[This was first published at AMPed.]
The one thing that I love about technology is the discovery of something awesome regardless if it is software, hardware or a mash-up application that enhances my overall experience. But what makes the tech even more cool is when the technology just works the way it does without any additional futzing by me.
Keeping that in mind, one of my favorite widgets for WordPress that does just this is Twitter Tools by Alex King. Twitter Tools is kind of a misnomer in that it sounds like contains a suite of options for Twitter<->WordPress functionality when it really boils down to two things:
- Turn your posts into tweets.
- Pulls existing tweets into a post.
Why is this widget important? With Twitter having grown over 1000% in the last year, everyone and everything is on Twitter from national news networks, companies and brands, to celebrities and politicos and definitely not lastly, right down to Joe and Jane Anybody. The one constant thing all of them are doing is harnessing the way Twitter works and pushing beyond its boundaries by incorporating Twitter into their other social networks and web presences and vice versa. For companies and brands, this also means that they are doing outreach to clients, potential clients, staff and more by utilizing the power of social networking and integrating it into their professional lives. Why send just a company newsletter to clients when you can also keep them abreast of new technologies, updates, interests as well as interact with them in this new social playground.
What exactly does this mean? Social networking takes a lot of time and work, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. Let’s say Jane Anybody is on Twitter, Facebook, and has a blog. Let’s say she wants to be able to push her blog onto Twitter automatically without having to login to Twitter every single time she writes a new entry. Let’s also say that Jane doesn’t want to have to futz with shrinking the URL, rewording her title if it is too long and then reminding herself to login and to post to Twitter after she is done writing her blog entry. She wants an application this will do all of this for her with one push of a button.
This is where Twitter Tools comes into play.
As mentioned, Twitter Tools is the all in one client that will automagically push new blog content to your Twitter account AND will pull content from your Twitter account, which you can then showcase your Twitter-fu in a neat sidebar widget that you can add (thanks, again, to Twitter Tools) or as a daily post, which will post automatically to your blog.
You can search for Twitter Tools directly at the WordPress Codex, download and upload to WP-Plugins/ folder on your WordPress install or even easier, you can search for Twitter Tools via the Plugins->Add New search tab on your WordPress dashboard. The second install option is even easier as WordPress will automatically download and install Twitter Tools (or any plugin available via the Codex) without having to use (or know) FTP. Just search, select and okay the download and WordPress does it all for you — which is also pretty cool.
Regardless of which way you choose to download Twitter Tools, once it’s installed, go to WordPress Dashboard->Settings->Twitter Tools. From here, once you authenticate your Twitter account and change the option on “Enable option to create a tweet when you post in your blog” to “Yes,” Twitter Tools can be pretty much left alone. From this point forward, every post created on your blog will automatically ship to Twitter, with shortened URL, when your post is published to the blog. Twitter Tools also works with post-date (in the future) and pre-date (in the past) feature via WordPress but also keep in mind that in choosing either of these options, the date stamp on your Tweet will match the date stamp on your blog entry and pre-date entries will be fed into your Twitter stream appropriately, therefore they will not show up as “new” tweets in your timeline to your followers.
Here are some other nifty things about Twitter Tools:
- You can turn Twitter Tools on/off individually in each post, which will override the default. In this case, we have changed the default to “Yes” which means that each and every post will automagically post to Twitter when it posts to your blog.
- Twitter Tools automatically installs widget functionality that you can drag into your sidebar by going to
WordPress Dashboard->Appearance->Widgets without knowing how to code.
- You can also enable the ability (via the Twitter Tools configuration page) to have your tweets for the day automatically pulled from Twitter, compiled into a single post and having that post posted not only to your blog but also tweeted back to your Twitter account (like your other normal blog posts). And no, King says, this apparent cyclic function will not cause a firey ball of doom.
- For those of you who are more into doing things by hand, King also gives instructions on how to hack up and style Twitter Toolsrather than be dependent on the theme installed. This means if you would rather have X amount of tweets appear or if you would rather have them show up in a footer, or somewhere else on your blog, King provides how-to’s and explanation how these hooks will work.
- Support: One of the nice things about WordPress is the community built around it for support if you get stuck on doing something and with Twitter Tools, there is no exception. You can use the support Codex and post a question there, you can alternately Google for an answer or if it is dire emergancy and you simply cannot wait for responses, there is the WP HelpCenter, which is a pay service.
Bottom line: Twitter Tools is an easy way to get Twitter integrated into your blog and to push blog posts to your Twitter account without knowing how to code, futz with extra settings or more plugins. It works right out of the box and can be installed and set-up within a few minutes. This is definitely a “Must Have” in your WordPress toolkit.