17 December 2009

Publish feed updates to Twitter with FeedBurner

As promised before, this year proves to be rich in updates for FeedBurner, after the service remained mostly unchanged in the years following the acquisition by Google. After enabling click tracking with Google Analytics, now FeedBurner can also publish your articles nearly-instantaneously on Twitter. And to complement it, Google also launched it’s very own URL-shortening service, goo.gl. With recent announcements from other big names like Wordpress and Facebook, the competition in this market is getting heated.

For now, goo.gl can officially be used only by FeedBurner and the Google Toolbar. However, only one day after the announcement, a developer already launched a small webpage where you can shorten links using goo.gl: http://gaigalas.net/lab/googl. There is also a Google Chrome extension available here.

Given the variety of Google apps, the URL-shortener could join them as a stand-alone service: If the service proves useful, we may eventually make it available for a wider audience in the future. There are already lots of people on Twitter using it. Interestingly, if you click on the small “from Google”-link on the bottom of a tweet originating from FeedBurner, you land on a support page about tweeting from YouTube. Since YouTube already had an option to share your activity on Twitter and Facebook, maybe it will be the next Google service to use the new URL-shortener, or even get a shiny personalized domain (you.tv maybe?).

The new feature added to FeedBurner is called “Socialize” and it’s located on the “Publicize” tab on the feed configuration page. The options available are rich and fairly similar to what you get in Twitterfeed. FeedBurner Socialize options

Currently you can only post from a feed to a single Twitter account, but you can duplicate the feed to circumvent this. FeedBurner can generate hashtags from article categories or labels, something that's not available in Twitterfeed, and also filter the feed by keywords. From my tests so far, it’s also smart enough to recognize when you’re making updates to older posts and not tweet about them, even if the posts are from before you enabled the feature. Also, Google Analytics recognizes “Twitter” as a Medium, so it’s easy to track how much audience each article received there vs. feed readers. The instant preview of the tweets is a very nice touch, you can see an example below with “inline hashtags” activated. Feedburner Socialize tweet preview

On the down side, FeedBurner makes you choose between adding a custom prefix or a suffix to the tweet, whereas in Twitterfeed you could add both at the same time. It’s probably only a small issue, especially compared to advantage of having automatically generated hashtags.

It will be interesting to see how this move from Google will affect other web-based services in the market. I would say Twitterfeed will see the biggest drop in users, even though it can also post to Facebook and other sites. Users have been complaining about delays and outages lately, so the time seems right for them to switch. On the other hand, bit.ly will be less affected, at least as long as it remains the default shortener for Twitter and other clients and keeps innovating. They announced Pro accounts the same day with goo.gl, a service that could attract many after the recent frictions between Google and some news companies and provide a good light-weight alternative to Google’s Analytics service.

Update: Looks like I was right about YouTube getting it's own shortening service, but not about the domain: they chose youtu.be!

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