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How-To: Use Ping.fm, Yahoo! Pipes, & Twitterfeed for RSS to social media aggregation

Recently, last week in fact, I wrote a little how-to on setting up a combined RSS feed using the free services of Yahoo! Pipes. You'll recall I went step by step on how to take four different RSS feeds from different blogs and multiple contributor/comments to push them into one single RSS feed containing only my posts and/or comments from said blogs.
In this post we'll take that RSS feed, or any for that matter, and push it out to the most popular social media services today. You might be asking way we'd want to do this? Well the simple answer is content distribution; sure search engines are good, but what if you could put your written content all over the internet? Yep, that's right- it's a good thing.

First things first though- you'll need to open your free accounts with Yahoo! Pipes (if you didn't do so already), Ping.fm, Twitterfeed and your favorite url shortening service (you don't have to but it makes life better for the end user, character count (140 for Twitter), and metric tracking for you). I recommend Bit.ly as the best- and I've tested a lot. In conjunction with these sites you'll also want to look at the list of services in Ping.fm to ensure you have accounts with at least a few as this is the gateway to the new media networks.

Next thing we're going to do is take an RSS feed (perhaps the newly formed Pipe Feed from the last post) and start the process of social media aggregation. Go ahead and login to both Twitterfeed and Ping.fm via two windows or tabs. Let's start with the Twitterfeed window:

  1. Click on the "Create New Feed" button in the upper right;
  2. You're now presented with the first step of the processing feeds for use on the social networks- you'll see one for Twitter and Facebook- and these will be ignored for this. The reason is by using these you'll only be able to push one feed though one service; we circumnavigate this by clicking on the "Show More Services" link just beneath the Facebook icon.
  3. Once "Show More Services" is clicked you'll see a new set of services from Laconi.ca (a Canadian Twitter clone), Ping.fm, and HelloTxt. You can play with any of them, but for today let's focus on the Ping.fm option.
  4. Click on the radio button next to Ping.fm; you're now presented with the option to import your Ping.fm Application Key. Assuming (I know, that an evil word 'eh?) you've signed up and logged into with Ping.fm already open up your other tab and head to Ping.fm/key
  5. On this page your presented with a quite sizable application string (if you don't see it go ahead and click on "Generate Key" sitting next to the "Desktop/Web Key" option which should be on the top. Please note that there is a mobile option so be sure you're getting the correct one: the Desktop/Web Key. Copy said key string (highlight, right-click, copy) and bring it back over to the Twitterfeed page.
  6. In the window under the Ping.fm option paste the key into it. Now, and this is important (only because I ALWAYS miss it) once your key is inserted click on the "Get Available Methods" option next to the key box.
  7. Once you click on the "Get Available Methods" link you're presented with yet another set of options in a dropdown menu; blog, microblog, statuses, and images. You can use whatever you'd like but I use statuses.
  8. Click on or drop down to Step 2 of the Twitterfeed process. Here is where you'll give your feed a snazzy name such as Snazzy Feed and enter the RSS feed you'd like to push to the masses. One word of caution here though- be sure the info you're pushing out through this feed is info that you really want pushed out- remember once it's on the internet it's forever. And though it should be checked already make sure the "Active" box has a checkmark in it.
  9. This next step is optional but definitely recommended; click on the "Advanced Settings" link below the RSS area. Here you're given options for frequency updates and the URL shorting. You'll be able to figure out the rest by virtue of you being smart enough to even think about getting this far. As I state above I recommend using the Bit.ly URL service. If you choose to do so you'll need to get your API key from the Bit.ly site. In Bit.ly click on setting in the upper right and you'll find your API key on the left hand side.
  10. Once you've entered all of the pertinent information under the "Advanced Settings" and/or clicked around a few other options click the "Create Feed" button at the bottom. From here- your feed is now ready to push to the Ping.fm service. Is Ping.fm set up?

Ping.fm is probably one of the best sites to push a status update or quick blog post to multiple sites at once. I not only use it for updating my Twitter, FB, or Ning (yes Ning... as in GovLoop, or The Coast Guard Channel Portal) but I also use it from my desktop (as it works on IE6... I still hex it but one day the Coast Guard will update all the computers), home browser, and my phone. So it's an all around useful site in my book. Note though it's only a one way service- you can push out the info, but you can't receive it.

  1. Setting up Ping.fm is fairly straight forward; your dashboard is where it's all done from. On the left side of the dashboard are the services you can/are posting to. Clicking on the "Add More Networks" link brings ups a plethora of the most popular service though out the world. Note that it's not all the service, but it's some of the most popular. I'm not here to give recommendations but you'll no doubt want to post to Twitter and/or Facebook as these are currently the top rated social sites in the world. (If you don't see your favorite site on the list go here to learn how to add it.)
  2. If you go to your "Settings" page you'll be presented with the individual accounts of which you can edit (you also do this when you created your accounts with each). Ensure you click on the proper options for the services, if in doubt always make sure you click on the check box next to "status" ensuring that you're at least posting to some common standard.

Almost done! On the assumption that you haven't seen any errors thus far you should be able to do a few things now:

  • You can start with posting a test message via the Ping.fm dashboard and checking your social networks to ensure it went.
  • I'm guessing you've also thought about using this to let everyone know that you've updated your blog... I do. And that's why it's a grand idea; so write a post and publish it. You may have to wait about 30+ minutes (depending on the setting you've chosen in Twitterfeed) before Ping.fm pushes out the info. So be patient the magic will happen. And to ensure it actually did you can go to back to Ping.fm and in the upper right of the dashboard you'll see a "Recent Posts" link, click there an it'll tell you what message/post when where and when. You can also check your multiple social sites, but Ping.fm has been fairly reliable thus far in their reporting.

We're now at the near end- and I realize this looks to be a loooong post, but I think you'll find it worth the little effort to get your word out there. However, before I finish I'll give two warnings- one, if you use Friendfeed be careful as you may get stuck in an update overload ending in loosing followers. Two, if you're using WordPress plugins to post to any of the services be sure to either not use the service in Ping.fm or turn off the plugin. If you don't you'll again ward off followers and you may get banned from the different services as they could think you're trying to spam the system. Happy blogging!

Questions, comments, concerns? Let me know.

CoastieHead_Small30Ryan Erickson is a semi-regular contributor to GovLoop and can be found daily at ryanerickson.com on the normal topic of Coast Guard, social media, and life; this post was written as an original piece for ryanerickson.com.

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