Turn Gmail (or any E-mail Account) Into a Social Network Hub



This is a great article that I found by Steve Rubel. Steve Rubel is a senior marketing strategist with over 15 years experience. He currently serves as senior vice president in Edelman’s me2revolution practice. Edelman is the largest independent global PR firm.


By Steve Rubel

There’s been a lot of chatter about the entire concept of social graphing. I have no idea if there is validity here or not. And certainly people smarter than I am are talking about the potential viability of the entire concept.However, what I do know is that a lot of us are increasingly participating in social networks and we need a way to track it all. Also, most of us are hooked on email too. So, the good news is you can easily combine these addictions (um I mean “tools”) to your advantage.

Thanks to gobs of storage, a pretty strong reason to stay locked-in (three and a half years of heavy email use), my Gmail account is the nerve center that runs my life. Yes, just as Gmail remains my personal nerve center, it now also tracks my social graph. I use Gmail as a Grand Central Station-sized hub that helps me track every social network I participate in and my friends’ activity there – as well as my own.

Here are four tips that have helped me. Many of these tips will work on most social networks that provide RSS, SMS or email alerts as well as on all big webmail sites – e.g. Windows Live Hotmail, AOL Mail, Yahoo Mail or even Exchange. What I love about it is that it also works great with Treos, Blackberries and iPhones. This series has several parts…

  • How to use Gmail to post to social networks
  • How to track your friends and their replies using Gmail
  • How to build a “lifebase” inside Gmail that maintains a record of your various friends/connections
  • How to use Gmail to prioritize the right friends and weed out the ones you want to un-friend

Use Gmail to post to Social Nets

Let’s face it, life is busy. Who has time to go to a site, log in and post something new. SInce I already spend a tremendous amount of time inside Gmail, I have rigged it so I can easily post directly to the social nets where I choose participate. In my case, this consists of Twitter and Facebook. It’s simple.

In Twitter’s case I use Twittermail. I have a super secret address that I send mail to and it automatically posts to Twitter, edits me down to 160 characters and formats my links.

Facebook doesn’t have email in functionality for status updates, but you can use Teleflip or another email to SMS gateway to get around this. Configure it so that any mail you send it auto forwards to FBOOK (32665). Use the @ symbol to update your status. Other commands are posted here and listed below.

FacebookmobileTrack Your Friends and their Responses with Gmail

So now that we covered how to get stuff posted to social networks from Gmail, let’s start using it to get updates so you can track your peeps – and their replies back at ‘ya.

In the case of Twitter, it’s simple again thanks to their API. Twittermail can automatically email you any replies to your Tweets. In addition, I use Twitter Digest to generate a feed of all of the friends I want to follow the most. I then stick this feed in my Gmail clips, which rotates whenever I am using the account. Even better, you can run a Twitter Digest feed through R-Mail (now owned by NBC and soon to be called SendMeRSS) and have it land in your inbox as an email message once daily.

Twitterdigest How about Facebook? Easy. Log into your account, find the status update page, grab the RSS feed and run it through Feedburner. Why Feebdurner? Because you can keep it the feed and your friends updates safe from search engines, yet still subscribe to it via email. This doesn’t just apply to Facebook but any site that lets you track friends via RSS.

Use Gmail (or other Webmail Service) to Build “a Lifebase” of Friends

Now, I don’t know about you, but in my business relationships are everything. Increasingly social networks are becoming a theater of operations for PR. So we need ways to track our interactions over time. Enter email.

Using any of the methods described above, start subscribing to feeds via email for the friends you want to follow closely. If a feed doesn’t exist in the social net you want to track and there’s only text message capes (like Facebook), use an SMS to email gateway.

With the emails set up, then build some very smart filters in Gmail. For example – “from:R-mail subject:Scoble.” This will find all messages that come in from R-mail from Scoble’s Twitter stream. I have this search automatically filtered and archived to a special “Friends” label as Lifehacker describes here. Using this method, you now have a nice way to track a friend’s entire stream – should you wish.

RmailscobleUse Gmail to Prioritize Friends You Care About Most and Weed Out Duds

If you follow the steps above you will start to amass a lifebase of all your friends and their social networking activities. This works especially well on services that offer unlimited storage, like AOL and Yahoo. Over time, you will open certain messages and ignore others. This will reveal just how valuable a particular friend’s update is to you.

Using Gmail you can find these all instantly with a command like this – from:R-mail subject:Twitter is:unread. Then you know which friends you should toss – at least from Gmail.

These are just a handful of tips and this concept is evolving but even before someone builds the big social graph in the sky, I am just getting along fine using Gmail, thanks to a bit of hackery.

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