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Three great tools for (carefully!) pushing content across multiple social sites

How the notion of syndication is gaining traction across online social networks

Ambient intimacy, a termed coined in 2007 by UK social media expert Leisa Reichelt, describes the emerging way that people communicate online. Through the updates of friends, colleagues and acquaintances on Twitter or Facebook, we become aware of details of their lives that we wouldn’t otherwise know about. Admittedly, some of these nuggets of information are trivial, but others provide useful hints and recommendations about everything from how we do our jobs to our choices for entertainment. There’s an element of indirectness to this form of communication, and that element is only growing. In an effort to stay in touch with multiple groups from different facets of our lives who have congregated on multiple social networks, people are increasingly turning to “social syndication” tools to make staying in touch more manageable.

To anyone interested in syndicating their blog posts, micromessages, photos or videos across multiple social networks, either to save time or broaden their range of contact with new people, a word of caution is in order. If social networks are to remain truly social, which means attractive to people seeking to connect with others, such syndication can’t appear robotic. If it does, you can be sure it will alienate some, as well it should: people don’t join social networks to become the recipients of broadcasts, but to converse and be part of communities. That’s why it’s important to participate in a firsthand way on any network to which you belong, in addition to whatever content you may syndicate. For example, if you use the Twitter application on Facebook to push your tweets to your Facebook News Feed, be sure to contribute some thoughts and questions directly on Facebook as well. If you don’t have any time to participate in a particular network in a more organic way, you should reevaluate why you maintain a presence there in the first place.

In the coming years, the “open social” movement is expected to eliminate the need for syndicating content across social networks. Yahoo! Mail, for example, is testing an open social platform that will let people stream content from social networks into their mail reader. Google, in cooperation with social networks like MySpace and Ning, has built the OpenSocial platform for developing social applications that will work across multiple networks (unlike Facebook’s applications, which work only on that site). But these tools are for the most part still in beta or have experienced early kinks that have held them back from widespread adoption. Until these technologies become more commonplace, here are three tools designed to push content from one social network to another in the most organic ways possible.

1. SpringWidgets RSS Reader Widget Many social networks, including Facebook, will allow you to display the content from an external blog via RSS. For those that don’t, such as MySpace, SpringWidgets offers a blog widget that allows your blog to be embedded in the page as a widget with a highly customizable set of options for size and graphics. Photos look great and you can choose to limit the length of posts that appear, but be sure to use titles for each of your posts or you’ll encounter some formatting problems. The widget struggles a bit with content in formats other than blog posts as is allowed on some blogging services, like Tumblr. Otherwise, SpringWidgets is a great tool with few limitations for displaying your blog on MySpace, Facebook, or any HTML- or JavaScript-based page. It also works with all the major blogging platforms if you want to display content from one blog alongside another.

2. Extending Flickr Among the most popular photo sharing sites, Flickr is far and away the best in terms of its ability to push  photos to blogs and Facebook. Under the Extending Flickr tab in the “Your account” section, you can configure your account to post your photos on a blog or on your Facebook page. Click the “Blog This” button above any picture to publish it to any blog you’ve linked to your account if it’s hosted on a popular blogging service like Google’s Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, Movable Type or LiveJournal. Amongst the other big photo sharing sites, Photobucket also allows syndication to Facebook and Blogger (but not other blogging platforms) in addition to the option to create groups to which any member can contribute photos, which can be helpful if you’re collecting photos of promotional events.

3. Twitter application on Facebook Lots of popular applications allow you to stream content into your Twitter feed from other sources like Facebook, Digg and your blog. The problem with tools like these, the most prominent of which is probably Twitterfeed, is that the pushed content tends to look terribly robotic on Twitter. That’s not the fault of the tool, but its misuse. For example, if you set Twitterfeed to send updates from your Digg page once per hour, it will push all of your “articles” hourly, in a flurry of strange-looking tweets whose sentences are cut off by Twitter’s 140-character limit. For these reasons, I don’t generally recommend that people push content to Twitter. You’re better off participating the “old-fashioned” way. But the Twitter application on Facebook, conversely, does a nice job of syndicating your tweets to your Facebook account in a more natural looking, timely manner.

What tools do you use to syndicate content across social networks?

Tags : social media

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