Time-Saving Tool: IFTTT

By Lisa Hazen

IFTTTSo you already know that you need a Facebook fan page. And a Twitter account. You probably already know that Pinterest is a great way to promote curated links. And that LinkedIn is a valuable resource for business networking. In addition, you might blog in addition to maintaining your site. (And don’t even try to tell me you don’t have time to put together a site.) I could go on. No wonder so many people are intimidated by the prospect of using social media—or even just maintaining a site. The prospect of keeping everything up-to-date can be seriously intimidating.

I’ve mentioned the free Web app IFTTT in previous articles. (IFTTT stands for If This Then That, and rhymes with “gift”.)  But this simple tool is so powerful, integrates beautifully with so many different Web properties, and can be such a time-saver, I thought it warranted its own article. Personally, I’m totally obsessed with it.

Put simply, IFTTT allows you to create an action based on another action.

IFTTT recipe

You do this by creating different recipes that pair different Web services together. The “this” part of the recipe is the trigger. The “that” part of the recipe is the corresponding action. Recipes check for new trigger data every 15 minutes.

A common IFTTT recipe is to post to Facebook when something is posted to Twitter. (Or vice versa.) But you can also get really creative. IFTTT defines a channel as a Web service or other function, like a phone call or text. There are currently nearly 70 channels available to users, including Blogger, Dropbox, Gmail, WordPress, SMS, phone calls and many more, creating infinite possible recipe combinations.

The sky is seriously the limit. IFTTT offers the ability to quickly click and add a variety of pre-fab recipes. For instance, there’s a recipe to automatically update your Twitter profile picture when your Facebook profile picture changes. You can automate Instagram to send your photos to Dropbox. Another useful recipe is to automatically post new WordPress posts to Facebook as your status.  Or, you can automate your Tweets to go out at the same time each day.

Beyond managing social media, there are a variety of recipes available that can help you automate your day-to-day work and personal correspondence. There is a recipe that allows you to automatically email yourself new photos when you take them with your phone. You can back up your contacts to a Google spreadsheet. You can have the weather automatically texted to you each morning. If you own a Belkin WeMo product, you can even use IFTTT beyond your virtual properties to your real life applications. For instance, recipes can be created to turn on and off your lights based on the time of day, or text you if your front door opens.

You can easily set your recipes either through the IFTTT site, or (even better) through your smart phone. In my experience, this tool makes managing your online properties and persona just that much more doable. Think of it as an efficient way to keep all your different destinations fresh—I’ve seen clients with vibrant Facebook fan pages, but their Twitter sites are left to dwindle. Vibrant social media, but when it comes to updating their own blog? Crickets. IFTTT takes very little time to set up, and the payoff is well worth it.

Lisa Hazen is a Chicago-based Web Designer specializing in author sites. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or the WWW. mailto:lisa@lisahazen.com