Twitter here, there, and everywhere

Twitter, the microblogging social network that limits messages to 140 characters apiece, turns seven next year. In its lifetime, Twitter has seen some very impressive growth, with active users now numbering 500 million. Part of the platform’s success lies in its flexibility; ask ten random tweeters why they use Twitter, and you’ll get fifteen different responses. That same flexibility can make it hard for new users to get started, though; ask the same ten tweeters what method or application they use to access Twitter, and you’ll get twenty or more different responses.

Unfortunately, overviews of Twitter apps found online often don’t take into consideration that a person might use Twitter on a mixture of platforms. I personally use Mac laptops at both home and work, but I also use both Android and iOS mobile devices, and I want a consistent experience no matter what’s in my hand or on my lap. There are a surprisingly small number of Twitter apps that meet this requirement, and even fewer that do the job well. Here are recommendations for apps that let you get your tweet on, no matter what device or level of experience you have.

Best for new users: Twitter (the official app)
Available for: Android, Blackberry, iOS, Mac, Windows, Windows Phone 7
Cost: Free

The official Twitter app is disliked by many and hated by many others, but I think it’s the best starting point for new users and those who want a simple, easy-to-use, consistent interface across devices. One major benefit to using the official Twitter app is that it’s officially supported by Twitter, so you’ll never have to worry about sudden changes to the service rendering your app partially or fully unusable. For that peace of mind, you’ll give up the ability to consistently save a tweet draft (although this is supported on some devices), to write a tweet and schedule it to automatically publish later, or to have all of your devices know where you last stopped reading. You can also only use the official app with a single account. Despite these missing features, the official Twitter app is a solid choice. It’s what I use every day, even though I’ve been using Twitter for several years.

Best for intermediate users: Tweetdeck
Available for: Android, Chrome, iOS, Linux, Mac, Web, Windows
Cost: Free

If you’ve gotten the hang of Twitter and are looking for something with a few more bells and whistles, consider Tweetdeck. Originally created by a third-party developer, Twitter purchased Tweetdeck in 2011. In contrast with the official Twitter app, Tweetdeck brings many of the missing features an intermediate user would want, including timeline syncing, the ability to sign into multiple Twitter and/or Facebook accounts, and access to your Tweetdeck account via the web. This last feature is a big deal for many, as it allows you to completely bypass the Twitter website (which most intermediate and advanced users would agree should only be used in a tweemergency). The downsides to Tweetdeck are that multiple streams of content can become visually overwhelming, and that you can’t save drafts. If you can handle the amount of content, and you don’t need drafts, Tweetdeck is a great option.

Best for professional social media coordinators: HootSuite
Available for: Android, Blackberry, iOS, Mac, Web, Windows
Cost: Free / $9.99+ per month

If a social networking site is created and no one monetizes it, does it really exist? All kidding aside, HootSuite is designed for groups, organizations, and institutions who want to take an active role in creating and managing their social media presence. There’s very little need for an individual to use it for their own personal accounts, but if you’re in charge of the Twitter, Facebook, Google+, WordPress, Tumblr, etc presences for a department or organization, take HootSuite for a spin and you’ll get access to customized analytics, the ability to set up groups and delegate tasks, scheduling tweets, and a whole lot more. HootSuite is not officially supported by Twitter, so it’s possible that future changes to Twitter’s infrastructure could cripple tools within HootSuite, and there doesn’t appear to be any way to sync Twitter timelines between devices. In comparison to the tools HootSuite does provide, though, those are relatively minor quibbles. If you need a high-powered way to manage social networking presences, HootSuite is a major contender. 

What do you think? Did I leave out your favorite cross-platform Twitter app? Is bridging the platform gap unimportant to you? Leave me a note in the comments — I look forward to hearing your opinion.

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