How to set up a “free” snow report text message service (using Twitter)
I’ve been kicking around the idea of using Twitter’s SMS option to push snow reports to consumers ever since I first got my “real” introduction to Twitter over two years ago. I haven’t had the chance to implement it myself, but I do recall seeing Aspen Ski Co with an option to do so on their site last year – I’m not sure how well it worked as it isn’t listed as an option on their site currently. However, a recent post on Alex Kaufman’s blog about Twitter’s new “fast follow” option really got me thinking about this concept again.
The key to this concept is that Twitter was built as a service that was to be updated as well as to send updates to users via text. Now the cool part about this is that Twitter doesn’t charge users to have their updates sent via text to those users who sign up for them. This has always been possible, all someone would have to do is to go to that particular Twitter users’ page and then click on the icon to start receiving texts whenever that user updates – just remember that some people tweet a lot so beware of what accounts you follow in this manner. Speaking of text, there are a bunch of commands that you can send via text to Twitter including:
Turning Mobile Twitter Updates Off and On
- ON: turns ALL your authorized Twitter updates and notifications on.
- OFF: turns off all updates except direct messages. Send STOP again to turn off direct messages too.
- STOP, QUIT, End, Cancel, Arret or Unsubscribe: turns ALL phone notifications off.
- ON username: turns on notifications for a specific person on your phone. Example: ON alissa
- OFF username: turns off notifications for a specific person on your phone. Example: OFF blaine
- FOLLOW username: this command allows you to start following a specific user, as well as receive SMS notifications. Example: FOLLOW jerry
- LEAVE username: this command allows you to stop receiving SMS notifications for a specific user. Example: LEAVE benfu
Fun Stuff: friends, favorites, and stats!Use the commands below to send private messages, favorite Tweets, and more.
- @username + message
Reply: shows your Tweet as a reply directed at another person, and causes your twitter to save in their “replies” tab.
Example: @meangrape I love that song too!
- D username + message
Direct Message: sends a person a private message that goes to their device, and saves in their web archive.
Example: d krissy want to pick a Jamba Juice for me while you’re there?
- RT username
Retweet: sends another user’s latest Tweet to your followers. Example: RT Charles
- SET LOCATION placename
Updates the location field in your profile. Example: set location San Francisco
- WHOIS username
Retrieves the profile information for any public user on Twitter. Example: whois jack
- GET username
Retrieves the latest Twitter update posted by the person. Example: get goldman
- FAV username
Marks that user’s last Tweet as one of your favorites. (hint: reply to any update with FAV to mark it as a favorite if you’re receiving it in real time)
Example: fav crystal
This command returns your number of followers, how many people you’re following, and your bio information.
The above information was found in Twitter’s Help Center.
Now, with Twitter’s new Fast Follow option, a user doesn’t even need a Twitter account to use many of these command, and all they have to do to receive, say a snow report from @snowreport (just as an example) is to text “Follow snowreport” to 40404. Then “Off” “Stop” or “Leave” to turn the updates off. Now, only some of the above noted commands will work without a setup account, but it’s certainly a great way for someone to test out Twitter. And the best part is that businesses can really easily take advantage of these features now that users don’t need accounts. All a business needs to do is say “Text ‘Follow’ [whatever account they have] to 40404” and away things go. The last really neat part of this is that there are plenty of services like Twitterfeed.com that will take existing RSS feeds and modify them and post to Twitter so you don’t even need to crack into Twitter’s API to have something like a snow report pushed to Twitter generated SMSs. I don’t see a lot of problems in going this route aside from the fact that Twitter hasn’t ever been 100% dependable in its service, and it seems like the “Fail Whale” still shows up on a regular basis, so I wouldn’t recommend using Twitter for anything that is absolutely mission critical. But other than that, who’s up for snow reports via text using Twitter?!