For those of you who took programming courses in high school, the If/Then statement might be one of the first things that you think of when reminiscing on what you learned in class. While the If/Then statement refers to programming or geometry, we use If/Then statements in our every day lives. “If I wake up late, then I won’t be able to eat breakfast before heading to work” or “If I work out, then I’ll lose weight.” Taking these If/Then statements to a new digital level is an extensive automation app called If This Then That (IFTTT) where users can make IFTTT recipes to save time on their weekly social media calendars.
IFTTT serves as an easy way to automate tasks that might be repetitive or unable to cross-communicate. Users are guided to make “recipes” where a certain event in one device or service triggers an action with another device or service. As of 2018 IFTTT has more than 550 partner services and 11 million users run more than 1 billion applets per month. For my purposes I use IFTTT to cross post onto other social media platforms. As an example, if I post on Facebook, then the same post will be shared on LinkedIn. If I post on Instagram, then that post is shared on Pinterest. It saves a lot of time with my weekly social media calendar, especially when I can have posts shared on platforms I don’t spend much time on or resharing repurposed content on platforms like Twitter that have extremely short shelf lives for posts to gain more exposure. Beyond social media here are a few more examples of this app in action:
While IFTTT’s focus is on users looking to get more out of their services or to automate simple tasks that are time consuming, other apps currently exist that aim to do the same thing as IFTTT. Zapier is a freemium service that connects apps and triggers actions between them. With more than 750 apps to choose from, Zapier also allows some users to connect multiple steps, a functionality that currently doesn’t exist with IFTTT, although these complex automations require users to purchase a monthly subscription ranging between $20-$250 a month. Microsoft Flow connects 195 services and is more focused on business productivity than IFTTT or Zapier. While it’s free, more advanced functionality requires a monthly subscription that costs between $5 to $15 a month.
I love IFTTT for its simplicity, cutting down the number of potential posts I need to schedule by half through its automation. Having said that, its focus on simplicity isn’t always the greatest depending on what you’re trying to do. More packaged applets with multiple services would be great to have; instead of only having Facebook automatically post to Twitter and needing another applet to automatically post to LinkedIn, it would be great to offer an applet that would auto post to multiple platforms. There are also a few broken applets that don’t work well, or certain applets don’t act in the ways that you would expect them to. One of my applets would only auto post Facebook photos and not linked posts. Another applet would break up Facebook posts into multiple tweets instead of a single tweet that cut off the caption after the character limit was reached. I haven’t delved into more advanced workflow options, but a common gripe among users is that it doesn’t allow for more advanced functionality like Zapier with multiple steps.
In terms of the applets that I’m currently running, a lot of them help to automate my process on Twitter and Tumblr. A tweet’s shelf life is roughly 10-15 minutes, allowing users to tweet 10-15 times a day without annoying their followers and getting more exposure on their accounts. I’ve also abandoned Tumblr as a platform to drive traffic to my website, so having an automation system in place for that platform is an easy and lazy way to post content for the negligible follower base I’ve accumulated there. Below is what I’m rocking in IFTTT:
When cross posting there are some drawbacks that you should be aware of. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, each social media platform is unique in the ways you should be reaching your target audience. Twitter relies on sparing hashtags for maximum exposure and quantity over quality (which is why I’ve automated things to post on my behalf as much as possible throughout the day). Instagram is incredibly visual but doesn’t allow you to directly link outside of the platform through posts. Pinterest relies on boards and pins to curate content. LinkedIn is primarily focused on professional posts, so certain things posted on Instagram and Twitter might not resonate with your audience in the same way. Hashtags on Facebook will reduce overall engagement on posts. Beyond tiny nuances to maximize reach, there are different peak times to post on each individual social media platform. There are different size dimensions that should be adhered to for visual content. Caption lengths vary wildly from platform to platform. Having everything automated removes any ability to tweak your messaging to get as much as engagement as possible with your posts, which is the main reason I have a majority of my automation occurring for Twitter where these nuances won’t matter as much for my content. Instagram and Pinterest go hand in hand well, although both have strange size dimensions for their posts that make it a pain to optimize for without dumping time resizing the same photo several times. LinkedIn and Facebook play well together but the peak traffic times are different. Before automating everything I would be aware of these pitfalls and weigh the pros and cons. I personally haven’t witnessed a significant decrease in engagement or referral traffic to my website through the automation applets I listed above, but this won’t hold true for everyone.