Objective: To understand what applications are available to use Twitter more effectively.
There are multiple daily tasks associated with using Twitter, and frankly, the Twitter user interface can be quite limiting–for instance, users can only view one search term at a time. During a crisis, this problem becomes even more acute. Your organizaton will want to view several searches at once, such as: #WMAdonations, or #WesternMA, or #MAwx (Massachusetts weather). You will also want to keep an eye on messages and questions people are directing to your organization. Just last week an article about the disaster in the Phillipines titled “Twitter Changes Landscape in Disaster Response” illustrates this point:
During the recent floods, hashtags were used by netizens [citizens on the net] to mark tweets on people needing either rescue or relief goods: #rescuePH and #reliefPH. These were adopted by the government to help them coordinate efforts on the ground.
The hashtags were “immensely helpful,” said Quezon, in informing the authorities on where to go, and to help verify which cases were real and which were only rumors.
“First of all, [the hashtags] come from the people themselves. One of the most frustrating things in the past was [finding out] what was government doing. We never quite knew what was happening.”
Below is an actual tweet from the #reliefPH stream.
So the question becomes, how can we meet all of these search requirements? Tweetdeck and HootSuite are desktop applications that can help with this, they have the added benefit of allowing you to use Twitter and Facebook in one application. When mentioning this software people often get a very confused look on their face– the names are kind of funny; however, the tools provide some serious capabilities. FEMA, for example, uses Tweetdeck exclusively to monitor Twitter. The application your organization chooses is completely based on preference, however, there are advantages and disadvantages with each one, read this comparison here: TweetDeck Vs. HootSuite. The biggest advantage to Tweetdeck is that it is free. Hootesuite, has a free version, however, for $10/month, they add quite a few more capabilities. The $10 version is used by Fairfax County, Virginia Office of Emergency Management. Both applications can be accessed on mobile devices.
What will they help you do?
- Manage multiple social profiles
- Your Facebook page, Multiple Twitter accounts (Hootesuite even adds LinkedIn, Google +, and WordPress blogs to the list)
- Schedule messages and tweets
- Track mentions: Who is asking you questions?
- Archive content (Hootsuite $10.00/month version)
There are many tutorials on the web about how to use these applications. Here is a good one by VikiTech, with screen captures on how to download and start using Tweetdeck. Hootsuite itself has a great “Resource Page.” If your organization needs a more robust version, Hootsuite also has an “Enterprise” level. This is something hospitals and Universities might be interested in. The enterprise version has an interesting “teams” feature, which allows administrators to delegate tweets to specific staff members and keep track their activity including who has answered mentions, and monitor how questions are being dealt with, etc See HootSuite Team Member Quick Start Guide.
The best way to understand the applications, however, is view them in action. Below we have embedded two videos, the first one is Tweetdeck by eBootCamp, and the second one is about Hootsuite by Scott Rounds.
Before you download or sign up for either tool check with your IT department and also make sure you have the ability to sign the Terms of Service for you organization; if you do not, you will need to get permission from whomever does.