Editor's Note: We are running this story again as part of our look back to the top social media stories of 2011 on Ragan.com. If these tools are no longer new to you, please suggest a new tool that may not be on your peers' radar.
There are some great Twitter apps, sites and tips out there that you might not know about. Here are some of the best tools available to help you get the most out of your Twitter activity.
TweetEffect is an excellent tool both for business and personal use. By searching for any Twitter username, you can see a summary of how many follows or unfollows that account gained over the past 30 days.
Where TweetEffect gets really clever though, is where it provides a full summary of your tweets, telling you which ones caused you to gain or lose followers, as well as how many followers you gained or lost. Tweets highlighted in green are the ones that brought you followers, and tweets in red are the tweets that lost followers.
Business users should monitor this to look for patterns. Some follows or unfollows may be coincidental, but you could find emerging patterns that allow you to optimize your Twitter activity.
2. Advanced search on TweetDeck
Many people use the advanced search function on Twitter, and the same search operators apply when searching on TweetDeck. TweetDeck offers a more efficient and streamlined search if, for example, you want to filter by location or exclude certain keywords from your search.
First, load up the search bar as you normally would (select "add column" then "search"), then apply the search operators. You can even save your searches for instant updates. Here's a handy list of search operators that you might want to try.
Optify is a social media monitoring tool with a free product for Twitter that you can use to measure the success of your Twitter account. While it offers many of the same tools as CoTweet for managing your account, Optify offers a lot more in the way of Twitter analytics, which is key for any business active on Twitter.
Though you're required to set up an account to use Optify, you don't have to add any credit card details and the Twitter section is free to use. I recommend setting up an account to gain full visibility of your performance on Twitter, as Optify offers an impressive advanced analytics suite. You can also track leads and referral traffic from Twitter, so you have full visibility of the ROI of your activity.
4. New followers column on TweetDeck
TweetDeck has a handy option that allows you to monitor your latest followers. You can do this by adding a new column in TweetDeck, and then selecting "Core." This will bring up an option on the right called "New Followers." By selecting this, you create a new column that only contains tweets from your newest followers.
This is an excellent way to build your community on Twitter, and to make sure you're keeping track of new followers. It can be easy to stick to the same people on Twitter and not follow any of your new followers back, but this helps ensure that you can always find valuable new connections.
Screenr is a great way to add new content to your Twitter stream. It's an app that allows you to create screencasts—videos of what you're doing on your computer screen—instantly, including the option to add audio commentary. You can easily share the screencast on your social profiles, including Twitter.
The site is very easy to use, and it's a great way for companies to share content with their users, like showing them a new section of their website. It's also likely to engage followers a bit more, as they might not be used to seeing this kind of content on Twitter.
TweetCaster is a very cool app available for Android users. The mobile app allows you to create multiple Twitter accounts that can be managed with the same screen, which is great if you handle both personal and business profiles. The app has good functionality to make for an easy mobile experience, including easy navigation to different user profiles and easy integration of complementary services such as shortening urls and sharing photos and videos.
Tweetcaster is also available on the iPhone, though it appears to be getting the most positive reviews across the Android platform. Poor image quality seems to be an issue for the iPhone version.
Flick.to.twitt is an app that allows you to instantly share your photo uploads from Flickr on Twitter. This is a useful app, as there seems to be a correlation between active Flickr and Twitter users. Though there are plenty of photo sharing services available through Twitter such as Twitpic or Yfrog, Flick.to.twitt offers a simple one-click process to instantly tweet your Flickr uploads. You don't need to create a separate profile—simply add your Twitter and Flickr logins to instantly share links to your photos.
Twopular is a useful site to find trending topics on Twitter organized by the hour, week, month or past year. You can also access archived trending topics.
While the site's homepage provides a lot of useful information on current trending topics, there's a lot more to discover, such as the ability to compare trending topics or your own search terms to the trends offered. Twopular's "sparklines" are particularly interesting, showing peaks in trends over time, and view specific results.
9. Twitter SEO
I found this interesting SEO experiment using Twitter Lists, courtesy of Peter Drew, that can be easily replicated for any Twitter account. SEO applies to Twitter profiles in the same way as any other site, and this tip shows you how to use SEO on Twitter lists to improve your Google ranking with a chosen keyword.
By creating a Twitter list that has your chosen keyword in it, such as twitter.com/LaurenFisher/socialmedia, you can boost your Twitter profile rank for your name and your chosen keyword. Though this will happen naturally as you're added to Twitter lists, you can control this by creating your own that contains a specific keyword.
When Peter Drew ran the experiment he found the page rank steadily improving for the list, despite not promoting it at all, and it had a page rank of four within two weeks. Through further optimization, the term now appears in the top 50 results on Google, showing the importance of SEO via different means on Twitter.
10. Coupon Tweet
Coupon Tweet is a handy tool that shows which deals are currently being shared on Twitter. Search by keyword or type to see a current Twitter stream of people sharing offers in real-time.
What I like about this is that it adds some authority to deals. Though there are plenty of deal aggregator sites, the user experience is often messy, leading to old links or offers that aren't always legitimate. Coupon Tweet is based on links being shared, so there is an element of trust in the results. You can click next to a result to claim that coupon code.
11. Twitter Browser
This is a very cool site that allows you to easily track connections with other users and discover new people to follow.
To use the app, simply put in your own (or any) Twitter username to bring up the latest connections. You can click on avatars to instantly see their latest followers, and track your connections between the two. By continually clicking and dragging you can build out the connections, making it incredibly easy to find new people to follow.
Lauren Fisher is one of the founders of Simply Zesty, where a version of this article originally ran.