Since its initial launch as a microblogging service in 2006, Twitter has taken the World Wide Web by storm, and if there’s ever a popularity contest among social networking platforms, Twitter would most likely be the winner. On its own, Twitter is a great service for connecting with people. However, without the third party tools, it wouldn’t be as phenomenal as it is today. There are countless Twitter tools and apps available today. Here’s a list of six that are sure to be useful and effective in building relationships with your Twitter followers. The first section introduces some basic tools, which you can skip if you’re already a Twitter expert. The second section describes tools that you may not have previously heard of, but are worth checking out since they can boost visibility, traffic, and clients. The Basics Link Shorteners – Most Tweets (posts) on Twitter are not the usual “what I had for lunch” Tweets, but are more often people sharing links of articles, videos, photos, and more. Sharing links is a great way to help people better understand your field of interest and expertise while also helping them discover great content online. However, many links are very long, and do not fit within Twitter’s 140-character limit – so as the term implies, a link shortener shortens a specific link/URL. Try sites like Bit.ly , TinyURL and tr.im to easily condense your very long URLs into just 15-20 characters, leaving you room to comment.In addition to the practical need of shorter URLs, a majority of these tools also provide useful tracking reports so you can monitor the number of people who clicked on your links, which were the most popular, the dates when people clicked them, as well as give you an idea which topics are the most popular with your Twitter community. TweetMeme – That ever-present gray and green “re-tweet” logo enables readers to quickly re-post or “re-tweet” your post to their own Twitter followers. TweetMeme is a wonderful means to encourage your audience to spread the news about your status, tips, and words of wisdom.Like link shorteners, TweetMeme also tracks your links as they pass through the Twitterverse, and shows the total number of times your link was re-tweeted. Aside from helping you determine the popularity of given topics, it also lets the feisty competitor in us compare the success of our posts versus others and even ourselves. TwitPic – This is one of the numerous tools that let you take pictures with your mobile phone and post them directly on Twitter. Other similar tools are: TwitGoo , img.ly and yfrog . These tools are also usually integrated into whatever Twitter mobile application you’re using. You can also obtain statistics to monitor responses on your pictures. You can still also opt to link your followers to a Flickr account, Facebook page, or a web page that displays your pictures. Cast your Twitter net even farther… There are a lot of nifty Twitter applications out there that will help you create a solid and engaged community. When you’re ready to take your Twitter skills to the next level, below are three tools to get you started. TweetSwell – This great app allows you to create Twitter-based polls, wherein each reply doubles as a tweet and helps the poll become viral. TweetSwell can also help maintain your brand identity by ensuring that your poll pages are synchronized with your custom-made Twitter layout. Similar apps are: Twtpoll and TwtSurvey . TwtVite – Somewhat related to Eventbrite , TwtVite enables you to use Twitter to get together in the real world. Check out the animated video to get a feel for how it works. For an actual example, read this case study about a Milwaukee bar owner who used TwtVite in hosting the biggest Tweetup in the Midwest . TwtQpon – Online coupons offer small businesses a fantastic opportunity to drive lots of new and repeat clients. This app creates online coupons that can be published on Twitter and many other social network sites. While apps such as Groupon and Living Social can also make online coupons, TwtQpon is specifically designed for social networks.