How journalists can benefit from using IFTTT – ‘If This Then That’

The digital space is loud, noisy and fast moving. If you’re a journalist or editor looking to stay on top of a fast-moving topic, it can be difficult trying to keep an eye on Twitter and other social platforms.

Come to the rescue then IFTTT (pronounced like ‘lift’ without the ‘L’), which is a great tool for collating information and for automating certain tasks.

It stands for ‘If This Then That’ and, in it’s simplest explanation, IFTTT allows you to connect various other digital tools together to create tasks.

These tasks are known as ‘recipes’ to allow your Facebook talk to your Dropbox, or your Twitter to your Google Docs. You can make up countless numbers of useful tasks for things such as a notification when a potential source comes online, collating every mention of a hashtag linked to a particular event, or, as mentioned, simply automating some tasks to save time.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 12.33.39A popular example used by the general public is to connect your Facebook and Dropbox accounts so that when someone tags you in a photo on Facebook, the photo will automatically be added to your Dropbox folder and saved for good.

So how can this be useful for a newsroom or the busy journalist who is now tasked with keeping a social media presence whilst also doing his daily gathering and reporting tasks?

Well, the above could be changed to collect photos every time a particular celebrity tweets them, making it useful perhaps for Showbiz Reporters.

Other useful tasks that can be easily set up include:

  1. Comments on Twitter can automatically also appear on your Facebook page – allowing you publish to one social media platform rather than multiple
  2. When you receive an email from a key contact or your editor, you receive an SMS – useful if you are waiting for ‘that’ email from an editor
  3. Get sent an email (or text) every time a certain person tweets – useful if you waiting for someone to make a comment and don’t want to miss it online
  4. Add tweets with a specific hashtag to a Google Docs spreadsheet – this is great for pulling together all hashtag tweets in one place to just scan through at a glance. Also useful for PR monitoring how much traction an event has got on social
  5. Get a daily email showing tweets posted around a particular location – useful if covering a particular regional area or ‘flashpoint’ junction (see example below)
  6. Write up ideas and quick reports by text and have them dumped automatically into a Google Doc to quickly edit – useful for turning around a report quickly if not at your laptop

Gmail-to-SMS

As I mentioned, there are countless more. Browse popular IFTTT recipes here.

Useful journalist-specific IFTT recipes here and here by the folks at Journalism.co.uk

Here’s a step-by-step to creating your own IFTTT recipe:

As I’m writing this post, today is the final day in canvassing for the same-sex marriage referendum in Ireland. I’m aware the ‘Yes’ campaign are canvassing this afternoon at the top of Grafton Street so maybe I want to monitor what tweets are sent in that area to gauge response from the public who are canvassed. I know this event is taking place from 2pm to 4pm so I will then set up a ‘recipe’ or a sequence of events using IFTTT just before 2pm so we can be alerted by email when tweets are sent from that particular area of Grafton Street in Dublin. I will end it at 4pm.

Choose a ‘trigger channel’
First up I need to select my ‘trigger’. Below is an example of the many apps you can trigger from. I will scroll down to select Twitter.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 14.58.10

Choose a Trigger
Next up I will select my trigger. I select ‘New tweet from specific area’. Although you can’t see that in this image, below will give you an idea of some of the other triggers you can choose

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 14.59.01

Complete Trigger Fields:
e.g. Set up my location for that particular area of Grafton Street.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 15.01.17

Choose an ‘Action’ channel
Similar to setting my trigger, I select an action. My action channel is Gmail.

 

Choose an ‘Action’
So what do I want to do each time someone tweets from that area of Grafton Street? Here I will ask IFTTT to send an email to myself.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 15.02.47Complete Action Field
What information do we want sent in the email? It should include the text of the Tweet and username of the sender.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 15.02.59

 

All Done!
Then that’s it! My task is complete and each time a tweet is sent from that particular location, I will get an email that I can then quickly look at. You can set it so that you get all tweets sent in one mail.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 15.04.19

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