge advantage over TweetDeck is that it has features that make it more useful for people who use Twitter for corporate, team or client communications. You can build lists and send assignments. Think of it as a micro-email manager. HootSuite does not stream its feed, it holds it and will show you a count of pending updates in a red bubble. For communications, this is a better feature. TweetDeck can stream or have manual updates, but it doesn't show you the pending count, like an email account would.

And if you're in a number-crunching corporate environment, HootSuite has Analytics and Reporting, which can offer you a variety of customizable data.

One little feature that TweetDeck has that I absolutely love is each person you see in your feed or sends @Mentions to you or Direct Messages has their number of followers underneath their profile picture. If you send an update, you can see your follower count underneath your picture as well. For an Internet marketer like me, growing followers is important. Also, because I communicate with the general public without any specificity, I love knowing who I'm dealing with.

Some of my posts hit nerves and I'll get people on Twitter who want to debate me. The most vitriolic and vociferous usually have 20 followers or less. If they become too much of an annoyance, I can simply block them. Plus, I build lists of Twitter Heavy Hitters - people with large followings. With the follower count right below their profile picture, it's easy to spot who's hot and who's just opened their account.

A final difference I noticed between the two programs has to do with Direct Messages. This may just be a setting difference. But if you look at the two pictures above, you'll see the Direct Message column, which is on the right has my profile picture running down it. That is because I have an auto-responder that sends a message to any new follower and then sends the same message to me. I can see the Twitter name of the person following, right their and choose to engage them or not. HootSuite either does not pick these up or treats them like spam. Like I said, I may just be missing a setting, but I've been through just about every screen you can check on HootSuite. Since followers are important to me, TweetDeck has the edge in that final category. 

Deciding which program is right for you really depends on where you use your social network, who you communicate with and how you communicate with them. This Twitter Tool Review: TweetDeck vs. HootSuite should help you decide without having to try both programs and fiddle with all the options.

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