The Internet is full of sites, services, and desktop clients for Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. But which is the right client to integrate these networks? I chose the word “right” for very specific reasons. Primarily, there is no perfect client, nor will there ever be. My search for the right client is a search for the right client for me, which may not necessarily be the right client for you. These are purely personal opinions that may not even be well-researched, so you are welcome to correct me where I’m wrong, defend your favorite client, and suggest better options for my needs.
I can no longer say that I’m looking for just a Twitter client, because I want equal control over my Facebook pages for my two podcasts, the Ramen Noodle™ (FB) and Are You Just Watching?™ (FB), as well as control over the Twitter accounts and Facebook pages of an organization whose social media I oversee. Thus my desire for a “social-media” client that can connect to primarily Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
I want a fairly one-stop solution. I remember being amazed in the early days of Twitter with the Mac-only client Twitterrific, because it could update my instant-messenger status in Adium. Updating my status is no longer as important to me, but updating multiple services from a central point is important. I know there are services like Ping.fm, but that is only for outgoing messages and not incoming.
I work on both kinds of PCs: Windows-based and OS-X-based Macs. (For the rest of this article, “PC” simply means my computer, including my Mac. Hate me for this if you wish.) I also run multiple social presences from home and from work. (But, Mr. Bossman, I do not abuse company time. Note that I’m writing this post when I’m not at work.)
Therefore, it’s important to me that a solution be nearly identical across whatever platform I choose at any given time with potential for slight variation. I also have a BlackBerry Curve, but I know better than to expect a mobile solution can ever be the same experience as a desktop solution.
To solve this, developers face three options: cross-platform technology like the redundantly titled Adobe AIR, browser-based application, or code for one PC platform and port to another.
I rarely upload multimedia through the client, it’s usually from my BlackBerry immediately after I photograph or video-record the moment. But a friendly experience of displaying the photos and videos from others is a huge benefit, as well as the seldom times when I would upload something from my PC.
Since I have more to say or show than my own 140-character-limited messages, I must have shortened links! It seems that TinyURL has died, and for good reason—it’s no longer tiny, especially when you see domain’s like Bit.ly’s new j.mp redirects. Just shortening URLs also isn’t good enough, it’s important to track the performance of these URLs and know how many people visit my links.
Major players in the stats-capable, URL-shortening seem to be bit.ly and HootSuite’s ow.ly. And considering that these and similar services are offering accounts, a social-media client must support that service’s API so that my shortened links will appear in my account for easy tracking.
I’ll address URL-shortening more in the next post.
Mentions/replies (@’s) and direct messages (DMs) are what makes social media social. Without the interaction, we would all be tweeting on the wall (I think there’s a Scripture verse about this; be careful if you look it up in KJV). Merely separating or highlighting these interactions is not good enough; I want to be notified visually and audibly when I receive an @ or DM.
At the time of this writing, my Twitter account is following 764 nonspammers. Do I see everything that everyone tweets? The fact that I’m still alive and at least partially sane probably makes it obvious that I’m not always watching Twitter. But of those 764 nonspammers, I have deeper relationships with a few dozen, so what they say is more important for me to see. I use Twitter Lists to segregate these people so that I never miss anything they say. Although most clients support Twitter Lists, I would like such lists to be automatically updated and potentially even notify me of something new within that list.
Although not totally required, I like being able to schedule my messages so that if I feel a particular attack of Twittarrhea, my followers don’t get messy from the splattering all at one time. I may schedule my tweets to send when I know I’ll be too busy to say something, such as when my live show starts on Monday nights. Or I may want to space my updates or reminders throughout the day so I don’t appear to be spamming, and so that I can reach more people.
At this time, I see three major options: Seesmic Desktop, TweetDeck, and HootSuite. If you know other cross-platform clients that I should consider with these criteria, please let me know. My next post will focus on URL-shortening.