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!

 

Thought you could only check out at the library? Try checking in.

Whether you know it or not, patrons may already be “checking in” at your library!  Foursquare, the latest social networking application is slowly catching on around the country and the library is not immune.  Most basically, Foursquare, along with other similar applications (loopt.com, gowalla.com,and brightkite.com) gives the user a way to share his or her location with his or her friends on Foursquare as well as Twitter and Facebook if desired.  However, a patron advertising use of the library (by checking in) to his or her friends is just one of the many ways that a library can use Foursquare for library marketing and even instruction!

One of the major draws of Foursquare for its users is that it has game components.  Not only are you letting your friends know where you are, but you are also competing against them for the most places visited.  Additionally, Foursquare has integrated a “mayorship”  aspect where the person who checks in at a particular location the most becomes mayor.  As a Foursquare user myself, I’m surprised as to what lengths I’ll go to just to become mayor of my favorite places.  Libraries can further this competition by giving an incentive to patrons who become mayor.  Incentives can range from prizes such as library t-shirts or mugs even to library fine reversal!  Libraries without money for prizes could give the prize of fame by posting the mayor’s name prominently in the library.

Cook Library Foursquare Tip

Foursquare can even be used as an instructional tool.  Tips can be added to locations so that when a person checks in at your library or at an establishment near your library, a tip will pop up on the screen.  Multiple tips can be added by you and your patrons, however only one tip per check in will be displayed.  As these tips are displayed, they can be saved by the user and checked off as they are accomplished.  This system could most certainly be used in a library or university orientation session.

In addition to points, mayorships, and tips, Foursquare also has another gaming component- badges.  Badges are available for completing any number of different check-ins.  Get the “Gym Rat” badge for checking in at a gym facility ten or more times in a month, or get the “School Night” badge for checking in after 3am on a school night!  How could these badges be used at a library or university setting?  Companies, organizations, and even universities are working with Foursquare to develop badges related to events or in the case of Harvard University places around campus.  Harvard’s badge is used for new student orientation.  While getting a badge developed for an individual library maybe a difficult task, working with other libraries or even the university at large may help development.  That badge  could be used in turn for a variety of marketing, instructional, and even recruitment purposes.

What about privacy!?!?  While Foursquare does share a person’s location, it does so only when that person chooses to share.  A user can even check in without sharing his or her location with anyone, therefore accumulating points, badges, or mayorships without divulging location information.  Another thing to keep in mind is that your library location is most likely on Foursquare whether you put it there or not, so why not capitalize on something that your patrons are already using?  While I’m not sure I’d recommend that libraries or universities require students to play Foursquare for any assignment, Foursquare is a great way to market services to students already using the social networking tool.

Why let code hold you back? Websites with Google Sites.

Are you sick of asking your programmer or IT person to help you build a website?  Are you lost when students ask you about Dreamweaver?  Google Sites might be a great option for you.  Whether you don’t have the skills or simply the time, Google Sites is a great option for quickly creating subject guides, course pages, or even entire library websites.

Design
Without the need for any coding or external programs such as Dreamweaver, you can create a surprisingly robust and customized website.  While there are many built-in templates and themes to easily style your site, with a little more work, you can also customize the colors, layouts, fonts, etc.  Some of these advanced features can get a bit confusing, but the built-in themes should be adequate for the beginner user.

Web Address
Another nice feature of Google Sites is that you can also use your own web address for the page.  Google Sites however, does not supply these custom domains therefore you must buy the domain from a third party and set it up through the domain registrar.  For beginners or those not needing a custom url, Google Sites will give you an address similar to
http://sites.google.com/site/carissa_tomlinson.

Collaboration and Privacy
What would a website be these days without some interaction and collaboration?  Google Sites not only allows multiple people to collaborate on the website development, but it also can be comment enabled, allowing readers to add content much like comments on a blog.  Don’t want people to comment on your webpages?  No problem, simply don’t enable comments.  What if you don’t even want the general population to be able to see your website?   No worries, Google Sites allows you to make your website private and shared only to designated people.  A private Google Site could even be used as a sort of library intranet!

Things to Know

  • Any content you create is hosted by Google which means that if Google Sites goes away, it’s possible so will your site.
  • You cannot copy the source code and put it into an HTML or CSS file to host on your own server.
  • You cannot import a CSS file to style your page, but you can use inline CSS and HTML tags.
  • You have a limit of 100 Mb of storage per site (for uploaded images, videos, etc.)
  • There are no ads, but you can choose to add targeted ads and actually get paid any revenue from the ads!
  • Powered by Google Sites will appear at the bottom of your pages.

Now go and put something on the web!

Working with Wiggio

A while ago I wrote a blog entry on wikis, specifically WetPaint Wikis.  One major reason that people use wikis is that they can provide a centralized place to work on committee or group projects.  While wikis are extremely versatile and can be used for multiple purposes, they don’t generally have an inherent structure which means that someone has to carefully set up the structure much like one would build a website.  If you need a centralized place for group work and want something even easier than a wiki, Wiggio is the place for you!  Unlike wikis, Wiggio was created with the specific purpose to facilitate online group work and contains many additional features that wikis don’t provide.

Wiggio incorporates a variety of social technologies into an easy-to-use shared web portal.  Next time your committee needs a shared online space, simply set up a Wiggio page and invite members of your committee to the page.  You’ll be able to not only share links, documents, polls, and a calendar, but Wiggio also gives you a variety of mechanisms to communicate directly on or from the group page.  Wiggio allows group members to leave typed or voice recorded notes for each other as well as easily send email or text messages to group members directly from the group page.  Wiggio also incorporates virtual meeting software into the group page so members can chat online, hold a teleconference (at a phone number provided by Wiggio), and even have a virtual meeting with full screen and document sharing,  as well as webcam capabilities.

Wiggio seems to run incredibly smoothly and with the exception of Java for the virtual meeting presenter, does not require any additional software.  Best of all… Wiggio is completely free!  That said, Wiggio does contain sponsored links and states on their FAQs that they will be adding additional “premium” components that will require a paid membership.   Try it out with your committee work, suggest it to your students for group projects, use it to co-author your next article- Wiggio is a great technology for any collaborative work you might have.   Overall, I highly recommend Wiggio.

mmmm…del.icio.us

bookmarking. tagging. sharing

As far as explaining the bookmarking application del.icio.us, that’s about the gist of it.  You can use del.icio.us to bookmark websites/pages in order to access them from any computer; you can add tags and descriptions that help you find what you tagged later on; and you can allow others to find sites you’ve bookmarked according to your tags.

Social Networking + Website Bookmarking = del.icio.us

The tags you use will be listed, along with the number of pages you have tagged with that term/phrase.  This can also be displayed as a tag cloud.  Very Cool!

The tags you use will be listed, along with the number of pages you have tagged with that term/phrase. This can also be displayed as a tag cloud. Very Cool!

To me, the real beauty of del.icio.us is the ability to use tags to share new resources in an automated fashion.  In essence, you can create an RSS feed for any tag you create (or any tag someone else has created).  These can be added to your feedreader app (you read Carrie’s post about bloglines, didn’t you?) or embedded on a webpage using an RSS aggregator widget like Grazr (remember Carissa’s post?).  This allows you to keep yourself informed about new sites related to a particular topic. (I get an RSS feed for the tag “innovation”, for instance.)  It also allows you to share the sites you find; you can display your bookmarks for certain tags (or for all your tags)  on a webpage that can be shared with a class, colleagues, or family members.

We would actually like you to start using del.icio.us to help us out with our blog.  As we’re interested in writing about technologies that you want to know about, we’ve decided to use del.icio.us to keep track of blog post suggestions. Here’s what you do:

  1. search the web for technologies/applications/tools that you want us to write about
  2. bookmark it in del.icio.us
  3. tag it with ‘libtechtalk’

We’ve set the LibraryTechTalk blog’s feedreader in the upper-left corner to track the ‘libtechtalk’ tag so we can see your suggestions.  Give it a try!

It’s impossible for me to explain all the things you can do with your bookmarks and all the ways you can do it, so check out some of these resources for more info and ideas:

Once you’re on del.icio.us, be sure to add me (mulcahey99) to your del.icio.us network (use the “People” tab at the top of the site).

Social Networking for Professionals

Online Social Networks such as Facebook and MySpace are fun ways to stay connected to past classmates and colleagues. However, as far as social networks go, there are other networks that provide a more professional feel (i.e. I am willing to wager that you will never find photos of keg stands on LinkedIn). LinkedIn is a networking tool for professionals. It has over 36 million professionals from 170 industries, including Libraries, Higher Education, and Information Technology & Services.

Creating a free profile on LinkedIn enables you to find, be introduced to, and collaborate with professionals both near and far. Adding people to your list of “Connections” expands your professional network, allowing you to see people in the networks of your Connections (2nd Degree Connections) and even the networks of your Connections’ Connections (3rd Degree Connections). No one will be listed as a 1st Degree Connection without your confirmation.

connections_sm

Once you have established a list of Connection, you can then use LinkedIn to find career and collaboration opportunities, to be introduced to others through mutual contacts, and to be recommended by people who know your work.

discussion_sm1You can further expand your network by joining LinkedIn Groups, such as ALA, ACRL, alumni associations, etc. Groups allow you to see updates on what other members are doing and initiate/participate in group discussion forums.

In 2008, LinkedIn began allowing members to embed select online services within their profile pages. For example, you can embed a polling tool, Amazon reading lists, and feeds for your latest posts to WordPress and/or SlideShare. As soon as I publish this post, it will automatically appear on my LinkedIn profile!

I believe the more you play around in LinkedIn the more you will benefit from it, so why not get started? Create a profile highlighting your education and work experience, make Connections, and experiment with the many career development features LinkedIn has to offer.

Twitter the night away

Everybody always asks me what the point of twitter is, and I rarely have the ability to support its existence. So, I decided to look into it a little more…

For those unaware, twitter is a service/application commonly used for micro-blogging. How does this differ from blog-blogging? Well, like the name suggests, it’s shorter. Rather than long-winded entries (like this one), twitter users give short messages (limited to 140 characters) about what they are doing, thinking, observing, or anything else they’d like to share. These are called “tweets”.

Tell the world what you're doing!

Tell the world what you are doing!

So far, so good? Okay. Tweets can be sent to twitter from your cell phone, PDA, or non-mobile computing device in a variety of different ways. Each “tweeter” (n. one who tweets) can “follow” other tweeters, building a complex network of tweeters tweeting on twitter. Other tweeters may be your friends, politicians, celebrities, random folk, or a group of some sort (hint, hint). Tweets can be directed to an individual or the entire twitterdom. If one so wishes to follow you, they can view your tweets from http://twitter.com, or they can receive your updates as a text message on their cell phone (an opt-in service, so it’s only there if you want it to be).

A list of tweets from my fellow tweeters

A list of tweets from my fellow tweeters

So what can twitter offer to the library world?
Lots of libraries, universities, and corporations are already using twitter to market their services. UIUC’s Undergraduate Library operates under the name “askundergrad“, providing information about campus and library events, services, and resources. In fact, Towson University has a twitter profile and so does The Towerlight. Your tweets can also be connected to your website as I’ve done with my tweets. Twitter is just one more way to broadcast the library’s message to the world.

But…

I think there’s more that it can be used for:

  • reference services – tweeters could ask and librarians could tweet back
  • helpful library status tweets like, “The 3rd floor is packed; try the first floor if you are looking for a computer”
  • promote new materials in your liaison area; then tweet them with your faculty and students
  • promote your new blog posts on twitter using an intermediary service like twitterfeed
  • quickly post messages detailing your whereabouts on your website (use with caution – sometimes being invisible is a good thing)
  • create a twitter account for a class you’re working with, and have them contribute comments about their research experiences
  • use that same account during your library instruction session to get feedback on how things are going (assessment, anyone?)
  • the next time you’re at a conference, see if there’s a twitter account for the conference, and share your experience with other attendees
  • do some x-treme tweeting like Jeff Scott at City of Casa Grande Public Library

Twitter is a pretty simple application; the real power is when you connect it with other tools, applications, and services. Also, take a look at EduCause’s “7 Things You Should Know About Twitter“.

Maybe it’s time for Albert S. Cook to start tweeting…