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By “social” I am not asking if your phone is nice to your friends ‘cause that’s just weird.  Plus, I don’t want to assume you even have friends!  Come to think of it, if you don’t have a social circle at all you should probably not read on, just go out, get some friends and come back.

If you’re still here it’s highly likely you are using social networks in some way to connect to family and friends or to chat with like-minded people.  Every smartphone has some way to interact with social networks but let’s take a look at how Windows Phone can keep you in touch with your social circle.

Facebook

The most integrated of social networks for Windows Phone 7 is most certainly facebook.  As you probably already know, Microsoft uses a hub metaphor for certain areas of the interface.  The best example has to be the “People” hub.  

In the people hub you can pull contact information from many sources, including facebook.  You can do this by either going to the settings and adding facebook under “emails & accounts” or if you open the people hub you can tap and hold on the word “people” at the top of the screen.  A box will pop up with “settings” in it.

Once set up with your facebook login information you will see facebook contacts and their status updates in the people hub.  You can search for a contact to see their contact information and updates or look at all updates sorted by date and time.

Since this is something built into the OS itself it is a very quick way to look at the updates from your friends.  You can even read and post comments and “like” those updates.  It’s an excellent integration of facebook and great way for you to stay in touch.

Windows Live

Windows wha?  Yeah, not a lot of people use it (comparatively), but I thought I should mention that Windows Live is included in the people hub as well.  It works the same way, showing updates from your status but will also show other content such as blog updates.  Go to Live.com and log in to add content to your feed.

Twitter

Ah, Twitter...where to begin.  With the tens of millions of Twitter users out there you would have expected Microsoft to integrate it as tightly as it has Facebook, but no such luck.  Twitter is not included in the people hub and isn’t even a service you can add through Windows Live.  Honestly, I have no idea why it was left out.  Twitter is obviously important enough to its massive number of users that it would have been a natural to include.

The problem with using Twitter apps on Windows Phone is that there have been few choices and generally require reloading each time you want to jump in.  Often times, you want to jump on to Twitter, post something and get out but with no multitasking in Windows Phone for third-party apps that takes far too long.  Here’s hoping Microsoft acknowledges that most smartphone users want twitter integration and get on the ball! (Not that I’m angry about it or anything...)

Since we don’t have a choice (no bitterness!) let me suggest a few options for Twitter apps:

Official Twitter app

It’s been there since day one but really has not seen any significant updates.  While the app works alright it is really lacking compared to most other platforms.  There are no notifications and the tile on your home screen does not show unread tweets.  

Once you are in the app it works fine but is fairly slow.

Pro tip! In the Twitter app settings change the cache to “high”.  This will hold more tweets in memory and load much faster.

With the above tip you will enjoy this app much more but will still have to wait for tweets to refresh every time you open it.  Even going from timeline to mentions will cause it to refresh, which can take a bit of time, but certainly more bearable with the cache change.

Seesmic

Also been there right from the start and a fairly well done Twitter client, sans notifications and live tile message counts.  Come on guys!  Give us notifications and live tiles!

The app itself works just fine but you do have to wait for it to load and refresh every time you go in to it.  It’s biggest claim to fame is that you can also add Facebook.  This will allow you to read status updates and post your status, but more importantly, you can post a status update to both Facebook and Twitter.

Beezz

A lot of people may not have heard about or tried the twitter client beezz, which is a real shame because...IT HAS NOTIFICATIONS!! [cue angelic voices]

With a recent update to this app the developer added notifications and it’s wonderful to have!  Even better; with the next update we will have live tile tweet counts for timeline, mentions and messages.  [more angelic voices]

When you start this client you are greeted to a screen showing a summary list that includes tweets, mentions and messages and showed the number of unread in each.  It still takes time each time this app is started, but at least with notifications and the coming live tile changes you will know if you should bother.  You can see the version that is coming soon in this video.

Chatting

This one is a sore spot with me.  With Live Messenger being one of the most used messaging services out there this should really have been integrated with the OS and should show in the messaging hub.  Instead, the only option right now is a fairly poorly written app from a third-party developer.

The name of the app is Messenger by Miyowa and it had an absolutely terrible start.  It currently only has a rating of 2 out of 5 but is still our only option.  It has actually been getting constant updates, some of which have seemed to do nothing, but it is improving and is more stable now.

Why Microsoft decided to leave this up to a developer I don’t know.  We can only hope that others (I’m looking at you, Fring!) will come to windows phone and add services such as google chat.

Windows Phone doesn’t do too bad a job at working with social networks to keep us connected with friends and family while on the go, but there is certainly a lot more growing and maturing that needs to happen.  Let’s hope that happens quickly!  All that’s left after that is for you to get some friends! ;)


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