Top 10 Twitter tools for business

Confused about how to get the best results out of Twitter? Here are some tools to help you on your way.

Twitter can make a great business tool - if you know how to use it.

IT PRO published a business guide for Twitter beginner some months ago outlining the basics, while Twitter itself has published a guide on how companies can best make use of the microblogging site.

However, using Twitter over its own website isn't actually the best way for business users. Many of the third-party Twitter applications transform the way it can be used, and some of these are especially useful if you are working for a business. Here are ten of the best.

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Hootsuite

Previously called BrightKit, this application allows Twitter to be used by a team of people, by allowing different profiles to be connected to one master account.

This way, you can select a number of accounts to tweet from without logging in to each, while the boss can choose who has permission to use the master account.

It has offers analytic functions, which can allow the Twitter account manager to measure the businesses' influence by counting the number of clicks per day on each of your Twitter accounts. This also tracks the locations of users, as well as the referring websites.

Cotweet is a similar tool to Hootsuite and offers much of the same functionality.

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TweetDeck

This is a very popular Adobe AIR powered desktop app that is useful for both serious business users and those people who just want to save time and organise their tweets properly.

With TweetDeck, you can connect through multiple Twitter accounts as well as Facebook at the same time.

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This is very useful if you have multiple identities. (For example, it may be the case you have one Twitter account for personal reasons and one for business.)

It is also extremely customisable, and allows you to create new columns, groups, and saved searches that are useful as you both add and are added by new followers. There is also a version of TweetDeck available for the iPhone.

Twellow

Twellow, or the Twitter Yellow Pages, is a directory of public Twitter accounts to search for anybody who might be useful to you.

The categories available that users can search include business and financial services, international business, information technology and telecommunications.

It already looks like it has a wide base of Twitter users. Registration is free, so anybody can get their name on the list.

Working on the same principle as Twellow, Whoshouldifollow.com sends you a list of Twitter users who you might want to follow depending on the followers you already have.

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TwInbox

Twitter meets your inbox TwInbox. Business users are very likely to use Microsoft Outlook, and this tool allows them to use a fully integrated Twitter client with it.

TwInBox lets users directly update their Twitter account from Outlook as well as receive friend's updates. It also pulls in tweets, so that you can group and search for tweets in the same way that you use your email.

This video shows more details about it works - and highlights the added benefit that TwInBox lets you tweet at work while looking like you're hard at work in Outlook.

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Twitterhawk

For really serious business users with intentions of marketing through Twitter, this is the tool to use.

It works by monitoring Twitter posts for keywords and sending automated replies to users when the words pop up.

Depending on your needs, you can have either confirm messages before they're sent, or let their system take care of it all and automatically send replies when it finds a match.

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It's not free though after a certain amount of free tweets the service requires you to pay for the tweets that you want send out.

Twitterhawk is very careful to not spam it will investigate anyone who uses its service thought to be spammers. For every auto reply setup (a maximum of six), it will send out one tweet every two hours at the most.

Twitt(url)ly

It pays for a business user to know what the most popular trends are on Twitter.

But the top ten trends you find on the Twitter homepage is a basic rating and taken over by trends that you may not be particularly interested in - especially if you're looking for business topics.

Twitt(url)ly tracks trends in much more depth than Twitter's own system.

It works by tracking and ranking URLs shared on Twitter by popularity. This means that by looking at the list, it is possible to see what trends, reports and products are popular, as well as uncover people are thinking.

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Cligs

This is for businesses that are looking to understand their traffic better. Analytics are also offered with Hootsuite and Cotweet, but this tool has much more in-depth information about all aspects of the tweets that your visitors are saying about you.

It works by allowing to you to shorten the URL of the web page link you want to tweet, and track in real-time what is happening to it.

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You can find out if anybody is looking at what you post, what messages are working best marketing wise, and who is clicking on your links.

Tweetie

The new wave of smartphones allows both businesses and consumers to tweet on the move. This app is for iPhone, and offers the functionality of a tool like Tweetdeck on the move.

However, iPhone users are required to pay a small charge for the functionality, but for the fee you get an iPhone style look and feel as well as the ability to use multiple accounts. For a less shiny app you also have choices like Twitterfon and the mobile version of Tweetdeck.

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If a you are a business user with a BlackBerry, there are Twitter apps such as TwitterBerry that you can use. Other phones may their own Twitter clients that you can look up through a quick Google search.

Click here for more on the top ten Twitter apps to tweet on the move.

TweetGrid

Imagine those science-fiction movies where somebody watches multiple TV monitors on a grid to see exactly what is happening everywhere in the world.

TweetGrid basically works on the same principle, but instead of screens, you're looking at Twitter updates. The web application allows you to search up to nine terms in real-time, in effect creating a monitoring dashboard.

Many clients such as Tweetdeck already allow you to do multiple searches, but with TweetGrid you don't need to download anything or use a Twitter login.

It searches for up to nine different conversations, topics, events, hashtags, phrases, people or groups in real-time.

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GroupTweet

This is a very simple but useful service for businesses that want to broadcast tweets to their own users, but would rather not let the whole world see the messages.

This could be useful if you have a team working on a project and you would like to broadcast quick Twitter messages and updates that could have confidential information.

It also allows a boss to communicate through the Twitter channel to his employees without anybody else reading the message.

There isn't any limit to how many users you can message, so both small and big businesses can use it, but it does live or die on whether workers will trust using Twitter for private conversations.

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