Businesses cannot escape the fact that social networking has become a necessity. Not only to spread the word about your product or service, but for keeping your own finger on the pulse of the consumers in your market. It’s free PR with serious payoff.

Here’s the problem – the standard browser-based clients don’t always offer all of the features you might want or need. From aggregation to easy photo posting, in order to make the most efficient use of your social networking efforts, you need clients that make the job easy. I have found five desktop social networking clients that are not only easy, but free too.

This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

Five Apps

1. Sobees

Sobees is an incredibly powerful tool that not only allows you to update your status across multiple account types (or multiple Twitter accounts), it also offers a powerful search tool, and even allows you to edit the layout of the client. The ability to assign different social networking accounts to different sections of your layout, makes Sobees really stand out. It can also be viewed in columns or in tabs. Finally, Sobees allows you to update all of your accounts in one go. Sobees is available for Windows only.

2. Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck is one of the most popular Twitter desktop clients available and there’s a reason for that. Tweetdeck allows you to schedule tweets, manage multiple Twitter accounts, manage your facebook accounts, and get notified about new activity instantly. Tweetdeck also allows you to customize the interface and automatically shorten URLs. The client is available for Windows, Mac OS, and as a Chrome extension. Tweetdeck is free and is no longer based on Adobe Air.

3. Gwibber

Gwibber is a Linux-only desktop client that allows you to monitor and update Twitter, Facebook, Google,, Digg, and Flikr. What is unique about Gwibber is that it integrates seamlessly into the desktop notification system. Gwibber features URL shortening, theming, multi-column user interface, combined stream for all accounts, persistent message caching, a built-in search tool, and optional support for integrated spell checking.

4. Google Talk

Google Talk is a desktop client built specifically for the chat service for Google. This particular client allows you to enjoy text and voice chat, file transfer, audio conferencing, a video chat addon, follow friends status and location, and seamless integration with your Gmail account. Google Talk is available on Windows XP or higher and it is free but requires a Google account for usage.

5. MetroTwit

MetroTwit is a Windows-only Twitter client that offers a desktop client for Windows XP/Vista/7 as well as a Windows 8 Metro version. With MetroTwit you can be notified when someone retweets you, follows you, marks a tweet as a favorite, and adds you to a list. MetroTwit also allows you to set up filters to follow specific hashtags and keywords to help you block out unnecessary clutter. And with support for Twitter’s streaming API, MetroTwit allows you to follow discussions in real time.

Bottom line

The streams of data generated by social networks fly by at blinding speeds. Having the proper tools that allow you to keep your business on top of social networking will keep you one step ahead of the competition. Each of these tools offers something unique, but more importantly they make your integration with social networking far easier than just the basic web-based tools. Give these tools a chance to see if one of them will make social networking as important to your business as it should be.

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