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Image: TweetDeck screen
TweetDeck
TweetDeck does a great job of managing both your incoming and outgoing tweets, and it can even help you post images, videos, and link to your Twitter account more easily.
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updated 3/14/2011 9:26:14 AM ET 2011-03-14T13:26:14

Twitter is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family. It's a simple service to use, and it doesn't take any time at all to get started. For that matter, even learning the basic Twitter lexicon doesn't take much effort. Twitter really is a pretty straightforward thing to use. You can quickly find yourself gathering more friends on Twitter than you thought were possible — and when that happens, it's sometimes helpful to use a Twitter client.

These clients are basically programs that run on your computer or smart phone. They automatically load Twitter updates and often chirp or make noise to let you know there's a new message. This saves you the trouble of going to the Twitter website and constantly refreshing it to keep up to date on your tweets. Most clients have additional features to help make tweeting a little more convenient. Let's take a look at five of the most popular Twitter clients and what they can do for you.

TweetDeck
TweetDeck is one of the most popular Twitter clients. TweetDeck is available for both Windows computers and Macs, as well as most smart phoness. TweetDeck does a great job of managing both your incoming and outgoing tweets, and it can even help you post images, videos, and link to your Twitter account more easily. TweetDeck runs quietly in the background of your computer, using both a chirping sound and a small pop-up in the corner of your screen to let you know when you have received a new message.

HootSuite
HootSuite is a little more of a professional Twitter tool than a personal client like TweetDeck. HootSuite is built to work with teams, track the results of your tweets, and promote team collaboration. You can even schedule your Twitter updates for a future time, assign tasks to team members, and gauge the impact of your tweets across multiple social networks. If HootSuite sounds a little in depth for the average Twitter user, that's because it is. However, if you're getting into Twitter to support your home business or charity, then HootSuite could be a good tool.

Twitteriffic
Twitteriffic is a Mac-specific desktop Twitter client, though it also has versions for the iPad and iPhone. Twitteriffic has a lot of the same functionality as TweetDeck, making it easy to control your incoming and outgoing tweets in one location. If you have multiple Twitter accounts, Twitteriffic also allows you to open multiple windows, which reduces the likelihood that you'll accidentally send a critical tweet to the wrong account. You can color-code your incoming tweets to help you highlight mentions and replies.

All things considered, Twitteriffic is a simple desktop client for Twitter, even easier to use than TweetDeck. If you want something fast, friendly, and uncomplicated, Twitteriffic is probably the best way to go.

Tweet Button
Twitter provides what it calls the "Tweet Button." Using Twitter's online tool, you generate a snippet of HTML code that you can drop on your website. When users click the button, they automatically send a Tweet on their accounts about your website.

This is in no way a traditional Twitter client like TweetDeck, HootSuite, or Twitteriffic, but it is a very meaningful way to get your message out to the public. Dropping this code on your website, blog post, or any place you use HTML will help your audience and readers quickly tweet about your content. This Tweet button is in the top 10 ways tweets are sent to Twitter, so it's worth a mention.

Flock
Flock bills itself as a "social Web browser." Essentially, Flock is a Web browser like Internet Explorer or Chrome that includes a sidebar that scrolls incoming messages from Twitter and Facebook. Flock includes tools to manage your contacts across multiple services, sending out tweets and messages to social networks and otherwise supporting your burgeoning social network lifestyle.

Flock is a pretty handy tool if you like to watch your social messages fly by, but it's not really a dedicated Twitter client. If you're doing other Web browsing but want to keep Twitter in your peripheral view, Flock is a great option. If you just want to focus on Twitter, though, TweetDeck or HootSuite is probably a better choice.

The final comparison
Ultimately, TweetDeck remains the most popular Twitter client for your computer for a reason. HootSuite is pretty good, but it's more intended for professional users. Twitteriffic is a strong contender to TweetDeck, but it only exists for Macs. The Tweet Button can let your audience spread your message for you, and Flock is a nice Twitter-integrated web browser. In the end, what you choose is going to be about your own Twitter use.

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