IFTTT: Why You Should Use This Nifty Social Media Tool
Four months ago, I had never heard of a social media tool called IFTTT. Since getting an email from a coworker suggesting I check it out, however, IFTTT has — for lack of a better term — revolutionized how I use and interact on my company’s Twitter account.
Since implementing IFTTT into my daily social media routine, I have only good things to say about the way it’s changed my approach to social media marketing and, more specifically, social listening. That being said, it’s surprising to me that more people aren’t using IFTTT, or that it’s not being discussed on a larger number of social media and marketing sites and forums. Perhaps it’s because people don’t know how IFTTT works or how it can help them—and that’s why I’m here to set the record straight!
What is IFTTT?
IFTTT, short for “if this then that,” is a “service that lets you create powerful connections with one simple statement.” Sure, that makes sense—but what exactly does that mean? Let’s break it down.
On IFTTT, social media and communication platforms (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Blogger, Craigslist, Dropbox, Foursquare, RSS feeds, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Weather, etc.) are called channels, of which IFTTT has access to more than 50. Based on your preferences and settings, each channel has its own triggers and actions. This combination of platform + trigger + action is called a recipe. Like recipes used in the kitchen, the ingredients in an IFTTT recipe alter the outcome.
The following are sample IFTTT recipes.
- If I publish a blog post on WordPress, tweet the link on Twitter.
- If ESPN reports that the U.S. wins an Olympic medal, send an e-mail to my Gmail account.
- If I favorite a video on YouTube, post the link to Blogger.
There are thousands of simple and complex combinations you can create based on your preferences and social media needs. Once you activate your recipe, IFTTT will check for trigger data and notify you every 15 minutes (or more frequently), depending on your recipe.
How Do I Use IFTTT?
Now that I’ve had a few months to explore IFTTT, I use the tool almost exclusively for Twitter. I’ve created several recipes that send me an e-mail whenever Twitter users use certain key words in tweets. Every 15 minutes, I get e-mails with links to tweets that contain certain words and combinations of words that pertain to my industry and that I’ve identified so that IFTTT can help me track these relevant conversations.
Most of the time, these tweets don’t mention or link to my Twitter account, don’t come from someone who I follow on Twitter or someone who follows me, don’t link to my Web site and don’t have anything to do with my company at all. All that these tweets have in common is that they contain a word or words that I’ve chosen to be notified for, and thanks to IFTTT, I’m notified within minutes of the tweet being posted.
Why’s IFTTT So Great?
Although sifting through tweets that have no direct connection to your company might seem like a waste of time, anyone who knows anything about social media knows that sharing information is one of the most important aspects of this kind of communication–and staying dialed in to what’s being said about your company and industry is a key component of any digital marketing strategy.
No, a tweet I receive in my e-mail inbox isn’t directed at my company, but thanks to IFTTT, I know that someone somewhere is talking about surety bonds, and I now have the opportunity to be seen as an industry expert and, potentially gain a customer (or a follower, at least). When these tweets contain questions, I answer them. And when they share valuable industry information — especially information that comes from my company — I become aware of it, I pass the information along and I thank the Twitter user for spreading the word. Sure, these interactions are simple and speedy, but they’re so important — especially in an age where social media is dramatically changing customer service.
Additionally, IFTTT helps me keep an eye my company’s competitors—and we all want to know what our competitors are up to, right? Most of the time, I use IFTTT to check out the marketing strategies of other big-name insurance companies. Recently, however, IFTTT brought something unexpected to my attention. One of our biggest competitors had updated the content on their Web site — content that had appeared on my company’s Web site just days before. Without IFTTT, I never would have known about this duplicate content — something that’s a big no-no in the competitive world of SEO.
As much as I love IFTTT, it’s certainly not an end-all, be-all tool–but it might just be a powerful addition to the tools you already use. I strongly suggest that you spend some time exploring its functionality and finding ways it can work for you and your industry. A good place to start is the Twitter monitoring I explained earlier—these sorts of alerts can be great supplements to tools like Google Alerts to help you stay dialed in to the people and topics that matter to you and your business.
To put it simply, I appreciate what IFTTT can do, and I appreciate how it has changed the way I use social media in my professional and personal arenas. I’m constantly finding new ways to use IFTTT to further my social media reach and efficiency, and I want to encourage all social media users and digital marketers out there to do the same. Chances are high that you’ll be able to connect with a new market that you might otherwise have overlooked.
Sara Aisenberg is the executive writer for the Surety Bonds Insider, a blog that reports on recent surety industry news. With a background in social media and Internet marketing, Sara is always on the hunt for new ways to enhance the effectiveness of web-based marketing efforts. Follow along with Sara on Twitter @SaraAisenberg.