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Quickview: Make Your Social Web Smarter

One new web service aims to better connect social media websites.

Bill Winterberg, 05/24/2012

As social media proves to be more than just another fad, you probably visit more than just a few social media websites for personal use, business, or both. But as the number of accounts you manage grows, you likely have rhetorically cursed one service or another, saying, "I wish X's website would connect with Y!"

One new web service designed to better connect--dare I say integrate--social media websites is called ifttt, an acronym for "if this then that."

Advertised under the premise of putting the Internet to work for you, ifttt uses the application program interfaces (APIs) of a variety of social media and online services to execute any number of rules (or tasks, in ifttt terminology) based on triggers you specify that occur in connected accounts.

Creating an ifttt account is free, after which you can connect to your social accounts of choice, called channels. Ifttt supports connections with 40 social media websites and services, including popular services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Ifttt also supports connections to Gmail, Google Calendar, and SMS services, so you can set up actions around email messages and appointments you manage throughout the day.

Here's how ifttt works: For each connected service, you can identify triggers for which you want ifttt to do something (the "if this" part). Then, define a rule for what should be done in response to the trigger (the "then that" part).

Ifttt may best be described through some straightforward examples. Using Google Calendar, you can create a rule to send reminders to your phone via SMS text message for upcoming appointments.

Another clever way to use ifttt is for basic social media message capture. Again, you can connect ifttt to your social media accounts, and when ifttt detects an update in any connected account, it can automatically send an email message using your Gmail account. That email message can contain all of the text posted in the status update. Although not a comprehensive way to extract the contents of linked websites or videos included in a social media update (a best practice for compliance purposes), it does provide a way to automatically copy updates published on all of your social accounts to one email address for archiving purposes.

So start a free account today and experiment with the endless combinations of tasks you can create with your social accounts. If you think you created a particularly useful task, consider publishing it as a recipe so other ifttt users can leverage it for their own use.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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