Streamlining Your Presence in the Social Web
by Deltina Hay
So, you followed the experts’ advice and set up your accounts on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, LibraryThing, Shelfari, Bebo, GoodReads, Upcoming, JacketFlap, and every other got-to-have-it social flavor of the week—as well as your very own blog. Then the experts say you have to keep all your accounts dynamic by adding content to them on a regular basis. And you’re thinking, How is this supposed to make my life easier?
Relax. With a bit of planning, you can streamline the process of keeping all your social-Web accounts fresh and engaging without killing yourself or being forced to hire full-time help.
The trick is to make your social accounts work together. Fortunately, most social sites use the concept of open source to make it easy to write applications that enhance these sites’ features.
In terms of streamlining your presence in the social Web, it’s easiest to demonstrate what I mean with an example. Let’s imagine that you have the following tools and accounts in place:
a WordPress blog
a Facebook profile
a Facebook page
a MySpace page
a YouTube account
a Flickr account
a Twitter account
an Upcoming.org account
a GoodReads account
The Streamlining Plan
Generally, you want to investigate and implement ways to integrate these tools and sites.
1. Optimize your blog feed. The first thing you want to do is burn your blog’s feed to Feedburner (feedburner.com). Getting an account with this free service will help you manage and track your feed subscriptions easily. Once your feed is burned to Feedburner, make a note of the URL of your new feed. The URL will look something like this:
2. Feed your blog. Next, make sure you are getting the most mileage from your blog entries. To do this, feed them into all your social accounts with applications that allow you to do so. Different accounts provide different ways to accomplish this.
In Facebook you can feed your blog into the Notes section of your Facebook page. Click on Edit in the page’s notes box. There is an option to import notes from an external blog. When you are prompted for the blog’s feed address, use the Feedburner URL you created earlier.
To feed your blog entries into MySpace, find and add the application called RSS Reader. You can find MySpace applications by going to More/Apps Gallery from the main menu of your MySpace page. Although you should try to use your Feedburner feed with this application, some issues may arise. If your feed does not show up properly, use your blog’s default RSS feed address. If you are using WordPress, this address is usually yourblog.com/feed.
You can feed your blog entries into Twitter as well, but I don’t recommend this. A blog post is typically too long for a Twitter entry. Besides, you will discover a better solution for streamlining your microblog entries if you read on.
Check all your other social networking accounts for similar applications. Good search terms to use for this task are RSS feed or blog import. If you can’t find a way to search the available applications, or if the networking site does not have them, try searching the support forums.
3. Maximize the use of your images and video. You can maximize the exposure of your images and video clips by adding galleries and badges to your blog (or your Web site) and by feeding your images and video into your social networking pages.
A number of WordPress plug-ins are available for creating galleries by pulling images directly from your Flickr account. My latest favorite is Flickr Tag (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/flickr-tag). You can use this plug-in to easily pull your Flickr images into your blog posts and pages, as well as to create galleries by posting entire Flickr “sets.”
A Flickr badge is a snippet of Flash or HTML code that you can place on the sidebar of your Web site or blog that will pull in and highlight random or specific photos from your Flickr account. To generate the code for your Flickr badge, sign into your Flickr account, and go to this URL: flickr.com/badge.gne.
Similarly, you can use your YouTube “channels” to embed galleries into your blog or Web site. Once you have added video clips to your YouTube channel, you can generate the code for a video gallery and place this code on your Web site or blog.
You can feed your images directly onto your Facebook and MySpace pages from your Flickr account as well. For Facebook, use the application called My Flickr (apps.facebook.com/myflickr); for MySpace use the application Happy Flickr.
For your YouTube video clips, use the Facebook application called YouTube Box (apps.facebook.com/videobox) to place videos on your Facebook page. To highlight your video clips on your MySpace page, use the application YouTube Favorites.
4. Integrate other social tools. The tasks in this step will vary with the social tools and sites that are part of your social Web presence. In our example, you have accounts with Upcoming.org (a social event calendar) and GoodReads (a book-sharing site) that you have not yet integrated. By searching the applications in Facebook and MySpace, you will discover that Facebook has one that will let you integrate your Upcoming.org events, and that both Facebook and MySpace have applications that will let you list your GoodReads books and reviews.
5. Take advantage of streamlining tools. Finally, you can add short entries to your minifeeds on Facebook and MySpace, and to your microblogging sites like Twitter and Jaiku, using one of my favorite social tools, Ping.fm (ping.fm), which can streamline your presence even further. You can add one entry, and feed it into many other social sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Jaiku, and so on.
One caveat about using this service, though: Don’t use it to blog. Ping.fm has an option for letting you populate your blog, but to get the most from your blog posts you should make them originate at the source. If you are optimizing your blog entries, as you should be, with SEO plug-ins and proper tagging and categorization, then feeding from a service like this will undercut those efforts. There is no harm in using this tool in addition to regular, full-length optimized blog posts, however.
6. Investigate and repeat. The very nature of the social Web involves connecting people through social platforms and applications. So when you’re deciding whether to invest time and resources in a new social tool, you might also want to investigate how well the tool accommodates your existing presence. Does it let you feed in your blog posts? Does it allow you to pipe in images from your image-sharing site? Does it allow you to embed your videos from your favorite video-sharing tool? Have sites like Ping.fm integrated the tool at this point? Do your existing sites have applications that integrate the new tool?
Once you decide to use a tool and/or a site, integrate it as best you can by repeating the applicable steps above.
Deltina Hay is the principal of Dalton Publishing and Social Media Power. Her latest venture is PlumbSocial.com, a one-stop solution for streamlining presence on the social Web. Her e-book, A Step-by-Step Guide to Social Media Marketing and Web 2.0 Optimization, is available at socialmediapower.com. Her print book and resource CD, A Survival Guide to Social Media and Web 2.0 Optimization: Tactics, Tools, and Strategies for Succeeding in the Social Web, will be available in March 2009 from Wiggy Press, distributed by Midpoint Trade Books.