Bridging the Gap Between Your Blog and Social Media

This is the first in what I think will be several posts about my efforts to better integrate my content with social networks and make it available wherever people are. Essentially I'm documenting the process as I gradually figure it out, because while a lot has been written on the subject there is no good step by step guide available so like everyone else I have to make it up as I go along.

My Blog Setup

I run my blog on a self-hosted WordPress installation. At various points I have considered just going to WordPress.com but I enjoy being able to tinker too much and what's what the self-hosting lets me do.

Right now I have 65 active plugins running and 5 inactive ones that I use occasionally. Is this excessive? Probably, but I said I like to tinker. The number goes up and down as I try things out, but it has been increasing significantly recently because communication between blog and social media accounts is complex.

At the core of my latest attempts is Indie Web Camp which has an IndieWeb plugin. This is actually a compilation of a number of other plugins that collectively enable the core feature set I am looking for.

The Name of the Game is POSSE

Or as Indie Web Camp defines it Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. What I want to be able to do, what I should be able to do, is create the post on my own blog and have it go everywhere else. Why? Because re-writing the same thing for each individual social media site is a ridiculous waste of my time, it's not like I get paid for this stuff. Also because it's my stuff and I want an archive copy.

There are a number of different ways to do this and in truth none of the ones I've tried so far are 100% satisfactory to me so I have cobbled together a combination. Let's look at some of the options though:

1. Brid.gy

bridgy_logoWe're going to be talking about Brid.gy more in a bit but one of its functions is to publish your content to several different sites including Twitter, Flickr and Facebook. No Google Plus though, but that's mostly Google's fault for the lack of API. The other negative is the posts do not look pretty. It works, but it's sub-optimal from my perspective.

2. Jetpack for WordPress

screenshot-1Jetpack is the Swiss Army Knife of WordPress plugins. If you have a self-hosted WordPress you probably already have this. That's a plus if you don't like to have lots of plugins installed. There's a function in Jetpack called Publicize that will let you auto-publish your posts to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Path, LinkedIn and Google+. It works, mostly (I have issued with the Facebook posting where it just randomly stops and I have to relink it) and the resulting posts are reasonably attractive, even including an image. Unfortunately it will only post the excerpt of your blog and doesn't let you customize how much text that is or anything else about it really. The big negative for me is the fact it randomly stops working, your mileage may vary.

3. Social Networks Auto Poster (SNAP)

This is the most powerful of the three options and offers a lot more services to post to. Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter are there, but so is Flickr and Google+ and Instagram and Pintrest but you will have to pay to get those last three and $49 is a rather hefty fee when you're not monetized. That's a shame because there are far more configuration options available here that control how your posts will look on the various sites. I love that flexibility but I'm also a cheapskate. Also I have been unable to get Tumblr posting to work, I get weird error codes, I may figure it out eventually.

So what do I recommend. Well, the money doesn't bother you then SNAP seems like the best all round. If, like me, you're a bit cheap then you cobble things together. So I use  Jetpack Publicize for Tumblr and G+ while I use SNAP for Facebook, Twitter and Flickr and on top of that I use the Medium plugin to sync with Medium.

Limitations

Everywhere you look you run into limitations. There are other ways you can hack this together, auto-posting from your RSS feed, using IFTTT scripts, but the more external services you rely on the shakier the whole thing becomes.

One of the things you can't do with this system for example is specify a particular Collection on G+ or set of people on Facebook to share the posts with. It's all or nothing.

Ideally I would prefer to send the entire post to Facebook and G+. I know that sending links significantly reduces readership, but for the moment at least that's not an option that's available to me, and posting natively everywhere isn't a credible option.

But Wait, There's More!

Of course syndicating your content out from your blog is at most half the battle and arguably less than that. There's still the matter of getting comments back again and then there's IndieAuth. But I'll leave that for future posts.