Twitter moves very fast. With up to three million tweets being posted every day, even a “slow” keyword can produce thousands of daily results when tracking it. Keeping on top of interesting or relevant terms can be difficult, if not impossible.
Though you can subscribe to Twitter search feeds in your RSS or or track them in Tweetdeck, Twhirl and other Twitter applications, some people prefer a more real-time approach to monitoring what’s being said on Twitter.
For those, there are several near-real-time monitoring services that let you follow what is being said on Twitter with no delays. This lets them jump into conversations in real-time, rather than waiting until their RSS reader or Twitter client catches up, possibly after the moment is gone.
So, if you wish to jump into the Twitter stream, here are three Web-based tools to help you get your updates in real-time.
Twitterfall is probably the best-known Twitter streaming applications and for good reason.
Twitterfall looks and operates much like its name would indicate. You set up the keywords you want to track (or simply follow the latest trends) and new tweets “fall” from the top, pushing those below it down one.
Twitterfall boasts a series of unique features, the most compelling of which is the ability interact with Twitter directly in the application. Once you’ve authorized Twitterfall to use your account, you can reply, follow, favorite and even direct message without leaving the Twitterfall page.
You can also use Twitterfall to track your own timeline and your direct messages. However, there is no way to easily track your replies, though adding a search for @username would have much the same function.
Twitterfall also makes it possible to color-code searches, making it easy to see which term each tweet on the stream is for and focus in on the most important tweets.
The drawback to Twitterfall is that all of the terms are in one giant stream and a single fast-moving term can knock a slower, though possibly more relevant one, off the page quickly.
As such, Twitterfall isn’t ideal for people that track many different keywords, especially if any of them are particularly common on Twitter.
If Twitterfall is like Twhirl, then Monitter is like Tweetdeck. Where Twitterfall puts all of the keywords into one giant column, Monitter breaks them up into a user-chosen number of columns.
However, other than the multiple-column layout, Monitter is fairly feature-limited. Though you can retweet, reply and visit the profiles of those that appear in your stream, those are simply links to the Twitter site that open up in a new window or tab.
Though you can switch the theme from light to dark, there is no color-coding for the different search terms, which is less important since the terms are already set apart. However, using Monitter can be a bit confusing at first, specially when trying to use the location service.
Despite these limitations, fans of Twitter columns are going to love Monitter and the way it displays data. It’s idea of people who want to follow a lot of different terms of varying activity but don’t want to lose sight of important tweets just because they are older than other tweets in the stream.
Though Twitter Search may not be real time in the strictest sense of the word, namely that you have to refresh the page to see the latest results, it does track your search terms as they happen, just not display them.
Instead, Twitter Search displays a note that reads “X more results since you started searching. Refresh to see them” By clicking on the link you refresh the page and receive the results. Twitter also modifies the title of the search page to display the number of new results in a parenthesis before the search terms, making it visible from your tab bar.
This makes it easy, when you’re working in another tab, to glance and see if you have new items in your stream. When you go back to the search page, you pull up the new ones and can easily see where you left off. In that regard, it is as if Twitter Search pauses the stream while you’re gone and shows you what’s new when you return.
Though the lack of push is frustrating for many, so is the lack of true Twitter integration. Though you can retweet, reply and read profiles of those in your stream, they are, once again, just links to the main Twitter site. Essentially, Twitterfall is better integrated into Twitter than Twitter’s own Search product.
Still, for those who don’t need the “push” feature of either Monitter or Twitterfall, perhaps because they follow less active keywords, Twitter Search will likely serve their needs. Its refresh system not only makes it less distracting, but also easier to integrate into an existing workflow.
For most Twitter users, the Twitter RSS feeds or the search performed by most Twitter clients will be more than enough to get by. Though they are far from perfect and can often lag behind by several minutes, especially the RSS feeds, they work well enough and don’t require another browser tab.
However, for those that feel a need to follow the conversation in near-real time and want to jump in, one of these automated Twitter stream tools is a must. Twitterfall has the best integration with Twitter, Monitter has the best organization and Twitter Search makes the results as convenient to browse as possible.
Which you use will likely depend upon the keywords you are wanting to follow and how you want to implement the tool. Will it be something you leave up constantly or something you just check in on every few hours? Do you have many terms you wish to follow or just a few?
In the end, all three of the tools are the best for someone. It is just a matter of finding the right one for your Twitter needs.