Twitter can be powerful for professional networking and collective intelligence. Here are ten tools that can help you become a Twitter power user and take full advantage of Twitter for business and professional use.
In my article Is Twitter the most important development on the Web in 2008? I wrote about the fact that Twitter has made me better informed and better connected with my colleagues and peers in the technology business. For those who are using Twitter — or plan to start — here are 10 tools that can help you get the most out of it for professional networking.
You can find me on Twitter under the username jasonhiner
Since Twitter is a great way to do a quick scan of what people are talking about, wouldn't it be great to search it to see what people are saying about a specific topic? A site called Summize came up with a nice little search tool to do that.
In fact, the tool is so good that Twitter bought Summize earlier this month. The URL is now search.twitter.com but, at the time that I'm writing this, it hasn't actually been integrated into Twitter's default search so you'll have to bookmark that URL or go to summize.com (which redirects to it). Using this to do searches on specific tech topics that interest you is also a great way to find people to follow who have the same interests.
One of the most common things to do on Twitter is share URLs to interesting stuff. But, since Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters it's best to use Snurl or TinyURL or similar services to shorten the URL. While all of these services work just fine, the best one to use is Tweetburner because it gives you "personal statistics" to show the number of clicks that your links generated.
At least half of my Twittering is done from my cell phone, and I'm not alone. Back in December, there was a big stink when T-Mobile was suspected of blocking its customers from using Twitter. There were a bunch of T-Mobile customers who were ready to drop the carrier over this before the issue got resolved — that's how important it was to them to be able to Twitter from their cell phone. While there are lots of mobile clients like TinyTwitter, Twitterific, TwitterBerry, and TreoTwit, I still prefer to just use the mobile version of the Twitter site: http://m.twitter.com.
If you also do status updates on other social networks in addition to Twitter, then Ping.fm can be a great time-saver because it allows you to write a message and then it can post it to your account on Twitter plus simultaneously post it to Linkedin, Facebook, Plaxo and several other networks.
Another popular thing to do on Twitter is post photos. While you can put photos on Flickr or other photo sharing sites and then post shortened URLs, the better way to do it is to simply use TwitPic, which will allow to upload the photo and write the Twitter post and then it will post it with the URL automatically shortened for you. You can even use TwitPic from many smartphones. For example, earlier this week I posted a photo of the LCD TV I just set up in my office.
If you're not caught up in stream-of-consciousness, but want to use Twitter to announce something at a specific time (or automatically post an update at a time when you won't have access to a computer or phone), then you can use TweetAhead to schedule a post at a specific time.
If you want to get serious — or at least scientific— about your Twitter use, then TweetStats will give you lots of data to see, for example, how many times you posted this month compared to last month, what times you tend to post the most, which users you respond to most often, and which tools you use the most to post on Twitter.
Twitter can be used as a research tool to see what users are saying about a certain topic, that's where Summize (now Twitter Search) is handy, but you can also use Twitter for trend data to see how many posts there are about a certain topic by using Twist. Twist lets you see the number of posts for big topics over the past week or month, and you can even compare topics by simply entering multiple terms separated by commas. For example, a popular search right now is "iphone, blackberry" (see results in graph below).
Want to see if any of your local connections are on Twitter or find Twitterers in your local metro area? TwitterLocal allows you to search by area code for posts from Twitterers within 1 mile or as far away as 20 miles.
Who has the largest following on Twitter? You can find the top 100 on Twitterholic. At the time that I'm writing this, the top of the list is dominated by a lot of personalities from the tech world, including notables such as Leo LaPorte, John Dvorak, and Guy Kawasaki. Twitterholic is a good place to find some top tech thinkers that you might be interested in following.
So, that's my list. I hope it helps you put Twitter to use for professional purposes.
Here are some Twitter tools that others recommend:
Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.