It's tough monitoring the Internet. Google Alerts has pretty much died (to be taken up by the better but pricey Mention) and Hootsuite has stopped enhancing its aging service for anyone not paying hundreds of dollars a month.
Luckily, I've developed a kick-ass system for monitoring everything I need to on Twitter — and I use Tweetdeck to do it.
There's a certain snobbery among social media professionals. Years ago, Tweetdeck was an independent also-ran service which paled in comparison to some of the more established tools like Hootsuite. But then, Twitter bought it and hasn't stopped adding features to it (though the company did, understandably, strip out Facebook functionality).
Here's why I love Tweetdeck and why you should too:
You want 10 columns? Free. You want 50 columns? Free. You want to hook up 30 Twitter accounts? Free.
- UNIVERSAL COLUMNS:
You can set up a single column that collects all @mentions or DMs across all your hooked-up accounts. I can't stress enough how important that is. It's a true universal inbox for your Twitter accounts. With most other providers, you need to set up a separate column for each account. (Come on, Hootsuite, fix this!) I monitor more than 15 accounts. I don't want to have to scroll through 15 columns.
- TRUE NOTIFICATIONS:
This one is the most important to me: I can set specific columns to alert me with a real desktop notification when there's new traffic (a search result hits, for instance) — even if I'm not using the app, the notification pops up on my screen for me to deal immediately with or postpone to later. Or, I can have it just sound a chime. Or both. Because these notifications are column-independent, I only have some columns alert me — any DM or a hit on a running search for one of my company's client's names. Mention one of our clients and I will know about it in seconds. Very few other platforms have this kind of instant notification ability.
- MARK AS READ:
I hate having things still visible when I've read the tweet or dealt with it. Tweetdeck has a simple "Clear Column" button — like "Mark as Read" in email. Hootsuite can't do this; the best it does is to put a small blue dot on each post when it thinks you haven't seen it. But I've found the dot to be unreliable and there's no way to add the dot to signify "I still haven't dealt with this."
- ROBUST COLUMN-FILTERING:
Tweetdeck has been consistently adding robust filtering functions to columns. You can filter out tweets if they don't have a certain number of replies or retweets, if they're not posted by verified members or people on a Twitter list, or if they're not in certain languages. This comes in especially handy with our client OK Tire (wanna Like their page?), whose brand translates roughly as "Okay, push" in Spanish. Because of this, I used to get a lot of false positives from Spanish-language people talking about pushing things — now, I just filter out mentions not in English.
Since it's owned by Twitter, the app will never get its access to Twitter's feeds shut down, as many smaller platforms have.
You can use a web-app, a mobile app, or even a native desktop app which provides true desktop notifications. I have the dedicated Mac app running in the background.
I can't get over how fast the app is (web or desktop). It feels like it only takes 10 KB of memory. Everything happens instantly.
That said, Tweetdeck doesn't do everything:
- NO TEAMS:
There's no team management and workflow. If you need to add team members, manage their accounts, create shared streams, or assign tasks, best to get Hootsuite.
- NO TABS:
If you have a lot of streams, you can't group them in tabs like Hootsuite can. You just have a single flat screen of all your streams, though you can reorder them.
I have ten columns in my setup:
- DMs ("Inbox") which consolidates Direct Messages across all my Twitter accounts.
- @mentions ("@Me") which consolidates @mentions across all my Twitter accounts.
- Ego Search: "tod maffin" OR "todd maffin" OR "tod massin" OR "todd massin" (Tip: always include typos of any names you're searching)
- Client Searches: Brand names and typos of all my company's clients
- Alert list: I have set up a special private Twitter list called Alert (desktop notifications enabled on this column) — I add Twitter accounts to it that I want to get a notification any time they tweet — close friends, companies I am close to, status accounts for web services, etc.
- Top list: This is like the Alert list, except this column does not have desktop notifications. I add Twitter accounts to this list if they're important to me but I don't need to get alerted. Sort of a less-important level of alerts which keeps me up to date on accounts that are important to me.
- Favorites: I use my Twitter Favorites List as a hold of "take action on this tweet" parking lot. When I'm surfing Twitter anyway (on mobile apps, for instance) and I want to do something with a specific tweet, I Favorite it. Like the "Star" in Google apps, this is a handy little to-do list for me.
- Tod's Twitter Accounts: This is a special Twitter list containing Twitter accounts for which I have some responsibility — mostly the accounts of our clients. This way, I can keep an eye on what they're tweeting.
- Hashtags: I have a number of columns that follow specific hashtags.
The "Ding and Clear" Method
So here's how my system works — I scan my Top and Favorites columns a couple of times a day. But when an important column gets a hit (like a DM or a search result on a client's name), a desktop notification pops up with a Ding sound. I act on it, then hit the "Clear Column" button. This way, the only tweets that I see across Tweetdeck's dashboard are those I still need to do something with. It's a simple, fast, and easy way to manage a whole lot of Twitter traffic.
So that's it! The Ding and Clear method works wonders: It's fast, free, and nimble.