Lately, I’ve noticed a number of online archaeology and history related databases beginning to use Twitter to auto-tweet whenever a new piece of data is added to their, er, base. Some of these include the Digital Archaeological Record (@DigArchRec), Looted Heritage (@LootedHeritage), and Archaeology Field Work (@archfieldwork). For the most part, I think this is a great idea: for many of us, Twitter can be used as both a communication device and as a broadcasting tool. In the latter instance, the best content to broadcast reflects the “brand” of your institution. If you’re an online data repository, then broadcasting additions to your site does a number things: it drives people back to your resource and it makes public that your resource is regularly used and updated. Setting up an auto-tweet is an easy way to do this, and there are plenty of tools that make this an easy activity.
One of the problems with auto-tweeting, however, is that it often happens in batches, meaning that you can eat up an entire person’s twitter feed with five different posts at once. The way most of these auto-tweets work is that a program like dlvr.it searches your content RSS feed for new entries, and then pushes those out as tweets, and many times does it at the same time every day. This is fine, except it means that, if you added ten items during the day, ten Twitter posts will appear on your at exactly the same time, which will monopolize most people’s Twitter streams. In conversation with Shawn Graham (@electricarchaeo), who built Looted Heritage, this was one of his major concerns for setting up an auto-tweet: he didn’t want the content to be viewed as spam, since that decreases the value of the actual content through the medium he’s using to broadcast it. So, we came up with a better solution, using two easy and cheap tools: If This Then That and Buffer App.
These are tools that I use all the time. I’ve written about IFTTT many times: this is a tool that creates “tasks” to automate the Internet through If This Then That statements. Buffer is a wonderful social media tool that schedules your tweets out over the course of the day, automatically. I use it personally all the time if I’m reading a bunch of articles in my RSS feed, and don’t want to dump five articles in a row on my Twitter feed: instead, I email them to Buffer, which schedules each tweet into a time slot to be published later in the day (it can also post to Facebook and LinkedIn). Of course, IFTTT and Buffer work together. You can set an IFTTT statement that includes forwarding to Buffer.
So, for Looted Heritage, Shawn set an IFTTT rule that probably looks something like this: In IFTTT set up a task that states that If there is a new item on my RSS feed Then send that item to Buffer. This way, IFTT captures all the new posts, but sends them to Buffer, not to your Twitter account. Buffer then sends them out on your pre-determined schedule throughout the day. Click here to get the IFTTT Recipe (be sure to enter your own RSS Feed!):
Why is this a good idea? First, you avoid spamming folks, which is always nice. This ups the value of your content, and will make people more likely to follow you. Second, it makes it easier for folks to read your content: for me, I’ll only get to click on one of your five tweets until the rest of them have been pushed down by other people (I follow a lot of folks). Third, it spreads your content out throughout the day. This means that more people are likely to see your content. Let’s say your auto-tweet goes out at 8 am EST. You’ve just burned all of your content on people who are awake at 8 am on the East Coast, meaning that most of the United States is probably going to miss your post. By spreading your content out, you’re able to ensure that items will be visible by a larger audience, which is the whole point in the first place. In all, adopting these tools will allow you to approach social media better, without adding any additional time.
How have you used buffer or ifttt? Are there other ways to automate RSS feeds that accomplishes the same goals? Do you have any questions about them? Drop a comment below or shoot me a note!
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