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The 5 Best Free Social Media and Communication Tools of 2012

If you need to manage your Facebook or Twitter account more effectively, check out these free utilities and services.

Stay on top of your social media with a few communication tools.

HootSuite is a Web app that helps you manage your Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts in the same spot. The ad-supported free version lets you add up to five social media accounts and two RSS feeds.

Wondering what the big deal is about Lana Del Rey or pink slime? Need to track your business's product in the media? You can learn about the latest trends or specific subjects using Topsy, a social media search engine, to see what's going on in public status updates around the world. On top of that, sign in to Follower Wonk with your Twitter account to search Twitter bios, as well as to compare up to three Twitter feeds to see statistics about who follows those feeds and how much they tweet. This is a great tool for businesspeople looking to promote a product, or for average nerds who love statistics and graphs.

If you're looking for some face-to-face time, use Google+ Hangouts, which requires only a simple plug-in installation and a Google account to gather up to ten people in a video chat. As long as you have a solid video connection, Hangouts works reliably and seamlessly shifts the main window to whoever is talking in the group. AV by AOL is similar, as it lets up to four people chat at the same time, but it has no plug-in to install, and no need for you to set up an account: Simply share the link to your video-chat session, and anyone with a webcam can get in.


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