Roll Your Own TwitPic-like Media Hosting Using Posterous
One of the more useful aspects of Twitter is the ability to quickly broadcast images, videos, and other media to your followers, making it an effective “mo-blogging” (mobile blogging) platform. Twitter doesn’t have this ability built in, though; sending pictures or video clips to Twitter requires using third-party services like TwitPic. Most Twitter clients will automatically upload images to these third-party hosts and add a link to your tweets, making the whole experience rather seamless.
This is a pretty good solution for casual sharing, but if you’re using Twitter as part of your personal branding efforts, or if you’re serious about the media you’re distributing, you might want more control over how your media is stored and displayed online. TwitPic and the other services don’t offer much in the way of page customization. They also scatter your content over several sites.
Then there’s the Twitter API limit, which limits access to only your last 3200 tweets. Assuming you’re sharing things on Twitter that are more important than what you ate for lunch and what cute thing your cat just did, you might worry about losing your online history as you build up past the 3200 mark.
Having discovered too late Twitter’s API limit (I’m almost to 3700 tweets at the moment), I decided I didn’t want to risk my images and other posted material becoming difficult to access – although much of my Twittering is purely personal, my stream is an important part of my online professional presence, and I want to make sure it’s not only archived but accessible moving forward.
Enter Posterous. Posterous is a lifestreaming service that sits somewhere between Twitter and a blog in terms of features. It’s not really intended for essay-like blogging, but rather for capturing images, video, web links, and thoughts quickly and easily. What’s important here is that you can post via email or even SMS message, and it can be set up to automatically forward anything you post to Twitter, Facebook, and a number of other services (including your own blog). Using Posterous, I can create a permanent record of the images, videos, audio clips, and other material I post to Twitter, and I can do so in a customizable, brandable space that offers me far more control over my content than I have with services like TwitPic or even Twitter.
Here’s how to set up and use Posterous as a home for all your tweetable media.
Set up a Posterous account
An unusual thing about Posterous is that you can’t just go to the website and sign up – you create an account by using the service.
- Send a photo, video, or just text email to email@example.com.
- Within a few minutes, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a link to your newly-created site. At the moment, your post is it’s own stand-alone site. Click the link that allows you to change your password.
- Posterous assigned you a username based on the username of the email address you sent your first email from (the part before the @ sign). Change that to whatever you want your site’s URL to be (it will be “username.posterous.com” where username is whatever you choose) and enter a password.
- Now go to the “Manage” screen and start customizing the site.
- Click “Edit this site” to change the name of the site and add a theme under “Theme and customize my site. If you know CSS and HTML, you can create your own theme. Also, you can upload a header image to really brand your site.
- If you really want to get fancy, you can set up your Posterous site under your own domain name; follow the instructions on the “Edit” page.
- You can also enter your Google Analytics Domain ID to track visitors using Google Analytics. Follow the instructions on the “Edit” page.
- Click “Edit my profile” to add personal information and upload a photo of yourself.
- From the “Manage” page, click “Manage emails and phone” to add other emails and your cell phone number so you can post from them. I recommend adding your main email address and your phone’s email address (if it’s different from your main email).
- “From the “Manage” page, click “Autopost to Everywhere” to add your Twitter account and any other accounts you want to post to via Posterous. You can add Facebook and other social networks, image-hosting sites like Flickr and Picasa, and your own websites, among other services.
Now you’re set up to post to Posterous and have those posts forwarded automatically to Twitter (and wherever else you choose).
Post images, videos, and other media via Posterous
- Add an address book entry to your contact manager for Posterous. Add both the main email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and the SMS short code, 41411.
- Anything you email to email@example.com will be automatically forwarded to all the services you’ve set up under “Autopost”. The subject line will be the title of your post at Posterous and will make up the body of your Tweet, so limit yourself to 130 characters (to leave room for the shortened URL to your post).
- Posterous automatically resizes images to fit your theme. If you send multiple images, Posterous will create a very nice gallery so that all of them can be viewed within the main post. Videos are embedded in a Flash player, as are MP3 files you send to Posterous.
- If you might only want to post something to Twitter, Facebook, your blog, or elsewhere, add one or more of the following email addresses to your address book entry:
- You can post text-only entries through the SMS number. Type “POST” (without the quotes) and enter up to 110 characters.
- If your email program adds a signature line or a “Sent via” line, you can make sure that doesn’t get added to your post by typing “#end” (without the quotes) at the end of the text you want in your post.
- You can also add a “Share on Posterous” bookmarklet to your browser for one-click posting from the Web. Any text and images you select before clicking will be posted (and you can add your own text as well). If you don’t select text, Posterous will scan the page for likely “excerpts” on the page, which you can scroll through until you find the part you want to post.
While I think there are a lot of benefits to tweeting this way, even for regular text tweets, I have to admit there are also a few drawbacks. The most notable is that you have to remember to limit yourself to 130 characters (or less) in order to accommodate the link to your Posterous page. As if 140 characters wasn’t short enough!
Another drawback is that you can’t post through your favorite Twitter client – you have to use email or SMS to get your post to Posterous. In effect, Posterous becomes your Twitter client – but only for posting.
Finally, many Twitter clients offer previews of images on the more popular image- and video-hosting services. Your followers won’t be able to preview your images on Posterous in their Twitter client.
Obviously, I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, but you should be aware of them before taking the plunge yourself. If Twitter is not just a pastime for you, but a real part of your business or professional life, this is a way to take a lot more control over the content you post to Twitter.
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