Your favorite social network--whether it's Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or something else--is probably pretty capable on its own. After all, you likely spend plenty of time there already. But with the right app or add-on, your go-to social networks can become even better. Here are several apps, both desktop- and cloud-based, that will allow you to get more out of Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. They'll help you save time, share more content, and connect with new people in new ways.
(For links to all of these downloads in one convenient list, see our "10 Must-Have Downloads for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter" collection.)
Box.net Files (OpenBox Services for Facebook and LinkedIn)
Social networks are great at lots of things, such as putting you in touch and letting you share Web links, videos, and photos. But they're not ideal places to store and share documents and files--unless you have Box.net's OpenBox Services for Facebook and LinkedIn, that is. These free apps turn either social network into something of a virtual thumb drive, one that's easy to share with friends. You can easily upload files or create folders. You can share single documents or entire folders with your social network contacts--and if you're signed up for both the Facebook and LinkedIn versions, you can share across social networks, too. You get 5GB of storage and the ability to upload files as big as 25MB with a free personal account; paid personal accounts with more storage start at $10 per month. Business versions, which add some searching and security features, such as the ability to assign user privileges to files, start at $15 per month.
If you use Facebook, you likely use it to share photos. So why not spruce up your snapshots before sharing them, with Picnik's free online image editor? Available as an app, the Facebook version of Picnik lets you access its excellent editing tools without leaving the social network. You can crop, rotate, resize, and autofix photos, among other features. You also can browse and edit all of the photos in which you've been tagged, edit friends' photos, and share the finished results on your profile page.
Websense Triton Defensio Social Web Security
The Defensio Facebook app (free for personal use) is designed to keep personal Facebook profiles or pages (such as those set up for a business or other activity) safe from profanity, spam, and potentially malicious content, such as viruses and phishing scams. It's easy to use, but it's hamstrung by Facebook's limiting API, which does not allow third-party apps to remove content from a user's profile. That means every bit of dubious content and profanity--from "hell" to the f-bomb--still appears on your Facebook profile. Defensio alerts you via e-mail that suspect material has been posted; you then have to remove the offending items yourself. Websense says these limitations apply only to personal profiles, not Facebook pages. We tested only the free personal version, not the pricey professional plans. But if you're a business user looking to safeguard your company's Facebook fan page, Defensio could prove a useful companion.
LinkedIn makes finding and communicating with your professional colleagues easy. Adding Slideshare Presentations to your LinkedIn account makes sharing professional-looking content with them easy, too. The free app lets you upload and share a variety of materials--including PowerPoint and Keynote presentations, Word documents, PDFs, and videos--that you can use to market yourself, your business, and more.
Don't be fooled by its name: This lightweight, Adobe AIR-based desktop client is actually designed to help you get the most out of Twitter. DestroyTwitter (free/donationware) keeps its footprint small by focusing only on Twitter. It offers plenty of customization features for helping you use Twitter the way you want to, whether that means, for example, filtering out certain users and hashtags, opting not to receive Foursquare and Gowalla location-based updates, or simply altering the app's font size.
Can't choose between Facebook and Twitter? With the free Seesmic Desktop, you don't have to. This app lets you manage Facebook and Twitter accounts, and it grants you access to an additional 50-plus services thanks to its comprehensive list of available plug-ins. The trade-off for all of that access is a slightly jumbled user interface, but that's a compromise that active social networkers may be willing to make.
Although Twhirl is owned by Seesmic, the company's two desktop apps bear little resemblance to each other. Whereas Seesmic's interface is sizable, Twhirl's is tiny. This small, free, AIR-based app looks more like an old-school IM client than a social-media management tool. But it packs in plenty of features for managing your Twitter account, as it automatically shortens posted URLs, notifies you of incoming messages, lets you search tweets, and allows you to record and share videos using Seesmic Video.
If you're using social media for more than fun and games, you'll appreciate the businesslike approach of HootSuite. Its handling of Twitter, in particular, will appeal to professionals looking to take advantage of the microblogging site. It makes managing multiple Twitter profiles a snap, and you can easily delve into particular profiles to view direct messages and @ replies. And if your social media universe expands beyond Twitter, you'll appreciate that HootSuite also allows you to manage feeds from Facebook accounts and pages--plus FourSquare, LinkedIn, Mixi, MySpace, Ping.fm, or WordPress--through its neatly organized tabbed interface. The free version is ad-supported; paid, ad-free versions start at $6 a month.
The versatile TweetDeck might be the most well known of all desktop Twitter clients, and for good reason: Almost anything that Twitter can do, TweetDeck can do better. This free Adobe AIR app delivers your Twitter feed in real time, lets you monitor Twitter trends, helps you manage conversations, and allows you to view, record, and share video clips. And its new Deck.ly service permits you to bypass Twitter's pesky 140-character limit. If all that isn't enough, TweetDeck also supports other social networks, such as Facebook, Foursquare, Google Buzz, LinkedIn, and MySpace.