SocialBro’s free Chrome app boasts a slick interface and some useful tools, but pushes you to its paid siblings too much.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by Twitter, especially when you’re trying to use the micro-blogging service for business purposes. Who should I follow? How do I get more people to follow me? When should I tweet? Where do I start? These are just a few of the questions that Twitter users often have—and they are among the ones that SocialBro tries to answer. This comprehensive Twitter management tool offers plenty of features to help you make the most of Twitter, but it, too, can be overwhelming—and its free edition is limited.
SocialBro is available in a variety of editions. The free version, called SocialBro Desktop is available as a Chrome app, which can be run in Google’s browser (online or off), and an Adobe Air app, which can be run right on the desktop. The Adobe Air app has a known bug that prevents some users from adding Twitter accounts. The company says the bug is an issue with Adobe Air, not SocialBro itself, and they are urging users to use SocialBro for Chrome instead. I tested the Adobe Air app briefly and was able to add a Twitter account without a problem, but used the Chrome app for the majority of my testing. SocialBro’s paid editions, which range from $7 a month (Premium) to $149 a month (Business), are cloud-based services that run in a browser window and store your information in the cloud, allowing you access to it from a variety of Internet connected-devices. The free versions are desktop-based only, limiting your access to the computer on which they were installed.
SocialBro’s Twitter tools are centered around the idea of managing and analyzing your Twitter community, and many of them are impressive. When you link SocialBro to your Twitter account, it analyzes your community, and presents the results to you in a colorful, interactive interface. You can see your Twitter community in a neat graph that shows you how many followers and friends they have, and where they’re based. You can filter the display to show only your followers, friends, reciprocal follows, followers not reciprocated by you, new friends, new followers, recent unfollowers, and more. And within each of these lists, you can use SocialBro’s sliders to adjust for those Twitter users with more or fewer friends, tweets per day, time since last tweet, and more.
It’s all a bit confusing at first, but SocialBro’s tools are easy to use and after some time playing around with them, you can see just how useful they are. The graph displaying your Twitter community updates quickly as you adjust the sliders, refining the results, and allowing you to learn more about the people with whom you interact on Twitter.
Additional features include an analysis of the best time to Tweet. But while SocialBro allows you to compose Tweets, you can only post them immediately; it doesn’t allow you to schedule them. For that, it integrates with Buffer. You also can use SocialBro to discover other Twitter users you might want to follow, but I found this tool pretty limited—at least in the free version of SocialBro. It simply presented me with a list of the most popular Twitter users, such as Justin Bieber, rather than allowing me to search by influence—something only available in the paid editions of SocialBro.
That’s not the only feature missing from the free version of SocialBro. Many of the service’s best features, such as the ability to analyze a competitive Twitter account, are only available in the paid versions—something SocialBro seems intent on reminding you about. The app lists features that are only available to paid customers, and then urges you to upgrade when you try to use them. SocialBro’s paid versions do offer a comprehensive set of Twitter management and analysis tools, but the free version is no slouch. It offers a handy way to learn more about your Twitter community, and its slick interface is impressive. I just wish the free version worked reliably outside of Chrome, and that it learned to appreciate just how much it does have to offer, rather than reminding me of what it doesn’t.
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Liane Cassavoy is a veteran technology and business journalist. She contributes regularly to PCWorld and has written about business issues and products for Entrepreneur Magazine and other publications. She is the author of two business start-up guides published by Entrepreneur Press.