The Essential Guide to Automating Twitter by Using Google Reader, IFTTT, Instapaper and Buffer
As I have written in previous posts, I am on a journey to organize and automate my personal and business life. One particular area of focus has been Twitter and other social media participations such as Facebook and Linkedin. Anyone who effectively manages a social media account knows that it involves a little more than just writing what’s on your mind and posting. Your responsibility involves finding or creating great content to share, evaluating your tweets and selecting the best time to send them out to ensure they enjoy the greatest readership. Those celebrities who have massive followings often outsource this work, including the content of the tweet. As an individual, and in order to maintain a certain level of integrity and originality, I take on the entire task.
That being said, I have employed a level of automating for my tweets that eliminates the manual process of curating, submitting and scheduling tweets. This level of automation, however, ensures that I maintain quality but allows me to do it more effectively, thus allowing me to free up time to engage with my followers, respond to tweets, create new conversations, and ensure that my content is targeted to those who may have an interest.
I use four tools to support content. They are Google Reader (I use Newsify as my newsreader app on my Ipad and iPhone), Instapaper, IFTTT and Buffer. For the purpose of the article, I’ll focus on sharing information already available on the internet (so the curator role, versus content that is 100% original and doesn’t include a link).
In order to support my interests and blog research, I have consolidated all of the websites that I follow in Google Reader. I have the content capped at 1,000 unread articles, and I typically scan through that amount daily (usually before 7am). I very rarely read the articles that I’m interested in when I first scan or tweet them real-time. My goal with scanning is to basically create a shortlist of articles that I believe my Twitter followers will appreciate me sharing with them. In some cases I may see the same news headline, but from different sources; in that case I try to pick a preference. I use the Newsify application on my IOS devices. I tested a number of newsreaders, but this is the one I found most user-friendly. The key to my selection is the star function. This is where the automation really starts to take effect.
Starring an article automatically updates Google reader with a star rating. Now, technically I could have the whole process bypass the next steps and post to Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin, but I chose to introduce a quality control step. I use a standard rule within IFTTT (IF THIS, THEN THAT) that sends the article to Instapaper. Why do I do this? Well, because I have only skimmed the articles at this point and not really read them in detail. If I tried to read every article in detail I would be signed up for a full-time reading job. So, this creates my shortlist. So, I log on to Instapaper when I have time and review each of the articles in more detail. If I feel they are worthy of sharing I “like” them by selecting the heart in my Instapaper app or website.
Now, this is where the magic happens. When I select that like button, IFTTT engages another rule that sends the article to my Bufferapp.com account and schedules the article for tweeting. This is then posted based my optimal Twitter schedule that I have established. You can determine this manually or you can use a social media analysis tool like Socialbro (I profiled that in Caboodle of the Week) that predicts the best times to tweet during the day by analysing your followers’ activity. That’s a nice tool to have but costs money, so it’s not mandatory (but certainly worth checking out).
Since tweets are scheduled there is still an opportunity to review and edit them in the buffer application by adding personal commentary, hash tags or specific Twitter accounts. You can add some of this in the IFTTT rules, but I like to add a personal touch and avoid including a hashtag that seems inappropriate for the subject.
I have attached screenshots that highlight the steps below so you can easily follow along and try this for yourself. If you feel the quality step with Instapaper is not necessary, you can follow just steps 1 and 2. You’ll get the same result. If you want to learn more about each of the applications and websites I use, then follow the links below. The application of the features and functions of IFTTT are pretty much endless and we would need to develop a whole new website just to guide you through the various possibilities.