Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Can't Twitter and Facebook Just Get Along?

Despite my overwhelming detesting of Twitter on a conceptual basis, I've come to realize that even though I cannot truly fathom a good reason why people are actually using it, people are. Because of this, and because I'm competing against my wife to see who has a higher Klout score, I've decided to raise from the dead, Lazarus style, my old Twitter account. I already use Facebook more than I probably should so I thought I could simply set things up so that whatever I posted to Facebook would go to Twitter.  Boy, I sure didn't know what I was in for.

To start, there's no way to directly publish to Twitter your Facebook statuses and links. There are numerous ways, including a pretty rock solid Twitter Facebook app, to import tweets into Facebook, but going the other way appeared to not be possible. However, I was not ready to give up. I was bound and determined to find a way to publish statuses and links only once and have them go to Twitter. Also, I wanted to to keep Facebook as my primary way of interacting with people and Twitter as simply something where my content got pushed to. I don't plan on following Twitter users that much because most of what comes through Twitter is garbage anyways (I blame the ridiculous 140 character limit--people who like to use full words and sentences just can't get much in that small of a space).

I started my adventure by trying to find a tool or automated solution to grab my Facebook statuses and push them over to Twitter. Facebook used to have all kinds of RSS feeds at your disposal, but now they seemed to have made them inaccessible unless you do some sleuthing to uncover what your status feed is. This post tells you how to get it.  This leads me to my first head-scratching moment. Why the heck doesn't Facebook want you using RSS feeds any more? My guess is they don't want you exporting your content to other applications or places so that you are stuck inside of their walled garden. So, now I have a feed for my status updates (note: this doesn't, unfortunately, include posted links, pictures, or uploads... just your plain text status updates.)

To get the RSS feed to publish to Twitter, I use Twitterfeed. It lets you take just about any RSS feed you can find and use it to post the contents of the feed to Twitter, Facebook, or other social services.  Once you enter in your Facebook RSS feed, you'll need to make a quick tweak to how Twitterfeed parses the feed for posting to Twitter. In the Advanced Settings section, make sure that the Post Content is set to "description only" (as shown below). If you leave it as "title only" you'll end up having every tweet prefixed with your name and if you leave it as "title & description" you'll be double posting your content. Also make sure the "Post Link" checkbox is deselected.

So this takes care of getting my Facebook status updates turned into tweets. But I also have a blog (that you're reading) and I want to make sure that when I post a new blog post it automatically gets tweeted and posted to Facebook. To do this, I used Twitterfeed for tweeting and RSS Graffiti for posting to my Facebook wall. Let's start with Twitterfeed and using it to publish my blog posts.

First, get your blog's RSS or atom feed.  Then create another feed in Twitterfeed and input your blog's RSS feed URL. Then in the Advanced Settings section you'll want to set the Post Content to "title only" (at least if you're using a blogger site). This makes the content of your tweet the title of your blog post. If you choose "description only" it will start pulling from the beginning of your actual post and if you leave it "title and description" it will use your post title and the description combined. And, I'm guessing, most post's contents won't fit in the 140 character limit of a tweet, especially since you need to save some room for the bit.ly URL. Since you want to link to your post, make sure the "Post Link" checkbox is selected and (if you have a bit.ly account) input your bit.ly details. Make sure to also have your Post Sorting done by pubDate and, lastly, if you want to prefix your tweet with anything use the "Post Prefix" field (I prefer to prefix all blog tweets with "New Blog Post:").

This gets your blog posts to Twitter, but what about Facebook? Thankfully RSS Graffiti is dead simple to use. Just authorize the application, input your blog's feed, leave the default settings as-is, and you should be ready to go. You can customize the frequency of how often it checks your feed or if you want to use a bit.ly account or how many posts it can post at once. None of those are essential to making the application work, though.

So now we have to figure out how to tie links I want to share between both Facebook and Twitter. This proved to be harder than I thought since Facebook apparently no longer has feeds for shared links or content. So, I instead decided I would simply share links to a source that would feed Facebook via Twitterfeed (that will then be tweeted through the Facebook status feed Twitterfeed is already using to tweet). For this, I chose delicious (now that it's back from the dead). Since I use Chrome, I simply had to install the delicious chrome extension and remember to make use of it instead of my previous "share to Facebook" bookmarklet. Once I had that in place, I could get an RSS feed of my links.

I took this RSS feed and again created another feed in Twitterfeed (this is turning out to be quite the tool!). This time around, under the Advanced Settings I set up it so that the Post Content was "description only" and that the "Post Link" checkbox was checked (since you want to link to the link you're sharing). I chose the "description only" option for the Post Content because I want the tweet and Facebook status sent to be my comments about the link, not the title of the link. If you would rather have the title of the link be what is sent, use "title only" since the title in this feed is the link's title. If you want both the link's title and your comments, select "title and description".

Now when I want to share a link to both Twitter and Facebook I click the chrome extension and, as shown in the screenshot below, I just add into the Notes field what I want to show up as Facebook status and, slightly later, as a tweet. Once I adjusted to sharing links in this manner, it was a perfect way of sending links to both platforms.

This covers just about all of the content that I want to be able to share across Twitter and Facebook. The only thing that it leaves out is sharing photos. I could use Flickr and then use Twitterfeed to make updates about when I have new photos, but Flickr is limiting and that doesn't get the photos into Facebook where I can tag friends. Ideally, I want to be able to post photos to Facebook and then have some type of tool to tweet about it, but for the time being I'll simply have to do a separate tweet if I want to let people know I have photos up on Facebook.

I know this seems like a pretty convoluted process, but now that I've got it figured out it's not all that bad and definitely is much better than remembering to post about things in multiple systems. I blog once. I make a status update once. I share a link once. Yet it goes to both systems... as long as I follow my scheme. If you have a more or less convoluted way of doing things, I'm all ears!

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