Managing Social Media with IFTTT

Yesterday I attended the first *official* meeting of the Maryland Library Association’s Social Media User Group. The primary discussion focused around a panel of local library professionals who are active in managing library social media accounts. Throughout this discussion, several tools were mentioned for managing multiple social media accounts to create a cohesive presence across platforms. With many of the panelists singing the praises of “IFTTT” for managing content, and several attendees left wanting to know more, the site seems ripe for further discussion in the library world.

What is “IFTTT?”

If This Then That logo

“IFTTT” (pronounced like “gift” without the “g”) stands for “If This Then That.” It is a web-based service that allows you to create automatic connections between different internet applications. These applications, which IFTTT calls “channels,” currently include over 50 sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Delicious, as well as productivity applications like email and Google Drive. Once you’ve created your IFTTT account, you can activate any of the channels in which you have an account and would like to link to other applications.

After activating channels, you will be able to create “recipes” to automatically link content across accounts or to automate activities you perform frequently. Recipes consist of a “trigger” from one channel that leads to an “action” in another channel. Want to archive your Facebook posts as a journal in Evernote? Or automatically post a link of your most recent blog post to your Facebook timeline? Create a recipe!

Recipes in IFTTT

Create Recipe in IFTTT

Create a Recipe in IFTTT

IFTTT gives you the option to set up personal recipes or share your recipes with other users. This means there are already several shared recipes set up for IFTTT channels that you can use or view as examples.

IFTTT leads you through creating a new recipe in a few simple steps. Let’s say I want all of our new LibTechTalk posts to automatically appear as links on my Facebook page. First, I select the channel that will initiate the trigger (or the “this” in the “if this then that” chain).

Choose Trigger in IFTTT

Choosing a trigger channel in IFTTT

Once I’ve selected a channel, I need to choose a trigger action. For this recipe, I’ll choose “Any new post” in the WordPress channel. This means my recipe will be “triggered” every time a new post appears on LibTechTalk.

Choose Trigger in IFTTT

Choose “Any new post” in the WordPress as the recipe trigger.

Next, I choose the channel in which I want the next action to occur (or the “that” in the “if this then that” chain).

Choose action in IFTTT

Setting up an action

In this case, I want the action to occur on my Facebook page, and will select the Facebook channel accordingly. Then, I’ll choose the action I want to occur in Facebook, in this case “Create a link post.”

Choose action in IFTTT

Choose an action in IFTTT

After selecting the action, I can customize how the post will appear in on my Facebook page.

Complete action in IFTTT

Customize an action

Finally, add in a description of the recipe and I’m done! I can also choose to share the recipe with other users, turn the recipe “off,” or delete the recipe altogether.

Finished personal recipe

A personal recipe in IFTTT

Using IFTTT

Although IFTTT does not allow you to monitor any of the activity in your social media accounts, it takes some of the hassle out of linking activities and content across several different sites. You will still need to manage the spontaneous engagement that is so important in cultivating a vibrant social media presence, but IFTTT can help you automate the routine tasks you find yourself completing time and time again. Best of all, IFTTT is free to use and can be accessed anywhere you have internet access.

Ready to dive into IFTTT?

How do you use IFTTT? Do you have any great recipes? Tell us in the comments!

 

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Guest Post: Using Google Fusion Tables for Address Data

Today we’re featuring a guest post by Ilana Barnes. Take it away, Ilana!

Data is out there. I would refrain from saying good data is out there, or even relevant data is out there. As Kim said, we are in the “year of the infographic,” and we are equally in the “year of the unruly excel document.” When one is lucky enough to receive large amounts of data that is relevant, they may stare down at their excel or SPS document and then say: “Now what?”

One type of data becoming increasingly accessible is addresses. More and more companies and organizations post their address online. They are aggregated up into somewhat tidy databases like RefUSA and OneSource, accessible on many college campuses and local public libraries. Once bound in the white pages, this address data is the meat of many new and exciting ways to research. With information about where companies are, you can find a great number of exciting things. For example, the location of food stores in Detroit can help you locate food deserts. The location of Targets in the United States can help you predict where next to put your big box store. I just had a chat yesterday with a professor who researches how industry is affected by natural disasters, using location-based disaster data and addresses as well as other indicators.

Working with data may not be a common task for all academic librarians, but there are a lot of possibilities once you start diving in.  As a future Business Librarian, I learned about better ways of dealing with address data because so many students were asking location-based questions. Where do I put the Walmart? Which city has the most crime and where? For those who feel a little less steady diving into data-related questions, address data can be a good, solid place to start exploring. Beyond the reference desk,  questions that librarians ask can be answered through use of address data. Where are comparable services to my library? Where are the different campuses of your university where you trying a specific information literacy strategy and where are the campuses of your partner institutions?

Sold on address data? Excellent! We’re going to go over some tools for working with address data. Firstly, if all you want to do is create a map of addresses, BatchGeo is an excellent tool for taking all those address and putting them on a Google map. You can code 150,000 address per IP per day, and create a Google map which you can then enhance using the Google interface, either drawing polygons or adding metadata. But what if you want to do some other visualizations?

Google Fusion Tables is an awesome product. Google Fusion Tables also can geocode addresses into a Google map.

Why I like Fusion Tables:

  • Different types of visualization
  • Sweet, sweet fusion. The merging capabilities of Google Fusion
  • Collaboration. You can share your data sets relatively securely via Google Fusion Tables with research partners. This is great for us librarians, who often want to work together on large, spreadsheet heavy projects.
  • You can link it up to Google Refine for those more squirrelly datasets.

Here’s an example with some roughly 300 gas stations in the city of Detroit.
Here is the data as it looks in Excel. Ugly.

Ugly data in Excel.

Here’s what it looks like geocoded (editor’s note: for an interactive version of these charts, see Ilana’s blog):

Geocoded data.

Another view (this time using some sales data as well):

Another view (more pie charty). I understand this is a terrible pie chart, but it’s very aesthetically pleasing.

Pie Chart

For a very effective run-through what makes Google Fusion Tables wonderful, check out this YouTube video from Google.


Ilana Barnes is Business Information Specialist (Assistant Professor of Library Science) at Purdue University since May 2012. In April, she graduated from the University of Michigan with a Masters of Science in Information. Her main research interests are information literacy, data, GIS and gamification. You can visit her website at http://ilanabarnes.com or follow her on Twitter, @librarianailana.

Guest Post: Google Docs Forms

Librarians everywhere want to know what their patrons are thinking.  Which titles does the public or campus community want added to the collection this year?  Are they interested in library instruction workshops? How effective was my library instruction anyhow?  Basically, we want to know how we could do a better job with what we are already doing and what we should be doing differently.  How do we often get this information?  Enter the survey.

Many of us already have experience with online survey forms such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang.  Google Docs Forms are a little different in the way they work.  Every form is automatically attached to a Google Docs Spreadsheet, similar to Excel.  When someone fills out a form you have created the data they input is automatically populated to Google Docs Spreadsheet where it can then be viewed or manipulated.

Why would you want to use Google Docs Forms for surveys?

The single best answer is flexibility, but here are a few other details to consider:

  • Google Docs Forms are a free part of the overall Google Docs suite of tools.  There are no subscription fees to deal with.

    Image of how to open a new Googledoc Form.

    Start creating a form in your Googledoc account by selecting "Create new," then click on "Form."

  • Surveys can be quickly and easily created from an individual account.  You don’t have to ask someone else for access to a specialized survey account.  Forms can be created and edited by anyone who has a Google account.
  • Forms can be shared with others.  Do you have multiple people who need to work with the data collected?  You can give access to anyone with an email address to look at and manage data.
  • There are multiple ways in which you can let users access survey forms.  You can send a link or you can use the embed code provided to put the survey on your own web page.
  • Google Docs Forms have a variety of themes that allow you to change the look and feel of your form.  This is especially useful when you are embedding the survey on your own website so that it can match the look of your pages.  Take a look at and fill out the form I created for this blog post that I embedded on a LibGuide here.

The main drawback to Google Docs Forms is that there are less question types to choose from than you would find in some of the other survey tools out there.

Personally, in my role as a librarian for distance and off-campus programs, getting feedback from the library users I serve is especially challenging.  It is not so easy to drop by and have a chat with them, nor are they likely to visit the physical library very often, if ever.  I have found embedding Google Docs Forms on a library website to be a successful way to collect information from students.  Because they are so easy to create I have also begun to use forms to organize personal work tasks.  For instance, I use a form to to enter data on items I want to look at later for collection development.

Google Docs Forms are a great tool to experiment with.  I recommend finding a colleague interested in trying it out with you and experimenting together.

Click here for a step by step getting started tutorial for librarians.

Features to take advantage of

  • Choose a theme that matches your website or the season.

Google form theme image

Example of an embedded form.

  • Manage survey results in a Google Docs Spreadsheet.

Example of form results in a Google spreadsheet


Gabe Gossett is the Librarian for Extended Education and Human Services at Western Washington University.  His professional interests include outreach to distance education students, service-learning in libraries, and for-credit library instruction.  He is currently immersed in a project to expand the use of LibAnswers reference tracking software to all of the library service desks, teaching an online research skills class, and revising a research mentoring service-learning class.

You don’t have to be just a Libtechtalk groupie. Did you know that this blog is looking for guest authors? Contact ctomlinson at towson.edu to find out how you to o can write about your favorite technologies and how they might be used in academic libraries.

Guest Post: Sign me up! Event registration with GoogleDocs and Calendar

By now, if you’re not a GoogleDocs convert, you at least know enough about it to resist it’s Google-y charms. If you fall into the latter group, well, you might just come around by the end of this post.

Nestled among Google’s answer to the trifecta of productivity software is a gem that will make registration for your next library workshop a breeze, especially when used with Google Calendar.

Behold the Form:
Google Form

Essentially, it’s a very stripped down survey-making application that feeds results into an accompanying spreadsheet. To get started:

1. Create a new Form from the GoogleDocs front page.
2. Add a name and a description for your event.
3. Add your question fields with the Add Item button. (Here you can choose a question type – text, paragraph, scale, etc. For registration forms, I use Text and ask for first and last name, email address and academic department.)
4. I like to edit the confirmation message – the note students get when the form is submitted. Do this under More Actions.
5. Also under More Actions, select Embed and copy the code for your form.

Edit form

Now you can add the code to a web page, but why stop there? Go a step further and paste it into the description field of an event in Google Calendar.

Edit event

The trick here is to tweak the HTML a little to make a link instead of an embedded object. I just change the <iframe src> tag to an <a href> tag and edit what I want the link to say.

Finally, take the code for the Google Calendar and paste it into your website. This code can be found in Calendar Settings for the desired calendar.

Calendar code

Now, you have a fully integrated library events calendar and sign up sheet. When participants fill out the form, their responses will be added to a spreadsheet in your GoogleDocs item list.

One last detail I like to customize, is notification – you can be sent an email when someone submits the online form. To set this up, open the spreadsheet, go to Tools → Notification Rules.

Notification rules

This GoogleDocs/Calendar combination has been immensely helpful in setting up workshop registration and keeping attendees organized. Plus, it has all the benefits that come with GoogleDocs – it’s web-based so I can set up registration forms anywhere and I can add co-instructors who can view the class list and make any needed edits. To see all this in action, feel free to check out my workshop calendar.


Allie Jordan is the Emerging Technologies and Instructional Services Librarian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  While she’s not exploring the ins and outs of the graduate student psyche, she’s cross stitching or watching roller derby.

You don’t have to be just a Libtechtalk groupie. Did you know that this blog is looking for guest authors? Contact ctomlinson at towson.edu to find out how you too can write about your favorite technologies and how they might be used in academic libraries.

pimp your search engine

A Google custom search engine can be embedded into your website

A Google custom search engine lets you determine the websites that Google searches.

In a world where just about everything can be customized, don’t forget to customize your web searching. Google offers users the ability to create custom search engines (CSEs), searching only the sites that you specify. So, if you hate the fact that Wikipedia is the top result when you search for ‘information literacy‘, maybe it’s time to do something about it.

Some librarians have already begun creating CSEs. Amalia Monroe at University of Kansas created a custom search for the 2008 Presidential Elections, which she embedded in the library’s resource guide for the elections. David Oldenkamp at Indiana University Libraries has done something similar for searching intergovernmental organizations. Monroe (2008) says that CSEs “meet patrons where they are by allowing them to search the Web in an environment they are most likely comfortable (Google), but at the same time helping them to learn about different, and possibly better, information sources.”

Many corporations, organizations, and individuals are creating CSEs that search their websites, including some of Towson’s own library superstars, Amanda Taylor and Claire Holmes. This provides a quick and easy method for visitors to search your page.

Additonally, you could create a CSE for your own personal use. Do you have a favorite set of websites you visit for reading up on library-related topics, for finding bibliographic information, for learning more about using technologies in the library environment (maybe a blog???)? You can create a custom search to help you with any of these activities and more. (Now if only database vendors would open up access to their databases…)

“How can I do this?”, you ask?

  1. Go to http://www.google.com/coop/cse/
  2. Click the “Create a Custom Search Engine” button
  3. Sign in (yes, you need to have a Google account)
  4. Name your search engine
  5. Describe your search engine
  6. Choose keywords that describe the content of your search engine
  7. Add a list of URLs that you want your CSE to search
  8. Click “Next” (be sure to check the “Do not show ads…” box)
  9. Click “Finish”

A couple tips

  • Make a list of websites before you actually start creating your CSE (maybe use iBreadCrumbs to find and track websites you want to include in your CSE)
  • Don’t worry if the Preview of your search engine doesn’t work in Step 2. It’s never worked for me, but my CSEs still work.
  • You can add or delete websites , and make other changes to your search engine after you create it, using the “manage your existing search engines” link.

To add your CSE to your website, click the “manage your existing search engines” link (login if you aren’t already). Click “homepage” next to the search engine you want to add to your website. Click “Add this search engine to your blog or homepage”. Customize the design (size, border, etc.) and hit “Get the code”. Then, copy & paste the HTML code into your website, subject guide, or blog.

Just in time for the holidays, I’ve created a CSE for holiday information. Try it out!


Monroe, A. (2008). Organizing the 2008 presidential election: the creation of a custom search engine. C&RL News, 69(9), 540-543