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Using IFTTT and Yammer to distribute news inside your organisation, fast

I have what I consider a rather heavy collection of RSS links in my feed reader: we are talking more than a couple of hundred sites, blogs and service statuses which obviously generate a large amount of content I like to read.

I have what I consider a rather heavy collection of RSS links in my feed reader: we are talking more than a couple of hundred sites, blogs and service statuses which obviously generate a large amount of content I like to read.

A few weeks back a couple of Intergen directors asked me about sharing some of this avalanche of content around the company, and our Intergen Yammer network seemed like the logical place to do this. The idea was to make the content digestible enough that people could consume small bits quickly, while still being relevant and giving them a wider view of the technology industry.

I came up with two options and implemented both:

  • Create a curated OPML file with a subset of all my RSS links (which still came down to about 80 links in total), making this file available through my SharePoint page available through the intranet. Other users can download this file and import into their favourite RSS feed reader;
  • Share a smaller number of news bits through a new “bot” persona that automatically posts links from a select list of RSS links to a Yammer Group.

The first option is pretty straightforward so I won’t bother you with details (if you’d like to know more, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below). The second option was more fun to implement and here is an example of the resulting post in our Yammer Homepage:

First I compiled a list of RSS links I thought worth sharing inside the company. In our case it has to balance technology and our core values as Microsoft Gold Partner. This means I assumed many of the people inside the Yammer network already read a lot of Microsoft-related news and blog posts. I decided to use a mix of feeds covering both Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies to achieve that balance.

I put a limit of 20 RSS links and managed to get to 19 feeds I thought worth sharing.

I then created a new Yammer user using an alias email address inside the company – in my case I called it “News Bot”. I then create a new Yammer Group called “Happenings in Tech” and made “News Bot” an admin in this group (you don’t need it to be an admin, but it’s just cool to have the bot showing up as admin so people know it is “trusted”).

Next I created an account with “IFTTT” (If This Then That), a web service that helps you automate repetitive tasks that will be performed when something happens or change.

IFTTT uses recipes to accomplish these tasks. Recipes have Triggers and Actions. Trigger Channels are tested for conditions and when these conditions are met certain actions are taken. In our case we use Feed Channel as trigger and a Yammer Channel as the target.

This is a screenshot showing a couple of the recipes in our account:

This is a sample of news links posted by News Bot into the Yammer group:

Some Channels need to be activated. For example for Yammer you need to authorise IFTTT to post to Yammer API on your behalf via OAUTH, so I’ve done this while logged into Yammer as “News Bot”.

Here is a series of screenshots showing a basic recipe example (“if a new blog item appears in this feed then post a message to Happenings in Tech group”). To create this recipe we start by selecting the Trigger Channel "Feed" from the available Channels:

We then select a Trigger from a selection of triggers unique to each Channel:

And we complete the required fields, in this case the Feed URL:

We continue to select the Action Channel, in this case my authorised Yammer account:

And select an action (here I used "Post a message"), again from a list that is unique to that specific Channel:

And finish with the message itself, using some macros:

Repeat this for each of the select sources and you should have IFTTT posting messages pretty soon.

We started this with 19 recipes and slowly reduced the number of recipes to 14. This is because we also have to strike a balance between good information and content overload. People who join the Happenings in Tech group will see all that stream in their homepage when they log into Yammer, as well as get notifications via Yammer Notifier:

There’s such a thing as too much good stuff and “human” messages could get lost in the amount of content flowing in the homepage (you can always filter the new group by clicking the individual groups on the Yammer homepage but this makes the whole reason to use Yammer a lot more “complicated”).

I slowly turned off recipes generating too many posts while trying to keep the news relevant as a tech industry overview – unfortunately some tech blogs which used to have some good content now seem to believe that quantity beats quality.

This is obviously a continuous process. Some blogs might become irrelevant (too many headlines with not much quality), new blogs appear, people complain about the number of posts, etc. You have to consider all these factors and tweak the recipes to achieve that balance of good industry insight while not being too “spammy”.

Posted by: Mauricio Freitas, Online & Digital Marketing Specialist | 20 May 2014

Tags: Content, Yammer

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