If you're a public relations professional, chances are you've had a Twitter strategy since about 2011. It's no longer a new platform that PR pros can put off using. It's an integral direct-to-consumer and direct-to-influencer platform with endless benefits for the day-to-day dispensing of PR duties. In fact, many of today's PR professionals spend more time on Twitter than they do on press releases and press calls.
The immediacy of Twitter provides amazing benefits for shaping narratives as they form and gathering information on conversations as they spread. But understanding that Twitter matters is only step one. Getting one's Twitter game up to speed requires that PR professionals explore the auxiliary tools at their disposal that amplify and extend the benefit of Twitter.
If you're someone who finds themselves still stuck using Twitter.com and/or myriad other overpriced Twitter tools, take heart, there's a better way. With the right three tools in their Twitter toolbox, PR professionals can quickly get up to speed on the world and wonder of Twitter.
In the spirit of sharing is caring, I've outlined these three integral tools below along with the aid of several football analogies (because it's impossible to write/talk/think of anything this time of year without bringing up football).
Easily the most indispensable tool for anyone who needs to make sense of Twitter, TweetDeck brings order to the anarchy of Twitter. With TweetDeck you can organize tweets in discrete, customizable columns that make Twitter less dizzying and more useful. Among many other features, TweetDeck lets Twitter users create individual columns populated with Twitter lists (which you can do an a wide variety of things with), Twitter searches (keyword monitoring) and interactions with a particular Twitter handle (@ mentions, retweets, favorites, etc.).
For PR professionals, TweetDeck provides the flexibility needed to monitor conversations, identify trends and follow key influencers. This flexibility makes TweetDeck crucial for both proactive and reactive PR efforts. TweetDeck is a first stop for a PR professional looking to assess the impact of a given announcement, but it's also an early warning system for an impending crisis. In many cases, reporters will post articles on Twitter before they populate in search engine results or even an outlet's homepage. TweetDeck makes this type of information easy to filter and identify.
Bottom line: Using Twitter without using TweetDeck is like watching football without eating nachos; it's unsatisfying and incoherent.
Where TweetDeck tames Twitter's chaos, Topsy helps measure it. Among Topsy's many functions, the most useful are the ability to determine the volume of tweets on a given topic and assign a sentiment score to that Twitter chatter. In this sense, Topsy gives PR professionals the ability to benchmark and evaluate ROI from both a volume and tone perspective (two crucial metrics for nearly all public relations campaigns).
Topsy is also valuable for unearthing influencers, as it assigns an "influential" or "highly influential" tag to tweets from individuals with a certain number of followers. This is a valuable function for both influencer discovery and as a quick snapshot of the most important tweets on a given PR campaign (information that invariably comes in handy for coverage reports).
Topsy is intuitive and easy to use, and has the added benefit of capturing tweets for years. In fact, the site carries the slogan, "All Tweets Since 2006," helping solve one of Twitter's great challenges: fleetingness.
Bottom line: Using Twitter without using Topsy is like watching football without a scoreboard; it's myopic and unrewarding.
Appropriately billed as "the next URL," Tagboard is an elegantly simple hashtag tracking tool. Enter any hashtag into Tagboard (e.g. #GoHawks)and you'll get results that show uses of that hashtag from across social media (not just Twitter). While hashtags remain most frequently used on Twitter, they are increasingly showing up on Facebook and Instagram; having a tool that captures relevant Twitter mentions plus relevant mentions on other platforms is incredibly valuable for PR pros looking to comprehensively track and measure impact.
But PR professionals can get even more mileage out of Tagboard by using it as a tool for generating and highlighting buzz. At sporting events, concerts and conferences PR teams are using customized Tagboards projected on big screens to highlight hashtag use at that event. It's a way to get people engaged (everyone wants to be on the big screen) and to showcase that activity in real-time. It's the type of tool that delivers the immediate, visually dynamic results that are bound to impress clients.
Bottom line: Using Twitter without using Tagboard is like watching football without friends; it's sad and lonely.
Other Twitter tools can be added to this list to further extend Twitter's benefit, but that's a lot like running up the score in the fourth quarter: not strictly necessary.