How To Configure TweetDeck To Save API Drain And Engage With Your Followers

TweetDeck is a popular Twitter client of which I am a big fan. The bulk of my interaction with the Twitter stream comes via TweetDeck (on the road I use Dabr) for one simple reason: it makes Twitter a lot better.

TweetDeck at the time of writing has a market share on Twitter of somewhere between 13 and 16 per cent, depending on who you believe. That’s a pretty decent slice (Twitter.com itself only accounts for around 30 per cent).

One of the few drawbacks with TweetDeck is the API limitations. This is imposed on all external clients by Twitter (i.e., Tweetie, Dabr etc), and it limits users to 100 requests from the Twitter API every sixty minutes, beginning at the time you make your first request. When you interact with TweetDeck in various ways you use API. Different events have a different impact on the amount of API you use. When you use up all of your API (and if you run multiple Twitter clients concurrently they’re all calling on that API), TweetDeck won’t update again until that hour is up and the API resets back to 100 again. (Twitter.com has no API limit, which is one of its few major advantages over external clients.)

You can monitor your API usage and the amount remaining within TweetDeck – it’s displayed in the top-right of the screen at all times. But unless you’re very careful with how you use it, it’s very easy to run that API down frustratingly quickly, and then you’ve effectively ‘locked out’ of TweetDeck until the API resets.

There are lots of tutorials on TweetDeck around the internet, but few, if any, touch upon saving API. By following the advice in this tutorial, you can cut your API drainage by as much as half, and you’ll likely never run out again.

Basic TweetDeck Configuration

When you first install TweetDeck it defaults to a few simple columns – All Friends, Replies and Direct Messages. This is quite limiting. This is how I set up my TweetDeck:

My TweetDeck

(click to enlarge)

Note that I’m use a Samsung NC10 netbook and my screen is only 10-inches across, so I see less on my screen (both in terms of width and height) than anybody using a 15-inch screen or bigger. It doesn’t make any difference to how I interact with my followers, simply because of how I set it up.

Within TweetDeck I have the following columns (from left-to-right):

  • A group called ‘Interesting People’
  • The All Friends pane
  • A search window
  • Twitscoop
  • Direct Messages (just off screen)

My ‘Interesting People’ group contains everybody whose tweets I really don’t want to miss. I’m not sure how many users I have in there – maybe a hundred – and I update it constantly, adding new folk who are both interesting and informative.

The All Friends pane is self-explanatory. This allows me to interact and keep up with my entire stream (which is currently well over 1000 people). Jesse Newhart has great advice on his blog about how you can use the filters on TweetDeck to both follow an enormous number of users and interact fully with them, and it’s a recommended read.

The search window is where it starts to get interesting. This is one way you can save an enormous amount of API calls you make to Twitter, and here’s how.

Swap Your Reply Column For A Username Search

Delete your reply column in TweetDeck – you don’t need that. It’s limited for the same reasons it’s limited on Twitter.com.

Instead, open a new search pane by clicking on the search icon (see image above). Within this box, enter your username, preceded by a backslash (\) and then the @ symbol. For example: