Think Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter offer enough on their own? Think again. These apps ramp up your social networking power - and many of them are free.
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 organised tabbed interface. The free version is ad-supported; paid, ad-free versions start at $6 (£3.50) 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.
See also: 4 security and privacy tips for Facebook