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New Feature: Twitter!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

FeedBlitz has now enabled one-stop Twitter publication for our premium publishers, automatically enabling them to deliver their content to their subscribers using the popular social networking service. Every premium publisher’s subscription signup form now automatically allows subscribers to choose to subscribe to their newsletters either via email or via their Twitter account.

How does it look?

See for yourself! Here's how well-known venture capitalist Fred Wilson's subscription page now looks:

The password field applies only to Twitter. If a subscriber selects "Email" it disappears. The options have links out to the relevant sites to help users pick the right option. Twitter sign up is protected by image verification to stop automated spambot attacks, but because we need your password there is no need fur a second opt-in confirmation phase. If you have the ID and the password and they match, then you're definitely, well, you. The Twitter subscription is therefore immediately activated if you authenticate ok.

What is Twitter?

Twitter syndication from FeedBlitz posts the relevant entries to the subscriber’s Twitter timeline as “tweets.” The subscriber can then get SMS text or IM alerts, as will anyone following that timeline. Visit twitter.com to find out more about Twitter itself.

Why Twitter and FeedBlitz?

Using FeedBlitz to deliver Twitter notification, publishers gain:

  • A single newsletter update and notification service.
  • Reaching as many readers as possible.
  • The way they want to be reached.

Twitter enables publishers and subscribers to send small updates to their network via SMS text messages, instant messaging or the web - all supported by Twitter. By offering Twitter syndication to our premium publishers, FeedBlitz offers one-stop syndication and subscriber management facilities to publishers, regardless of how the subscriber chooses to subscribe. Better yet, newsletter publishers get the same comprehensive management facilities for Twitter as they do for their HTML email newsletters.

Comprehensive Publisher Feature Set

The Twitter feature comes with all the features a publisher needs, including:

  • Twitter Preview
  • Test message facility
  • Tag filtering
  • Subscriber management
  • Click through tracking
  • Subscriber management

Here's the preview for Twitter for FeedBlitz News (accessed from www.feedblitz.com/f?Feeds if you have got a Twitter subscription and have claimed your Twitter identity - see below).

If you use FeedBlitz (or FeedBurner) click through tracking, those clicks via tinyurl.com will be tracked as and when the user accesses them from Twitter, their mobile phone, or wherever. If you send a test message, the most recent three articles will be posted to your Twitter timeline. All other features, such as tag filtering, pausing and restarting subscriptions, deleting subscriptions, are handled via the popup menu for that subscription, just like for your email subscriptions. (To gain access to your Twitter subscriptions on the web site, however, you need to prove that you are the legitimate owner of that ID - more on this a little later.)

If you have Twitter subscribers to your content, they appear on your subscriber management screens with the small "t" Twitter logo (it's also the logo used in the subscription page you saw earlier). So they're easy to visually differentiate from email subscribers.

Twitter subscribers also benefit from getting their updates much faster – up to every 15 minutes, at no additional cost to the premium publisher (subscribers still have to pay their bills for the SMS text messaging service from their provider, not you (and not FeedBlitz!)).

Premium publishers now no longer have to decide whether to “microblog” on Twitter or to blog normally: Just blog, and let FeedBlitz take care of the rest. Indeed, by using tag filters, advanced users and subscribers can automatically choose which posts go to Twitter and which to email, all from the standard FeedBlitz syndication screens.

Now, given the 140 character limit of Twitter, FeedBlitz will attempt to include the article’s title, source and as much of the body text as possible, a long with a tunyurl.com link to the article itself (see the preview above for how it looks in practice). This makes for compact and easy click-throughs from mobile devices. About the only thing that doesn’t work is open tracking and custom templates, since open tracking relies on embedded images which Twitter (being text-based) can’t support, and templates don't work because it's just text.

So, because of the space constraints, Twitter is best thought of as a notification or alerting mechanism rather than a fully-fledged publication mechanism. At least for our purposes, anyway.

Performance

Twitter can sometimes – let’s be charitable – be really, really slow. FeedBlitz allows for sluggish responses when it posts to Twitter, so the updates should go through OK, even at peak times. But it’s not email: if the server’s busy or times out, we won’t go back and try again. FYI, Email is more robust – it will keep trying. So even if you use Twitter as a primary subscription mechanism, consider adding a normal email subscription as well for a daily digest you can search, categorize and archive.

Managing Your Twitter and Email Identities

Publishers and subscribers may link their email and Twitter identities from their profile page, allowing all your subscriptions – whether email or Twitter-based – to show up on the same subscription management screens. In fact, it's the only way to access your Twitter subscriptions on the web site.

To merge identities, simply enter your Twitter name and password to your profile. If they validate, your claim is successful and the accounts linked, unifying your views. Here's how the profile page has changed:

To claim your ownership of a Twitter identity in FeedBlitz, enter your Twitter ID and password here. If they validate then your claim will be approved and all the subscriptions associated with that Twitter ID will be visible to you on the web. So your subscribers using FeedBlitz ultimately benefit from a single location to manage all their subscriptions.

Next Steps

This is not a beta! But I expect this class of service to generate a lot of feedback and it may well evolve quickly over the coming days. Let us know what you think. And enjoy!

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