Is Your Twitter App Shaping Your Social Media Presence?

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I’ll admit it: I use Twitter through the website. I’m about the only person I know who does that. Most of my contacts seem to use either Tweetie or TweetDeck, and when I was researching last week’s post about @ replies, I decided to give these tools a go. The reason was simple: I couldn’t work out how to access the @ replies that had been made to another person through the Twitter website.

Obviously different applications have different features and capabilities, but, as a die-hard Twitter website user, I was surprised by the difference in focus between these tools. Just as I expect that the tool you use likely reflects your own approach to Twitter, I began to wonder if the tools we use also shape our expectations of how we can use the service.

Is Your Twitter App Shaping Your Social Media Presence?

Between the Twitter website, Tweetie and TweetDeck, there are some pretty major differences. I can’t easily access @ replies made to you on the website; I can’t easily access my follower list on either Tweetie or TweetDeck; I can’t schedule tweets on the site or in Tweetie; I still haven’t worked out how to search in TweetDeck.

Leaving aside the usability of these services (I only worked out how to access a user’s @ replies through trial and error on Tweetie, and there was no feedback to indicate what the app was showing at the time), it’s clear that each of these tools focuses on different aspects of social networking.

The question is: is your chosen tool impacting your social media presence?

You or Them?

Does the tool you’re using focus on you, or on other people? When I attract new followers, I like to check out their profiles, so that I know roughly who I’m talking to. I also like to check out the followers of certain contacts occasionally, to see if I’d like to follow any of them. To do that, I access the list of people I follow, and my friends’ followers — something that’s not as easy to do using either Tweetie or TweetDeck as it is on the website.

Spontaneous or Planned?

Does your Twitter application let you schedule tweets? How usable is the mobile app? For those using Twitter for business, the answers to these questions may drive adoption of a particular tool; those using it purely for fun may well get more out of — and give more to — the experience if it meets our needs on the go as well as when we’re desk-bound.

Broadcast or Consume?

If you simply use Twitter to broadcast your news and views, you probably don’t care whether or not your chosen tool gives you the ability to search for topics or contacts. For me, being unable to search Twitter easily means I’m restricted to relying on my contacts to discuss the topics I’m interested in, or I’m trying to research. In effect, it reduces my independence. Does your Twitter tool let you search easily?

Control or Acceptance?

Tools like TweetDeck offer pretty deep levels of control: not only can you schedule tweets, but you can filter out tweets from your contacts on the basis of content, customize the interface, and keep a very close eye on the responses and retweets your tweets attract. Other tools leave you more at the mercy of your memory and motivation. Customization promotes engagement and ownership, but it also lets you shape the way you use the service to meet your specific desires — provided that’s what you’re after.

Digest or Engage?

All three tools I looked at provided fairly easy access to my @ replies, but the at-a-glace, no-click default view of replies, retweets and direct messages in the TweetDeck interface puts a clear focus on engagement. Tweetie and the Twitter website don’t exactly hide this functionality, but it’s not included in the same view as tweets from the people you follow. With those tools, reading and responding to people you follow is easy; responding to those you don’t follow is more of a challenge.

It may seem like I’m splitting hairs — what does it matter if I have to click a link to see @ replies my contacts have made to me? — but we all know that those clicks add up through the day if you’re particularly interested in that feature. Looking at the default view of any tool is a good way to get an idea of its focus, but if you’re into control, check for customizations, too.

Do you think the Twitter tool you use is affecting the way you engage with the social network?

Image by stock.xchng user pxl666.

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