I have to admit that I’ve fallen in love with Google Calendar ever since my responsibilities exploded to include writing for six blogs, researching, editing and online management of remote staff. It’s not just the fact that Google Calendar time management has completely transformed my daily schedule into one that is more streamlined, with a morning “to-do” report and scheduled reminders throughout the day, but also because of the power that the automated event reminders provide you to automatically do some of those mundane tasks for you – including a few you’d never expect.
If you are a blogger and you would like to insert a few automated blog updates into your publishing schedule to increase your post count, or if you are an avid user of Facebook or Twitter, but sometimes have difficulty keeping up with producing a timely information feed – Google Calendar can rescue you. All you have to do is take the time to configure Google Calendar to make use of the various email-to-status services that are available out there, many of which we’ve covered before here at MUO.
This post will help you configure each of those many services into one central automated posting “bot” controlled by your Google Calendar “dashboard.”
Plug Google Calendar Into Your Social Networks
Every time you schedule an event, you can tell Google Calendar to send you a reminder. This reminder includes a subject line that reads “Reminder: <Update Title>” and a date and time. The email itself includes the description that you write when you set up a recurring event. Normally the description is optional – but for what we’re going to use these recurring events for, it’s critical because it makes up what the post is going to say.
As you can see, there’s a description field at the bottom of the event update, which you can use to enter text for anything you’d like to do – whether it’s to post a blog update, post to Twitter, or post to Facebook. Obviously, just setting up an event like this in Google Calendar won’t post the updates for you, but in this article I’m going to show you how you can plug Google Calendar into other services that let you blog, Tweet or Facebook straight from automated Google Calendar events.
You don’t have to use the services I suggest below, but the only requirement is that the third-party service you use must accept incoming emails to trigger an automatic status update or post.
Plug Google Calendar Into Your Blog
The first approach is to use automated event reminders to post updates to your blog for you. The first step of enabling this feature is to enable email posting on your blog. Since WordPress is the most popular blogging platform, I’ll cover how to configure WordPress for this. Just go into the “Writing” section in your Settings – at the bottom you’ll see an area that lets you set up a POP3 email account that the blog will check. Any new incoming mail to that account will post to your blog – so set up a unique Gmail email account just for this purpose.
Configure the blog’s POP3 settings in the blog configuration as shown above and you’re good to go. Now, think of the situation you’ve created – you have an email address that will immediately post to your blog when receiving emails, and you have Google Calendar that will automatically send reminder emails to your email address you’ve configured with Google Calendar.
All you have left is to connect the two – and you’ve got yourself a free autoblogging service. For those of you who don’t know how, I’ll show you how to connect the two with email filtering in the last section of this article. For those of you who want a little more functionality with your email-to-blog updates, I highly recommend Postie, a WordPress plugin that I wrote about recently.
Postie lets you manipulate the incoming emails. So, if you really want to make the incoming emails from Google Calendar look good – I’d highly suggest the Postie plugin. Setup is a breeze, as you can see above.
Connect Google Calendar With Facebook
Now, if you are very popular on Facebook, and a lot of people come to your profile to check out the latest buzz or the newest projects that you’re working on, then you know that after a while there are a lot of people who depend on you for that news. When you go a week or more without posting updates, you have a lot of disappointed and disgruntled followers (many of whom may stop following your work).
Now, what if you could set up a bi-weekly recurring Google Calendar update that fires off an standard Facebook post, like “Well, it’s Thursday and I’m just doing my morning reading of some interesting Google News” – and then include a URL link to Google News, or any other web page you like. The key here would be to make recurring updates far enough apart so that it’s not obvious it’s automated – and linking to a website (even one of your own) that is updated frequently would keep the information fresh.
There are lots of methods you can use to autopost incoming emails to your Facebook status, but in my opinion one of the best is Posterous. Tim wrote about the service a bit, however the specific service within Posterous we want is the ability to autopost to Facebook.
Posterous lets you send post updates to a number of services, depending how you configure the account, and all you have to do is fire off your update to post@<your_account>.posterous.com and it gets automatically posted. So, once again, you have a special email for updating Facebook, and you have Google Calendar reminders. All you need is to set up your incoming filter to forward your Calendar reminders to your posterous email address – and you now have a Facebook autoblogging service.
Connect Google Calendar With Twitter
Of course – there’s also Twitter. Again, you could choose a number of email-to-Twitter services (we’ve covered a lot of them here at MUO) – but by far my favorite is the Twittermail feature at TwitterCounter.
As with most email-to-Twitter services, setting up an incoming email address that automatically posts to Twitter is really easy. Here, I’ve set up an address with @twittermail.com where I can forward specific Google Calendar reminders to, and the body of those emails will get automatically posted to my Twitter account.
Automate All of Your Posts!
Now that you’ve got special email accounts set up that will automatically post to your blog, Twitter or Facebook accounts – all you have to do is set up the email filters of your Google Calendar email account. Once you’ve set them up, these filters will appropriate forward the reminder emails to your services without any effort on your part.
Above, I’ve created a weekly email that I’ll send out every Thursday at 7:20 a.m. (reminder emails go out 10 minutes before the event). This recurring event will fire off a reminder email to my main Gmail account.
Next, go into your email account (in my case Gmail) and set up a new filter. Incoming emails from Google Calendar will always come from “firstname.lastname@example.org“. But you also want to identify which service to send it to. For example, above I want all of my daily agenda emails posted to my blog, so I identify any Calendar emails with that subject as part of my filter.
The next part of the filter is what you want Gmail to do with that incoming Calendar reminder or update. I always tell it to skip the Inbox in order to keep my mailbox clean. Then, just forward it to the appropriate email that you’ve set up in the first part of this article. In this case I’m forwarding it to the email I configured in the Postie WordPress plugin that will autopost to my WordPress blog.
By connecting together Google Calendar, your email filtering service and the various autoblogging email accounts that you can set up for all of your social networks – you can create a powerful and effective scheduling system for automatically posting to your various blogs and microblogs. There are Twitter, Facebook and Blog scheduling services out there, but who needs yet another account when you can do it all from your existing Google Calendar?
Would you ever consider setting up such an automated service? What email-to-post services do you prefer, and is there any part of this process that you would customize for your own purposes? Share your insight in the comments section below!