Tag Archives: rss

Feeding Facebook

For a long time I used the “RSS Graffiti” app on Facebook to take the RSS feed from this WordPress site and publish it as a set of stories on my Facebook page. I’ve found that Facebook is a primary driver of eyeballs to the site; aside from the random Google query (like “best hockey books” or “electric sheep shirt”) that deposits readers deep within the Snowman’s innards, I rely on click-through from Facebook and Twitter. RSS Graffiti fell into that “too hard to maintain” gutter of applications that needed regular development work but didn’t have a revenue stream to support the coders.

I’ve been lazy and have been tweeting and explicitly posting items when I update the site. Until last week, when I dusted off my Zapier account and connected the WP RSS2 feed directly to Facebook. Zapier is an industrial grade workflow (or “business process automation”, if you’re an enterprise nerd, and your definition of “business” includes just about anything you can do with a net-based content tool) system. With my free account, I can create five workflows that run 100 times a month, every fifteen minutes — perfect for small-scale audience generation.

Really Simple Sharing Experiment

Early results are in from my decision to stop using Facebook Notes. Due to a variety of failures on Facebook’s end, I decided to announce new blog entries as wall posts on my own and the Snowman On Fire Facebook pages. I’m calling the decision to switch a huge win.

Facebook is now the largest referrer of traffic to my blog. Those are readers who would have previously read the entire entry on Facebook, without seeing what other goodies and random hollering I have in the wider universe of snowman happenings.

Blog traffic was up pretty substantially, due both to increased referrals as well as more users going deeper than one page. Decreased bounce rates are a win.

In this case, RSS no longer stands for Really Simple Syndication – the feed isn’t syndicated at all. It’s more about simple sharing, and it’s simply a good idea.

Facebook Notes: So Long, and Good Riddance

I’ve been using the Facebook “Notes” application for about a year and a half to import notes from my various blogs into my Facebook profile and pages. As Facebook has grown in popularity, I’ve found more people reading my ramblings through that channel than those who end up clicking through a Google search or (gasp) actually subscribe to the blog or get the feed.

Effective today, I’ve imported my last Facebook note, and I’m glad to be done with them. The divorce is on two grounds: First, Facebook broke the Notes import function pretty badly about a week ago, without warning or feedback, and more important, using Notes fragments your audience.

I’ll address them in order of importance. As I’ve discovered the changing demographics of my blog readership, the increasing fragmentation of my readership bothers me. More people were commenting on my notes than leaving comments in the blog. I don’t rely on advertising or product sales on my blog, so the different sets of eyeballs don’t affect my (meager) writing income. But it is nice to separate my writing vehicle from its promotion and advertising. Facebook is about distribution; WordPress is about creation. Two functions now cleanly divided. Not to dissuade people from hitting “Like” or leaving comments on the meta-posts about blog entries that will show up, but I feel better knowing that discussion is being channeled away from Facebook. Tip of the propeller beanie to Amanda Blum who was the first person I heard suggest that making people click away from your blog was a Bad Idea if you used your blog to build brand awareness. And yes, we cover this topic a bit in Professional WordPress, and yes, I’ve just made a note for the 2nd edition to rewrite that section.

I’m now using RSS Graffiti to announce new blog entries as posts on my wall and the walls of my affiliated pages. Much simpler: I blog, it shouts to the world. You want to read it, you click through to my content (giving me much better analytics and audience assessment, thanks again, Amanda). No more notes, no more copying content into Facebook. Which brings me to the second point.

Facebook broke the Notes import capability, and the brokenness surfaces in non-deterministic but equally infuriating ways. When trying to reconnect this blog to my Snowman On Fire Page, I was first getting “Something went wrong, we’re trying to fix it” messages. I’m inured to “Oops, something went wrong” pop-ups when Facebook JavaScript gets garbled, but this was a new form of content-free error message. A little poking, though, showed that my feed was valid but had an XHTML error in it (a relative URL — found quickly via feedvalidator.org). Fixed the error, and then the Facebook error message switched to “We cannot find a valid feed at that URL.” Strange, as the feed validator, my browser, and any number of other feed readers were just fine with it. Reading through some Facebook online help forums, it looks like this has been an on-going problem, and one that may or may not be root caused.

If you’re going to change functionality of an application, let people know. Facebook can message users of an application; send us all notes using Notes if you want. If you’re going to possibly change the way a feed is imported, validated, or subjected to privacy restrictions (which I’m guessing is part of the root cause), then carefully explain what to change or how to avoid the non-sensical error messages. Otherwise, people will just resort to posting updates about their blogs, and not the actual content — which is likely a good thing, anyway, as Facebook has been quite squirrelly about what rights they can assert over content uploaded to their service. Net net, using the RSS Graffiti application means your content stays put, your blog posts are announced to your intended audiences, and it works reliably without having to check in every few days. The only downside (for Facebook): people are clicking away from your site, and even I know (now) that’s a bad idea.