From the moment Twitter released its API to developers, there has been no shortage of products to assist people in using and managing their Twitter Accounts. I have been using HootSuite for almost as long as I have been using Twitter. As I was getting familiar with HootSuite, a business-minded product called Co-Tweet came out. All along, in the periphery I knew of a couple more major players, Seesmic and TweetDeck. I started playing with Seesmic and TweetDeck this week to see what each had to offer. For the most part, each of these products does the same thing. They send updates to your Twitter account, and let you do all the things you would do on Twitter’s website on either a desktop application or the product’s website.
Since HootSuite is the first one I used, I’ll start with it. HootSuite has a pretty simple interface. You can add multiple accounts, and can assign users to tweet for you. There is a convenient bookmarklet that you can drag into your browser’s bookmark bar. HootSuite can shrink URLs for you in order to save Twitter real-estate. 140 characters go away quickly when you are using long URLs. HootSuite has all the features you would expect. You can read tweets from people you follow, read and send direct messages, and of course post updates.
Co-Tweet was the next product I tried. Co-Tweet was designed with business in mind, and expects business clients to have multiple users associated with a single Twitter account. While HootSuite has a similar feature, the User Interface (UI) is a little more serene on Co-Tweet. A less flashy UI makes for a more respectable business client. Co-Tweet does all the things I mentioned HootSuite does. It is easy to use, and I am happy with it.
Next up is Seesmic. Seesmic has a desktop application as well as a web interface. I have been leaning toward web-apps in my general preferences lately but I wanted to try out the desktop version to get a feel for it. The desktop version was pretty easy to use. There is a convenient tab bar on the left that lets you toggle between your friends tweets, any lists you follow, and more. I thought that by comparison with some of the other products, the desktop version of Seesmic is less attractive. This doesn’t mean it is inferior, it just didn’t have much style. The web version is another story. I found Seesmic Web to be a little easier to use. The navigation bar is more straightforward, and I was able to find things much faster on the web interface. The first thing I did was make a Chrome App for it. You can choose either a white or black template. I chose the black, since it made the interface look more professional. Overall, Seesmic had the same things to offer as the first two, but it made image integration a little easier, and offers URL shortening services from multiple vendors, not just a proprietary one.
Last up is TweetDeck. From what I can tell, TweetDeck doesn’t have a web version. It makes you install Adobe Air, and the first couple times I tried, the installation failed. After the third or fourth try, it finally worked. It looks like if you go to the website and click “Launch TweetDeck”, it opens the desktop application that you had to previously install. Overall, the UI for TweetDeck is very nice. The features are easy to use. Finding the Twitter lists was a little trickier than on Seesmic, but it was still easy to figure out. One thing I have noticed is an alert each time a tweet comes in. A little popup window shows you the new tweet, and plays an audible alert. If I was to use this full-time, I would proably turn off both features, but the audio would be harder to live with than the popup I think. I found TweetDeck very easy to use. It shares a lot of the features as the above options, but is more closely in competition with Seesmic.
For the most part, Seesmic and TweetDeck behave the same way. Seesmic web looks similar to TweetDeck, especially in black. Both have an eye-catching interface, and both offer a lot of the same features. It looks like these two are in constant competition for users, which is always a good thing for the customers.
Now that I’ve tried out the big names in third-party Twitter apps, it looks like the bottom line comes down to user preference. If you like a specific color-scheme, or the way the UI lets you find your lists or your friends, then go with that one. They all have something to offer. For my part, I am happy using HootSuite for personal use, and Co-Tweet for business use. Of course Twitter itself is about to throw its hat in the ring and offer a business interface. Whichever one you choose, have fun. Don’t feel locked into one version because at this point, they are all free. You can always find something you like.