How to: Use IFTTT to automate your school marketing
Do you feel that there are too many accounts for us to manage online? That with social media in particular, the expectation to have a presence on everything is too time consuming and exhausting?
Looking at social media, the average adult has 7 personal accounts, while the average teen user has even more! On top of that, most of us have accounts for work, email, shopping, messaging, keeping up with the news and much more.
Since the services we use are generally run by different companies, there often isn't a natural way to link them together. As a result, it is necessary to treat your experiences with different services as entirely separate entities. Wouldn’t be nice then, if there was a way to better coordinate at least some of your personal or professional online life?
Look no further than IFTTT (“IF This Then That”).
IFTTT (www.ifttt.com) is an automation web app that lets you link up different things you’re doing on the internet. Over 400 services currently work with IFTTT, including Facebook; Twitter; YouTube; Google Drive and Instagram. As well as the big companies, there are also loads of services that cater towards particular niches, like internet-enabled lighting, cars and blinds.
How does it work?
Fortunately, it’s pretty simple.
With just a handful of clicks, you can tell IFTTT that if one thing happens on Service A, then it should make something else happen on Service B.
For example, if you add a new profile picture on to Facebook, then your Twitter profile picture should change to the same photo. Or if it’s going to rain today, a notification should automatically appear on your phone at 7.30am, telling you to take your umbrella with you.
How to use it
To give IFTTT a go, you’ll need to make an account. Then, you can either browse other people’s creations or even make your own by:
- going to My Applets
- choosing New Applet
- picking a this and a that
You’ll notice that rather a lot of applets have been made so far. Many are particularly well-suited to marketers and teachers.
Here are four of our favourite IFTTT applets to get you started:
 Hear about top content relevant to you from social media
Whether you’re involved in marketing, teaching or something else entirely, it makes sense to keep up to date with ideas and suggestions from others in the sector. You may already have some preferred channels that you like to check for inspiration, but if not, it’s worth having a look at what’s out there by searching for something like “Twitter accounts to follow for education technology” or “best subreddits for digital marketing”.
To simplify this process into an automated service, let IFTTT bring the updates to you in the form of a regular email or a designated Google sheet.
Send an email digest from a Twitter search or hashtag - we recommend taking advantage of Twitter’s advanced search tools by choosing a search like “#teamenglish min_faves:5” or “VR min_retweets:5” so that you can be notified of content that other people have found worthwhile.
Get an email update with the top posts from your favourite Reddit subreddit - Reddit has a large number of marketing and teaching communities, and can be a really good resource if used well.
Save tweets featuring specific content to a Google sheet - as with the email digest applet, think carefully about your search terms for the best results. If you don’t think specifically enough, you can quickly end up with a monster of a spreadsheet!
 Share your social media posts across different platforms
Keeping track of what you’ve posted where can be a bit of a hassle - given that in a lot of cases the services you use are run by different companies and don’t link together very well.
IFTTT allows you to synchronise your posts across different platforms, while keeping records of what you’ve posted for future reference.
This area is probably the main draw of IFTTT, and arguably what it was built for in the first place. If both services you’re interested in are on IFTTT then you shouldn’t have any trouble finding an applet that does what you want. We’ve selected some of our favourites:
 Share interesting content from others to your social media channels
It isn’t always easy to come up with content to populate your social media channels, especially if you’re just starting out or there’s relatively little going on. To keep your followers interested and engaged, it can be a smart idea to share interesting content by others.
There’s a good chance you already do something like this, but IFTTT can make it a lot easier! Take the leap with IFTTT and save so much time not having to scroll through feeds, looking for something great to share.
Here's a few ready-made applets for specific areas, and applets that you can further personalise to best suit you:
Tweet Wikipedia’s word of the day every day - the default language is English, but others are available. If you would like to choose another, all you need to do is find the right two-letter “ISO 639-1” code (“en” for English, “fr” for French, “es” for Spanish, “de” for German etc.) and add it to the app in the labelled box. This could be a really nice idea for MFL departments.
Send tweets from a particular search to your Buffer queue - this one is really easy to adapt. We suggest you pick a Twitter account you trust and choose your search terms carefully (so you can capture the tweets that are most relevant to you). For example, try “@MathsIdeas what OR how” to get tweets from the Twitter account called Maths Puzzles (@MathsIdeas) which are phrased as questions, or “#DigitalMarketing min_faves:60” to only tweet those posts that have been significant interest to other users (i.e. liked a minimum of 60 times).
 Note things down as you go along
You don’t always have pen and paper to hand, and your collection of notes stored on your phone are becoming a mess. It happens to the best of us! But sometimes, having a designated system for keeping track of all your notes relating to a particular topic can be really useful.
If you have a good idea at a bad time, add it to a note and email yourself a weekly list - after all, they don’t often come at a good time! IFTTT lets you choose when you want your email to arrive, so that you can peruse your ideas from the week at your leisure.
Create a bibliography of articles archived from pocket in Evernote - when you’re doing research for a project or campaign, it can be hard to keep track of the extensive trail of websites you visit along the way. One way to tackle this issue is to use Pocket, a service that allows you to easily save pages for later, alongside Evernote to make a bibliography. IFTTT will automate this for you; leaving you free to browse to your heart's content while simultaneously creating a list of what you're looking at.
The possibilities are simply endless.
With smart glasses, you will be able to set up IFTTT to actively translate text as you are reading it! With Internet-enabled lights, you'll have lights react to you coming / leaving home, or going to bed. In fact, this last idea is already possible via IFTTT today, if you happen to have a set of Philips Hue lights. You can even get your lighting to do something exciting when the International Space Station flies overhead - (SCHOOL SCIENCE DEPARTMENTS - TAKE NOTE!)
If you think of an applet that you would find useful, the likelihood is it has already been created (or at least something very similar you can adapt). If not, it's time to flex a few creative muscles and give it a go.
Tell us in the comments below how IFTTT could save you time. If you’ve had a go at making any applets, we’d love to hear about it.