This is the fourth post in a series on monitoring and listening techniques for social media. Read more in Listen Up! Part 1: Search Basics,  Listen Up! Part 2: Keywords and Operators, and Listen Up! Part 3: Create Alerts for Your Brand.

How to Use IFTTT to Create an Automated Monitoring Dashboard

Once you have created keyword-based alerts (see Part 3 in this post series), you’re ready to set up your automated monitoring dashboard using If This Then That (IFTTT). If you haven’t yet set up an account on IFTTT, do so by clicking the “Join” button on the homepage. I recommend using the same email address you use to monitor other social media accounts for your brand in order to keep all the communications together.

Create Your Dashboard

The first stage is to develop a platform to monitor blogs and news sites. Search engines frequently “comb” these sites for new content, so you can use automation processes to have the search engines check the sites for the content you’re looking for. Using the alerts we created in part three of this series, we will use the free tools If This Then That (IFTTT) and Google Drive to create a one-stop location for monitoring these results.

If This Then That is a fantastic automation platform that is completely free. Account holders create “recipes” that instruct IFTTT on what to do in particular situations. You can think of it as saying “If THIS happens, then IFTTT should do THAT.” There are trigger channels (corresponding to the ‘this’) and action channels (corresponding to the ‘that’.) The possibilities for this platform are vast, and you may want to play around with it to see all that it can do. For our purposes we will be creating recipes that say “If a new result appears in our keyword search, IFTTT should add a note to a spreadsheet we create in Google Drive with the information from the search result.”

You will need your keyword list (including the RSS feed links) to complete this process. Follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Open up If This Then That and log in to your account.
  2. Click “Create A Recipe.”
  3. Click the “This” link.
  4. Choose the “Feed” trigger channel.
  5. Choose “New Feed Item.”
  6. Copy the first RSS link from your spreadsheet and paste into the Feed URL box.
  7. Click “Create Trigger.”
  8. Click the “That” link.
  9. Choose the “Google Drive” action channel.
  10. Choose the “Add row to spreadsheet” action link.
  11. Customize the first box (currently displaying “New feed item”) to something signifying which search string this RSS feed pertains to.
  12. Click “Create Action” button.
  13. Customize the description so that you know where these results are coming from (i.e. which search string).
  14. Click “Create Recipe” button.
  15. Repeat for each RSS feed link associated with your search strings. In the end you’ll have several “recipes” displaying in your recipes on IFTTT.

Screenshot: IFTTT Recipes List Sample

Quick Tip: If there are particular websites or blogs that often post content relevant to your brand, such as your college site or university site, you may wish to create a recipe like the one above using the RSS feed link from that website as the “trigger”.

Monitor Your Dashboard

You can see the results that your RSS feed has found by logging in to your Google Drive account and opening the spreadsheet(s) created by IFTTT. Each new line will contain information pertaining to a new search result for that keyword string. You may choose to add additional columns to the spreadsheet – such as sentiment, response required, date and time of response, and a staff member the response was assigned to. This will allow you to track which items your searches reveal that require a response and to track progress on the items.

Is It Worth It?

I hope that this series has helped open the door on how to monitor your brand. You may be asking yourself if its worth it? I can tell you that it most definitely is. Through monitoring carefully chosen keywords for Michigan State University, the Graduate School has identified potential students who were deciding between our program and others, and convinced them to come to East Lansing. We’ve reached out to disgruntled students to find out what was bothering them and got them the answers they needed. We’ve found incredibly active graduate students on our own campus, leading to strong relationships between our office and their extended social media networks and helping to spread word of our services to graduate students across campus. And we’ve developed strong ties with specific departments on campus who help ensure that their students are aware of the funding and professional development opportunities made possible by our office. All this is because of social media.

The question isn’t “can you afford to develop a monitoring system?” The question is can you afford not to.