10 Useful Twitter Tools (Twools) for the business user

If you’re a regular tweeter you’ll know that there’s more to tweeting than meets the eye. Since Twitter’s inception thousands of twools have been created. (No, that’s not a typo… I just made that word up… or rather I started off with Twitools, but thought maybe twools sounded better.)
According to Jason Hiner of Tech Republic, this has been made possible due to Twitter’s simplicity and the ability for open API (application programming interface) development, which has allowed developers to experiment with tools and utilities to improve Twitter’s functionality.
Since not all twools are useful, Jason created a top 10 list of useful tools for business users. Up till now I only used one twool, but that’s probably more to do with a lack of time rather than a lack of need. Nevertheless, I thought I’d share his list with you, and even went as far as checking some of them out.

1: bit.ly
At the top of Jason’s list is bit.ly, which is the one tool I use and find very useful, not just for Twitter, but on other social networking sites too. bit.ly shortens URLs to around 20 characters, so, with only 140 tweetable characters, this leaves you 120 to tweet your message.
If you’re a blogger, you will find this particularly useful for posting a link to your blog articles, which, as you know, have extremely long URLs. Not only that, but bit.ly will track your links and provide you with some basic analytics, giving you some idea of how many people find your tweets interesting enough to read more.
2: twitpic
If you’re a mobile phone user Jason thinks you will like this twool because twitpic enables you to email photos right from your phone to a customized twitpic email address using the subject line as your tweet.
As a business owner, I’m not sure how useful this would be. Most mobile phone images are generally poor quality. If you want to post a product pic, it would be much better to use professional photos, or at least a decent camera. If you simply need colleagues to view and comment on on-the-spot photos why not email them through your phone instead? However, I’m sure there are some business users that will find this tool useful.
I personally don’t use my mobile phone for photography, the internet or emails. But I have viewed other twitter users’ photos on twitpic, so I thought I would check the site out anyway.
Like other public photo sites, twitpic lets you upload photos right from your computer too, and seemingly doesn’t have a limit on the size. It also gives you the option to add a message and post it to your Twitter account. You can choose not to post it, but then what would be the point of uploading it?
I prefer the option to upload photographs from the computer more so, as it gives you the chance to crop or enhance your photos first.
One thing I think I should point out. If you post original photos to a public photo site, whether it’s twitpic or any other “free” photo site, your photo then becomes public property, and although it is subject to copyright rules, it is still subject to internet theft! I suggest you make a copy and downsize your images before uploading.
(Jason suggests you also check out flickr2twitter.)
3: tweetscan
Who’s talking about your company? For $20 a year, you can find out! tweetscan will track who’s tweeting about you or your company, amongst other things. Based on Google Alerts, it scans twitter and sends you daily or weekly emails listing all occurrences of the keywords you entered. I checked it out, you simply type in up to 10 phrases, and then wait for the email alerts, listing all occurrences.
4: twitterfeed
If you’re a blog user and want to promote your blog posts on Twitter, you can use twitterfeed to do it automatically for you. This is probably very useful if you write a blog every day and don’t have time to promote your articles, but I wondered whether it tracks links back to the blog. If not, perhaps it would be better do it manually using bit.ly. So, I went to check it out. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the website was down!
5: twinbox
Formerly known as Outwit, this free tool integrates with Microsoft Outlook enabling you to tweet from there. Jason suggests that business professionals who “live” in Microsoft Outlook will find this twool very useful.
Personally, I prefer to do my tweeting on the web as it gives me a chance to read other tweeters’ tweets. I mean, isn’t that the point, to follow others as well as be followed? Staying in your inbox isn’t really very sociable, is it?
Besides, Microsoft Outlook has enough problems functioning on its own without adding a new tool to it.
According to Jason, the serious business tweeter will find Cotweet very useful. But you’ll have to pay for it. As well as enabling you to manage multiple twitter accounts it enables multiple users to access a single account. It also monitors keywords and trends, assigns tweets to employees for follow-up, enables employees to schedule tweets, and tracks clicks to links.
As I’m a sole proprietor with no employees, I’ll let you check this one out. He also suggests you check out hootsuite
7: tweetstats
Using tweetstats you can obtain statistics on other twitter users. Just by entering the twitter username you’ll get a whole array of statistics, such as when and how often they tweet, who they tweet and retweet to the most and what interface they use to tweet.
I checked the stats for one of my followers and found it to be slow to generate the statistics considering there were only 50 tweets. Unless they have a private profile, you’d be quicker to type their username into twitter and view their tweets!
However, I guess it’s handy if you want to check on your employees to see how much time they spend on tweeting during work time… and you can use the charts it provides as proof when you decide to fire them for time wasting!
He also suggests you check out twittergrader.
8: twuffer
Wouldn’t it be great to schedule future tweets? Twuffer is a free tool that enables you to do just that. According to Jason, it’s useful if, like him, you like to post inspirational quotes each day. You can find a whole week’s worth of quotes in one go and using Twuffer, schedule one quote to be posted each day.
Also, if you’re like me and receive daily newsletters but only get time to read them once a week, you can use Twuffer to schedule tweets with links to the articles you think your followers will also find interesting or useful.
9: twtpoll
According to Jason, he finds twitter most useful for crowd-sourcing questions or posting quick straw polls. Using Twtpoll you can create and distribute polls and surveys, and it works with other social media such as Facebook and Friendfeed too. It also works via email, handy, if you “live” in Outlook.
I checked this out quickly. There are several options, yes/no, multiple choice etc, but you need to read the instructions after creating your poll to find out what to do once you’ve created it. And, if you make a mistake or want to edit your question or answers, using the back/forward button will delete what you already typed. Once you’ve saved your poll, if you need to edit it you will need to sign in with your Twitter account. And you can’t edit or delete your poll once the first vote has been cast!
Jason suggests you also see strawpoll
10: twendz
Use twendz to see how others are using keywords. Updating in real time, it provides you with recent  tweets using the keyword(s) you enter, much like a search on Twitter, but it also gives you trends on how that keyword is being used in other sub topics.
I checked it out.  You can choose the speed at which tweets appear and it links back to the tweeter and any links they’ve posted. However, the time line seemed to vary… sometimes starting with 7-day-old tweets, sometimes starting with minutes-old tweets.
Note: Be careful with what you tweet… it even picks up deleted tweets!
Jason suggests you also see twazzup, twist and twittercounter.
Read Jason Hiner’s article.