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Best Social Media Applications
The Best Way To Manage Your Social Network
People like the social network. If you have different groups of friends or even a business; you will already have accounts with Twitter, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn. With many websites for your adverts it is hard to keep track; logging in to each account manually takes time and if your business is time then it might mean lost business.
By reviewing the best social media applications, we give you a chance to get ahead; with instant notification of new messages, posting to multiple accounts or cross-posting between social networks more easily. There are plenty of very good free and paid-for applications that will help you on your way and these are all apps running on Microsoft Windows.
We have reviewed browser-based, Adobe Air-based and standalone applications. Among the opening foray of social network applications we will look at TweetDeck, Hootsuite and Sobees; and add more along the way developing a comprehensive guide to the best social media third-party applications for Microsoft Windows computer system.
Social media dashboards are great to make sure that you can manage your accounts with the greatest ease. Don't forget though that you need to also have a social media plan to make the most of your online presence on Facebook, Twitter and any other social network that you decide is best for your business. Making sure that you are built for the long-term helps towards your success in the short-term as well.
A Great Client Ruined by Twitter
The TweetDeck was originally built as an application on the Adobe AIR system and which itself is essentially the new Adobe Flash. The original "pre-version 1" TweetDeck interface was a simple to use basis for posting across Facebook and Twitter as well as more targeted social networking websites such as Google Buzz, LinkedIn and MySpace. In the latest build of the V0.38 code, users could post, reply and do most of what their social network allowed them directly through the TweetDeck interface. The problems for users of the TweetDeck service, which I found as well when I was a dedicated user of the software; was that Twitter purchased TweetDeck from developer Iain Dodsworth in mid-2011 for an estimated $40-50 Million.
Since the purchase of TweetDeck the service has all but become an exclusive Twitter client. Certain features such as the ability to reply to a Facebook status have been removed, which now pushes to a webpage; and support for the more specialised social networks such as MySpace and Linked in have been dropped completely. TweetDeck has also lost it's Deck.Ly "Tweet Longer" access, which disgruntled many loyal Tweeters.
Something else that the TweetDeck does not appear to support is the Facebook Pages. I would love to be able to cross post to my GoldenBlock Facebook Page but it does not even show it as an option; so adding feeds and posting directly to it will be impossible.
Update: Has TweetDeck got better?
I have since updated the software to Version 2.0.2 and revisited the application. The image above shows that TweetDeck now offers an optional light interface but that is quite possibly the only thing I can find better with it. Still missing is the option to TweetLonger and all you get is Bit.Ly for an optional extra. You still can not respond to Facebook posts directly from the interface and instead it sends you to your web browser and I think this limits you if you do not want to access IE, Firefox or Chrome from the downloadable dashboard; the prominence certainly is pushing multiple social network users away!
Also Available : TweetDeck is available as a Chrome App or a browser-based application. These use a very similar interface to the "TweetDeck for Twitter" installed application and unfortunately come with the same flaws. It is a bit disappointing really to see such a core integration between networks get removed because the application is no longer independent.
MY #1 CHOICE: Hootsuite
A Top Social Media Marketing Package
If you do not like downloading clients to run your Twitter accounts then take a look at Hootsuite. I am currently using the web based client for this test and although many large companies use an expensive Enterprise version of the client, HootSuite can also be used for free, albeit with limited features. HootSuite previously offered a downloadable client but this has been discontinued; even a link on the Google Chrome store is now merely a link to the on-line HootSuite dashboard.
I digress though; developed by a Vancouver-based company, Hootsuite genuinely is a breath of fresh air. I enjoy the interface and even though I have long been a believer of "everything on 1 screen" using tabs to switch between accounts is a really painless way of seeing everything. In terms of each tab as default you will see:
* On Twitter: "Home Feed", Mentions, Direct Messages (DMs) and Sent Messages
* On Facebook: News Feed (set to most recent), Wall Posts and News Feed (Photos)
* On LinkedIn: All Updates and My Updates
* Google+ Pages
* On Wordpress: My Blog Feed and Sent Blog Feed
Oh - Did I not mention that?
Not only are you able to manage your various social networking feeds on HootSuite, you can also manage one (sorry - only one) Wordpress.com blog on the same interface. Now, this is only for blogs actually hosted on the Wordpress.com web servers and not a wordpress.org full WP installation on your domain.
When I loaded mine into Hootsuite I knew I had a really old blog in there alongside a really new one; yes it picked up the old one as default but HootSuite thankfully leads you through the instructions on how to change this; HootSuite is not though, designed as a blog publishing suite.
Something else that the HootSuite team seem to continually develop is it's App Directory. Reddit, StumbleUpon and Nexalogy are the latest additions to the growing list of compatible applications that allow HootSuite users to integrating posting YouTube videos, Stumbles and Images directly to your social media streams.
I have only been using HootSuite "free edition" for six months now and have tried their Pro edition of the software. Most of the included features are aimed at enterprise users and unless you are looking for the most detailed of reports into your social media effects and analysis then you would not be paying the modest charge that they ask for using them (currently around $9.99 a month). Even with the free account HootSuite offers users can pre-schedule tweets and gain basic reports about who clicks through their HootSuite links; this surely is enough for your social advertising?
There does seem to be a few bugs which I have highlighted to the HootSuite team. The Twitter API does not always retrieve your mentions from your accounts and although they might appear eventually, I have found that quite often they appear when I next load the Hootsuite interface. I am not sure whether it is because I have previously used HootSuite BlackBerry, whether I currently also use Twitter for BlackBerry or not; but it is something to be mindful of.
HootSuite for Social Media Promoters
If you use social media to promote your lenses, niche websites or other online articles then Hootsuite offers a great feature on its browser-based dashboard to auto-schedule your tweets, Facebook posts and other promotions. It can spread your advertising out, which is really handy if you cross-promote your social media presence and have people following you across the different services.The HootSuite auto-schedule feature even determines different times for each social media client you have selected to post the same thing to; for maximum impact.
For nearly a year, I have adopted HootSuite as my interface of choice. As a social media application it is easy to tell that the company is reliant on their corporate users (of which there are many) to keep paying the bill and the reliability of the software along with it's slick interface is a testament to that.
I doubt I will ever need to purchase the extensions to the HootSuite interface such as creating and collaborating with "teams", adding additional staff or Facebook Insights. Nor do I ever think I will need to pay for the HootSuite "Enterprise Solution" which is very obviously aimed at the corporate clients.
Since publication, Seesmic was purchased by Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes and is no longer available.
MetroTwit has a free touch-screen version of their client for the new Windows 8 Interface and that is available in the Windows Store. This review though is for the earlier Windows 7 version.
We come to the first of our semi-paid applications. MetroTwit is a clear and pretty interface, and has installed for me in pale blue and white. The whole installation oozes Windows 7 with rounded fonts, a pop up by your Windows clock every time someone posts and payments when you want to upgrade anything. It is based on the Microsoft .NET 4 framework, so you will also need this installed for anything to work.
There are a few problems though. Firstly if you want to expand beyond Twitter accounts then this is not possible. MetroTwit is a pure Twitter application; no Facebook or LinkedIn accounts here. This is good for a business user who wants to monitor their Twitter social advertising, but less so for those who use multiple social networks.
Next there comes the cost. If you are using a single Twitter account then you are fine, but go to add another and you have to upgrade to "MetroTwit Plus" for a small fee. This is currently AUS$15, which MetroTwit's helpful payment provider seems to have a poor exchange rate for; expect around £10 (UK) or $16 (US). This allows you to add multiple accounts but you will still only be able to see a single account at a time. I thought this would be a problem, but after using Hootsuite as well, it's not always as problematic as you would think.
One benefit that MetroTwit has over other social media applications is that it uses notification pop-ups to tell you when you have a new mention or direct message. If you have full and busy computer monitors then it is great because you can configure which corner that the pop-ups will appear; I found though that on some full-screen games it minimises the game when it appears.
This Twitter application only supports a single Twitter account and does not even offer a paid for extension to this, but what it does provide is clean, if not the clearest interface to use.
The Twitter application's interface is basically what you see is what you get. Each column has an option to view it on the very top bar, something which is a bit redundant if you only use 3 of the 4 columns offered; multiple accounts are not catered for and most of the options are purely cosmetic.
Having installed Digsby and hoped for the best I can say that I was massively disappointed. The promises of the website made me hope that this was an instant messenger client similar to Trillian, but with the ability to manage Facebook walls and all other kinds of crazy stuff.
I found instead that the Digsby client appears to be in a state of disrepair. Facebook and Twitter accounts were not authenticating so you could not actually connect Digsby to any of the popular social media clients and upon finding the support forums this is apparently a known issue that has never been resolved by the developers.
It appears that the team at Sobees is all dedicated to the new software they have released "NewsMix" because there has not been an update to their Sobees Desktop software help blog in a long time; but that does not mean there are no issues.
The interface is great. It is a transparent "Windows 7" approach to what is essentially a cross between TweetDeck and Hootsuite. Each account has a dedicated column but within that column there are a range of options from reading your mentions to editing your Twitter Lists to reading your LinkedIn feed. Connecting accounts is quite simple. In the case of Twitter and LinkedIn you are sent to the social networks authority server where you authenticate and are given a code by the API. Enter this code in your Sobees Desktop to be authorised and away you go.
The problem though is with Facebook. The first time that you link the accounts everything will go swimmingly, but the account authentication is time-limited and once that expires you are prompted to "Connect to Facebook". With my Windows 7 machine it opens up an Internet Explorer window which goes to a Facebook URL and all that happens is the word success! appears on the page. Nothing happens though; Facebook remains unconnected and to re-authorise you have to go into Facebook, revoke the security permissions and start from scratch..... hardly the handy social network application that crosses the social media divides!
The GUI and how the Sobees interface works is great though if you are just using Twitter. The Sobees Desktop application allows you to do everything that Twitter.com gives you with the distinct excpetion of being able to edit your profile..... Do we really need that at the fingertips though? I think not. If the Facebook connection issue was solved (the last Sobees helpdesk post was 31 August; and they do not appear to be answering support questions) it would be a challenger to Hootsuite.