For many individuals and businesses, Twitter has become a necessary evil. It helps you keep up on trends and it allows you to promote your product, your service, or just yourself. Regardless of the why, what’s really important is the how.

Twitter has become a beast to manage. With a constant deluge of updates, it can be nearly impossible to control — especially if you’re trying to follow specific users, manage tweet times, post images, etc. Fortunately, many apps can help you with the overload. Here are five apps that are sure to help you keep your feed on track. Let’s see if one of these sweet apps can save your Twitter sanity.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: TweetDeck

TweetDeck (Figure A) is one of my favorite Twitter tools because it puts you in charge of what you see and what you tweet. With its customizable column view, you can add/remove columns, configure columns (based on custom filters), and move columns. TweetDeck also makes it easy to tweet images, schedule tweets, send direct messages, create lists, add collections, and much more.

Figure A

What’s even better for business, TweetDeck allows you to manage multiple accounts, so you can tweet from your personal and your business account from one convenient location. TweetDeck has a shallow learning curve. You can use it as a website or even as a Chrome app, a mobile app, or a Windows desktop client app. TweetDeck is free and works with any standard Twitter account.

2: SocialBro

SocialBro (Figure B) is actually considered a “marketing platform” for Twitter. Its tagline is “Analyze, engage, and monetize your Twitter audience.” The second you fire up SocialBro you’ll understand why it’s not just for the average Twitter user — it’s also perfect for businesses.

Figure B

One of the best business-centric aspects of SocialBro is its reports feature. With this tool you can generate a number of types of reports to get the most from Twitter. You can quickly produce reports for content optimization, follower stats, and following stats, and you can customize data for your report. You also get quick access to important data about your followers, such as which ones are influential and/or active. SocialBro is free, so long as you have fewer than 5K connections. More than that and you’ll be paying $13.95/month for up to 20K contacts, $39.00/month for up to 50K contacts, and $149/month for up to 200K. The full pricing matrix can be found here.

3: Icotile

Icotile (Figure C) is more a “friends” and “list” manager for Twitter. This may sound like it has no bearing for business — but if used properly, it does. One of the most challenging aspects of Twitter is following a feed that flies by faster than the eye can register. Icotile solves this problem by letting you create lists of people to follow. These lists can consist of influential followers, consumers, clients, and more.

Figure C

It’s easy to drag and drop followers into lists with Icotile. This feature alone makes it worth its weight in bytes. After creating lists and dragging users to your lists, you can follow those lists on your standard Twitter feed (or from one of the other apps). You can also add notes to followers, which is handy when you’re trying to remember specific information about a certain follower. Icotile is free and can be used from either the website or as a Chrome app.

4: Notifier for Twitter

Notifier (Figure D) is a Chrome extension that sends Twitter notifications to your desktop. This handy tool helps ensure that you don’t miss a feed update. Tweets, direct messages, and mentions will all be fed to your desktop. There is also a full Twitter timeline popup you can open from your browser. Click on the Notifier icon and your Twitter timeline will appear so you can view full tweets and even post to your account.

Figure D

A couple of caveats here: If you follow a large number of people, your desktop can get a bit busy. In addition, Notifier does have a limited scope of options. Still, you can select what to display (from tweets, mentions, and messages), you can make certain notifications sticky, you can set the display timeout, and you can disable auto-scroll in your timeline. Notifier is free and works as a Chrome extension.

5: Hootsuite

Many users consider Hootsuite (Figure E) to be the best in breed for Twitter managers. It allows you to manage up to five social profiles (for free) or you can pay the premium ($9.95/month) and manage more.

Figure E

The premium version also allows you to make use of one of the most business-centric features of Hootsuite: the ability to assign a team to manage your social network. With this tool you can delegate responsibilities to different team members. An administrator can delegate team members to reply to certain tweets, post promotional tweets, and perform other tasks. When team members log in, they will see tasks that have been assigned to them by the admin. This feature alone makes Hootsuite worth digging into for a business. If you have a business and depend upon Twitter for marketing, don’t hesitate to pay the price for the team management feature.

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Your take

If you’re looking for the best way to manage a Twitter feed that has gotten out of hand, run (don’t walk) to one of these apps and get ready to get the maximum value for your business.

Is Twitter a viable marketing solution for your company? What other tools would recommend? Share your advice with fellow TechRepublic members.