Ever tried to share a Twitter account with someone else? Probably not, but there are a growing number of businesses that do it on a daily basis. And until Twitter's own "contributors" service is available to the general public, there's room for companies that have come up with solutions that don't require sharing your log-in or e-mail credentials with others.
BirdHerd, which is opening up to a large group of beta testers Wednesday, does just that. As an account owner, you simply give BirdHerd the OK through OAuth to send out messages to your account. This means you never actually have to give the service or any contributors your Twitter log-in. And better yet, if you ever change your password, everything will still work.
After you've picked the contributors (the people who get to post to that account), the entire system works through direct messages--be it from inside Twitter or any third-party Twitter app. Contributors can then add a one- or two-letter command to their direct message to have the system do things like:
- Send a message that gets sent out to all the contributors' direct message in-boxes
- Send a direct message to another Twitter user (from the group account)
- Send out a tweet that gets posted to the main account (which includes their username)
- Follow another user from the main account
- And send out a reply or a direct message to another user.
What's really neat here is the option to have all the direct messages that get sent to the main account re-sent to all the other contributors. This takes sharing an e-mail address out of the equation, and lets everyone see these messages from their own accounts. It also shows who sent them.
The one downside to all of this (besides not having a central dashboard as competing services like HootSuite and CoTweet offer), is that there is some lag. In our testing it took four or five minutes for messages to even start filtering in, though after that it was less than a minute per message. You also lose out on being able to send direct messages to the main user without having it post to their account, which could lead to you accidentally posting something you didn't want everyone to see if you forget.
This service really is incredibly easy to use, though; you just add your contributors and get going. The hardest part is definitely remembering the little one- or two-letter commands, but that shouldn't be a problem if you bookmark or print the service's cheat sheet page.
Along with the free service, which supports up to 10 contributors, BirdHerd plans to have a paid service that will up that number, and add analytics that track where those tweets go. However, that service isn't due for a couple of months. In the meantime, BirdHerd remains in private beta, though we've got a code that will get you in instantly. Just plug "CNET_300" (without the quotation marks) into the invite box and you'll be good to go.