How to automate your Twitter feed: 5 apps to try

How to automate your Twitter feed
How can you be sure you're tweeting at the best time of day for maximum impact?

Twitter has taken the social media world by storm but, as anyone who's used it will know, it can be quite demanding.

You need to use it regularly to get the most out of it otherwise your followers will lose interest.

So what do you do if you're not always able to tweet, or if you want to keep your followers in other time zones happy whilst you're tucked up in bed?

How can you be sure you're tweeting at the best time of day for maximum impact?

The answer lies in a bit of automation.

You don't want to completely automate your feed - much of the attraction of Twitter is interaction with others - but by applying it carefully you can keep your followers entertained and not have to worry about always being able to send tweets yourself.

Here are our favourite five tools to help.

1. SocialOomph

OK, let's start with the basic business of queuing up tweets so that they're sent at a specified time. SocialOomph allows you to type a 140-character tweet in the normal way.

How to automate your Twitter feed

SocialOomph lets you send tweets on a delay or at a specific date and time

You can then choose when it's sent, either by setting a delay in minutes, hours, days or weeks, or specifying a particular date and time.

A basic account is free and can handle multiple Twitter profiles should you have more than one online persona.

Upgrade to a paid Professional account and you can access extra features like enabling automatic follow backs and automatic DMs to new followers – we don't recommend the latter as many people find it annoying.

A Professional account also lets you schedule updates to other services including Facebook and LinkedIn.

2. Buffer

One of the great things about Twitter is the ability to share things you find on the web – a particularly fascinating TechRadar feature, for example.

But if you come across several interesting stories in the course of your surfing it's not good to send out a sudden flurry of tweets all at once.

The answer to this problem is Buffer; it's available as a plug-in for Chrome, Firefox and Opera, as well as apps for Android and iPhone.

How to automate your Twitter feed

Using Buffer you can queue up your favourite links to be shared at a later time

When you find a webpage you want to share you simply click the Buffer button on your browser toolbar and you can compose a tweet to add to your Buffer feed.

Login via the Buffer website and you can set a schedule of times during the day when your messages will be sent.

The site also lets you access analytics information so you can see how many people have clicked your links.

A free account gives you up to 10 updates a day; upgrade to the 'Awesome Plan' for US$10 per month and you get to send unlimited updates across up to 12 social profiles.

3. Twitterfeed

If you have a blog you'll naturally want to update your Twitter followers whenever you make a new post.

As long as your chosen blogging platform has an RSS feed then Twitterfeed can send updates automatically to Twitter.

How to automate your Twitter feed

Share your blog posts or other items to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn via RSS feeds

You can set the update frequency, how many posts to send at once, and apply a prefix or suffix to each entry.

The service is free to use and can also update Facebook and LinkedIn.

Setting it up is a simple three-step process: create an account, paste in the RSS feed URL, select the services you want to update and you're done.

4. HootSuite

HootSuite is a jack-of-all-trades social media updater that can schedule updates to many services including Google+, MySpace and Wordpress, as well as the usual suspects.

How to automate your Twitter feed

HootSuite lets you manage posts to Twitter and a host of other social networks via a single interface

The free version restricts you to five social media profiles; upgrading to Pro for US$9.99 a month gives you unlimited profiles, more advanced scheduling and links to Google Analytics, among other things.

Plug-ins are available for Chrome and other popular browsers or you can access HootSuite via the website.

If you choose the latter option you get a TweetDeck-style column format showing your tweets, mentions, DMs and so on.

You can import and manage your Twitter lists too. Use the box at the top left to compose a new tweet and you can choose to schedule it at a particular time or use the Auto Schedule feature which sends your message at the right time to achieve maximum impact.

5. Tweriod

How do you know if your tweets are reaching the right people, or indeed if they're reaching anyone at all?

Tweriod might help you find the answer.

How to automate your Twitter feed

Work out when your followers are online and the most effective time to send out tweets using Tweriod

It analyses your account and produces a graph showing when your followers are online. It will also tell you the times of day when your tweets will get maximum exposure.

The free version is fairly basic and only allows you one analysis per month. Premium accounts offer more detail with pricing based on your number of followers.

Ian Barker worked in information technology before discovering that writing about computers was easier than fixing them. He has worked for a staff writer on a range of computer magazines including PC Extreme, was editor of PC Utilities, and has written for TechRadar, BetaNews, IT Pro Portal, and LatestGadgets.