Are there blogs that you read regularly that you find so good that you end up sharing every post on Twitter? Do you hate it when you miss a post from those blogs, and wish that, even when you’re offline, you can promote new posts from those blogs to your followers because you know that each one will be valuable to them?
Pros of Automatic RSS Feed Updating
Aside from missing out on your favorite bloggers’ posts, updating your feed automatically with one of these services allows you to:
- Have your social networks updated often, even when you’re offline. Great for vacations or for tweeting blog posts from international bloggers who post at odd hours for you, but good hours for their audience!
- Provide your followers with relevant content that is valuable to them without having to constantly monitor someone’s blog or Twitter account for their latest updates.
- Support your favorite bloggers and show how much you love their posts, especially by attaching @blogowner to your tweets.
I wouldn’t call these cons, but here are some things to consider when choosing an RSS feed to automatically update to your social networks.
- Does the blog always post content that is valuable to your followers? If there is occasionally questionable content, you may want to only tweet posts after review and not automatically.
- How often does the blog post new content? Keep this in mind when setting post frequency so you don’t bombard your readers with 5 posts or more per hour from the same site.
- If you like to have particular status updates stay at the top of your account for longer periods of time, those could be bumped off by a latest RSS feed update. So if you have your feeds updated every hour, post other status messages at 10 minutes after the hour to stay up for awhile.
Now, let’s take a look at Twitterfeed and HootSuite RSS works.
Twitterfeed allows you to setup your favorite RSS feeds to post to Twitter and other social services automatically when new items are added. Simply register an account with Twitterfeed and Create a New RSS Feed to begin.
The first step is entering a name and RSS or Atom URL for your feed.
Twitterfeed Feed Setup
If you have multiple Twitter accounts that you will be feeding different RSS items to, it might be a good idea to label them by Twitter account and blog name so you can find them quickly for editing later.
Twitterfeed Dashboard Feed List
You can continue on to Step 2 from here, but first you should take a look at configuring some of the Advanced Settings options.
Twitterfeed Advanced Settings
Here is where you can set how often you want Twitterfeed to look for new items from a particular RSS, anywhere from every half hour to every 24 hours, as well as how many items to post at a time. If you are grabbing a feed from a site that updates heavily (like Mashable) you may want to have it check every hour and only do one post at a time, otherwise you might bombard your users with 5 posts at once, which is usually not that lovely).
I usually go for title only, as you never know what part of the description is going to be picked up, it is going to get cut off, and it will mean that someone has to edit it when they retweet to remove the excess characters to include the RT @yourusername.
You can also choose your preference of URL shorteners – I leave that at bit.ly so that I can see statistics on how many people click on the posts when I tweet them (a nice indicator on whether the feed is popular with your followers or not).
Twitterfeed Click Statistics
Generally, this setting can be left as pubDate. If the feed does not seem to be updating to your social accounts, you can try to switch it to GUID. Sometimes that gets it to work – there has been one feed (so far) that I have had to use HootSuite RSS to update my accounts with for some reason as neither setting in Twitterfeed worked.
Post Prefix & Suffix
This is text that you can append to the beginning and end of any feed items that is posted to your social accounts. For example, if you have a feed going to Twitter, you can put RT @blogowner at the beginning, or via @blogowner at the end. You could also (if the blog is always on one topic) put hashtags at the end of the tweet, such as #seo.
Let’s say that you wanted to setup a feed for Mashable, but your audience is only interested in stories about YouTube. That’s not a problem with the keyword filter – just check the box add YouTube as a keyword – this means that only posts with YouTube are posted to your social accounts.
In this step, you setup the social accounts you want new feed items to post to.
To select a Twitter account for RSS feed updates to post to, simply use the dropdown for Twitter accounts that you have previously authorized, or use the Authenticate Twitter to connect the feed to the Twitter account by logging into Twitter and using the OAuth system.
Twitterfeed Twitter Account Authentication OAuth
Next, you can set custom UTM tags. The default settings of for Twitter accounts is twitterfeed and twitter, which will append ?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter to the URL of feed items click on from a Twitterfeed link, and it will show up in Google Analytics as Twitterfeed.
Twitterfeed UTM Tags
Learn more about UTM Tags for Google Analytics tracking.
Click on Create Services to save this RSS feed to update your chosen Twitter account. To have it update to additional Twitter accounts, click on Twitter again and follow the same above steps. Once you’re finished, click All Done.
I usually just post items to Twitter because I prefer using the link attachment features on Facebook due to the fact that you can add a thumbnail and extra details along with the post’s summary, which stands out in the newsfeed and on your profile more prominently than a simple status update.
Facebook Status Update vs. Attach Link
You can also connect Twitterfeed to update new RSS feed items to Facebook, Ping.FM, Statusnet, and HelloTxt.
HootSuite RSS Feeds
HootSuite is my favorite tool for managing multiple Twitter accounts. You can configure RSS feeds to update your status when new items are added from there as well by going to your menu > Settings > RSS / Atom.
HootSuite RSS Feed Options
As you can see, there are far less options available for HootSuite RSS feed setup, which depending on your preference and your desire to keep everything in one place, may be a good thing.
To setup a new feed, simply enter the Feed URL, how often to check for new posts (from every hour to every 12 hours), how many posts to tweet at a time, and what text to prepend to the beginning of the tweet (such as the RT @blogowner). There is also a checkbox to “Include some post text…” which I uncheck, again, so that only the title is tweeted to shorten up the usage of characters.
In HootSuite, you can send RSS feed updates to any profiles you are managing through their tool, including multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, Ping.fm, etc. But again, I like to not have the same update going everywhere simultaneously, and I also like to use the more advanced link attachment options, especially with LinkedIn because of the additional visibility of having the thumbnail + extra details that you can add to the update.
LinkedIn Attach Link vs. Status Update
Why Blog Post Timing Matters
Bloggers should note that with these types of services that blog post scheduling matters now more than ever. Many people setup their RSS feeds to update their account every hour, therefore your post could be tweeted by influential users who follow you within the hour that you post. This should be taken in consideration, as you would not want to post something at odd hours and have most of your Twitterfeed or HootSuite RSS followers auto update their accounts at a time when less of your targeted audience is likely to be online.
Beyond Blog RSS Feeds
Keep in mind, RSS feeds aren’t limited to blogs. You can use the RSS feeds from your article marketing networks, job feeds from sites such as oDesk, news feeds from CNN, your own Delicious feed, and so on. Any site that has an RSS feed can be used with Twitterfeed and HootSuite RSS!
Update: HootSuite Goes Freemium
As of August 2010, HootSuite has moved from being strictly free to offering free limited plans (up to 5 users with ads) and pro plans. Learn more about HootSuite Freemium Plans.
Your Thoughts on Social Network RSS Feed Updating
Do you use one of the above services, or a different one, to automatically update your Twitter or other social network with the latest posts from your favorite blog (or even your own)? What other benefits do you see from using these services, and what other things do you take into consideration when setting them up?