Twitter Basics; Part Four

There are lots of tools for using twitter, some for tweeting and scheduling tweets, some add greatly to existing twitter functionality, others help you manage your followers, and some focus on data visualisation based on twitter’s data.

In generally they are using twitter’s API to pull publicly available data from twitter and presenting it to you in more useful ways. There are loads of tools out there that are lots of fun to play with, in researching this I found this list of 93 free (or freemium) tools. and this list of 21 must-have tools for twitter. Be warned though, things change quickly in the twitterverse and some tools may already be dead (RIP Storify).

I’ve tried a lot of tools over the years I’ve been using twitter and these are my favourites. PS They’re all free, or have free versions.

1 Tools for using Twitter

I am a fan of TweetDeck, I can manage multiple accounts from it, across multiple devices, and it provides multiple columns which is handy for specific searches and for any tweetchats that you join.

It will also let me schedule tweets. There are social media experts out there who say you shouldn’t schedule tweets, and there are examples where it has gone wrong. But it’s a practical way of managing your account.

Twitter now allows scheduling from company accounts, and their are other tools out there, Hootsuite is probably the most popular and it has the added advantage of giving you some analytics, although the most interesting data is only available for paid accounts. (See the advantages and disadvantages of Hootsuite).

2 Analysing Twitter

engagement statistic twitterI use twitter’s own analytics tool, just go to https://analytics.twitter.com/ while you’re logged in to twitter and you’ll see basic analytics data for your twitter account.

Twitter’s analytics tool provides decent reports on your follower growth, overall tweet performance, and performance per tweet. The downside is that only 5 months of data are held, if you want to use more you need to download your data regularly. Oh yeah, it’s free.

FollowerWonk works on a freemium model but gives in depth analysis of your followers and who you follow, it has all sorts of neat tricks from suggesting the best time to tweet, to the “Social Authority” of your followers, to their activity.

This graph shows when my followers are most active – it makes sense to tweet more in periods of high activity.

3 Managing Followers

I use Status Brew to track my followers. I’ll generally follow back if the account looks like a real person who is tweeting genuine content, this tool helps me identify fake or inactive accounts. It also shows me who has followed or unfollowed me recently and lets me follow back (or unfollow) from within their application. Manage Filter offers similar options. Both companies work on a freemium model, for individual use the free tools are already pretty helpful.

There’s another tool around that will validate followers for you called truetwit. I haven’t used it but have been asked to validate my account by people who are using it. Most days I only get a few new followers so it’s easy enough to validate them myself, but I can imagine for those on very popular accounts who want to ensure their followers are real, this would be a time saver.

4 Visualising Data From Twitter

MentionMapp, shows you the relationship between hashtags and people. I’ve used this to find relevant hashtags for posts, and to find people who are currently tweeting about a subject, the presentation is dynamic, and you can click on any hashtag or person and the graph rebuilds.

One Million Tweet Map shows you local clusters or a heat map of where subjects are being discussed based on a hashtag search. 

5 Hashtag This

If you want to know the trending hashtags around the world Trends24 lists them all with a national and city breakdown. Just for fun I made a comparison of what LA and NYC are tweeting about. Apparently there’s a thing called The Bachelor that’s the most interesting.

 

6 In App Tools

There are a few things you can do on the twitter app that you can’t do in the web version of Twitter.

Tweet Thread

Twitter was tricky to use for long form conversations in it’s original incarnation. Each tweet was only 140 characters and that included hashtags and URLs, writing tweets was almost an art form. It’s improved the character count to 280 which excludes hashtags and links. But still people needed more and came up with a work around, breaking your long story into a tweetstorm, a series of tweets, and using a numbering convention to help the reader; (1/4) at the end of a tweet indicated that this was the first of a four tweet series.

Last year Twitter introduced threading and you can just add a tweet to thread and they will be presented together. Much easier for the reader. This is only available on the phone apps at this stage and it’s really easy to use.

Bookmarks

The latest feature rolled out from Twitter is a real bookmark option, you are now able to save tweets to read later in a private list. There’s now a share button below each tweet, clicking on it reveals a short menu, click on “Add Tweet to Bookmarks”.

You can find your bookmarks saved under your profile and all bookmarks will be there.  They’re not visible on the desktop version, yet.

I’ve got one more post in this series – around etiquette and things that can go wrong in Twitter. I’ll publish that next Tuesday.

Productivity in 10 Minutes

Here are some things that you can do to improve your productivity, each step will take 10 minutes or less.

(1) Find out where you waste time

RescueTime is an application that tracks which sites and apps you go to. You can set it up on all your devices and really track your distractions. Initial set up takes five minutes, but you’re probably going to need to fine tune the settings later.

Quick and Dirty solution; check the sites you visit the most from your browsers default page. If these aren’t your most productive sites you need to change your behaviour.

(2) Avoid distractions

StayFocused is a Chrome extension that will block your distraction websites for a set period of time. Wordpress offers a distraction free writing mode, and there are lots of other tools out there to create a distraction free work screen.

Quick and Dirty Solution; I use two browsers, I have all my work stuff set up in Chrome (across multiple devices) and all my “fun stuff” set up in Firefox. In work time I stay in Chrome.

(3) Plan and monitor tasks

There are loads of diaries on the market, and this range of free tools. There are as many theories as there are tools. I’ve tried lots of different online options, but I come back to a paper-based checklist. I break the checklist up by project, and then add tasks to my (online) calendar as timed appointments. It’s the planning the tasks into my calendar that is key.

Quick and Dirty Solution; I use a chrome add on that can time activities and add it back into the calendar – you can see it in more detail in an earlier post.

(4) Use the small moments

When you’re really busy there always feels like so much to do and any time spent waiting feels wasteful. Here are seven ways to use those gaps of a few minutes to improve your productivity.  The article offers long term and short term fixes – spoiler alert I’m working on the long term solution for #7 in the coming weeks.

(5) Evaluate the value of what you do.

As Peter Drucker said.

productivity quote

But that might take you more than 10 minutes to solve.

Image: time via pixabay

Still  |  Hendrik van Leeuwen  |  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Freelancer Tools; a timer

Freelancers need to figure out how to charge for their time, you may be charging on an hourly basis or you may be charging for a particular deliverable, either way you need to estimate and then measure how long a task takes you.

There’s another reason to use this if you’re in the Netherlands; you need to prove you’ve worked 1225 hours per year in your own company to qualify for tax benefits. By keeping this all documented in your calendar you can satisfy the tax department that you have met that threshold.

I was looking for a free way to do this that would be easy to use and fit with existing tools, I found an add-on that works with Google calendar and Google docs two tools I already use.

Freelance Timer

In this screenmailer video I take you through;

  1. Installing the add-on
  2. Creating an event
  3. Creating a report
  4. Using the timer
  5. Updating a report

Because I can add links and documents to the events on the calendar I can document my timesheets to satisfy the Belastingdienst (tax department). I can also look back and see how much time I spent per client or per activity and compare it to my estimates. If it’s a regular activity I can also check back and see if I’m getting more efficient.

Hope it helps other freelancers! Let me know in the comments.

Image; hourglass via pixabay

Missing Communication

When a friend of mine didn’t answer question on Whatsapp last week, I went cyberstalking. I checked his facebook and found he was in the UK. Not really an excuse, it’s just next door and it’s almost the same timezone, his phone should work there.

Turns out, he has a brand new shiny phone, with a new phone number. I found this out because he emailed me.

I started thinking about all the tools I use to connect, and how I choose which tool to use. It’s a question that comes up in companies as communication tools proliferate, I can remember conversations with internal comms colleagues wanting to make a guideline to help people along the lines of “if you have this type of content – use this tool”.

It turns out that for me, it’s less about the content and more about the people, particularly when it comes to short messages.

Email

I have multiple email addresses, to add to the fun. I use email to communicate with my mother, she’s on a very different timezone so if I need to send her a message email works well. I know she’ll go to her desk at least once in the day and she’ll pick up my message (while I’m asleep).

In my social circle almost no-one emails me, unless they have a specific document to send me, or perhaps photos to share that they don’t want on facebook.

sms

One group of friends has never evolved past using SMS; few of them are on facebook, so that’s not an option, and one doesn’t have a phone smart enough to use Whatsapp. It’s fine, until you want to have a many-to-many conversation.

Lots of friends use this as the fastest way to get someone’s attention for a short message.

whatsapp

Currently my favourite tool, used by certain groups of former colleagues. It lets you have one-to-one or many-to-many conversations. It’s phone agnostic. Plus the emoticons are prettier. I tried using it with other groups, but mostly people default back to what they’re used to.

facebook

I limit my facebook to family and friends, so “only” have 111 facebook friends. I use the chat function within facebook a lot, it seems to be the tool most friends are most comfortable with, it works pretty well in the phone app (despite the endless invites to upgrade to another level of service). I have a group of friends from all over the world that I got to know online, we started out as anonymous handles in a chat room, but as we’ve grown to know and trust each other real names have been shared, and this group are the most comfortable using facebook – it’s a lot like having them in the room.

twitter

Rarely used for messaging, unless twitter is the only way someone knows me. Often use the “@” function to share something the person will find useful or (more often) funny. Pretty much no-one uses DMs.

linkedin

Former colleagues, classmates, conference delegates, business contacts – either through a message or an in-mail, the connections there are more of a work nature, and so is the contact.

These tools are all available to all of the people (except whatsapp – blocked for one person). Who uses what has evolved, and there are certainly people I would contact on more than one platform. I don’t keep a list, I don’t use any special decision tree. The icons for all these tools are on the home screen of my phone so it’s easy. In the olden days I used to know people’s phone numbers, this knowledge has replaced that.

I think the same thing is happening in the workplace, each platform added to the workplace is adding another communication or messaging tool, and for some the choice feels overwhelming – particularly as the number of external tools is also growing. As people get more used to the tools, and understand how groups and communities form, it will feel very natural. Rather than take a prescriptive approach, trying to guide employees to a “right” way to use the tools, companies should take an open platform approach, simplifying access and enabling employees to find all the tools they need in one place.

Finding the right tool to communicate should be as easy as accessing it from my phone’s home screen.

Image; smartphone via pixabay