Create your own real-time SMS to Twitter service!

Create your own real-time SMS to Twitter service!

For the past month I have been trying to figure out an elegant way of having an entire audience all tweet to the same account using text messaging on their phones. While I can think of a good number of reasons to want to do this, my main concern was in creating a twitter backchannel for presentations that anyone could participate in, regardless of their experience with twitter or backchanneling. I believe in the power of the audience and I want them to be able to ask questions and make comments on what is going on. I also thought it would be quite powerful to show people just how easy it is to harness the technology that most of us carry around in our pockets.

So without further ado, here is how you can give anyone a single number to send an SMS to and have it post to twitter on the account of your choosing.

Step 1: Sign up for a new twitter account using the gmail address+ feature.

While you may think having a bunch of people posting to your twitter account would provide you with a bunch of content, it is a really bad idea to let just anyone in the audience to put words in your mouth.

So, go to twitter and sign up for a new account, but instead of having to have a different e-mail address, all you need to do is to use This will still send all follower e-mails and direct messages to your Gmail account, but it will allow you to filter it out if you don’t want to receive any of it.

Here is what that looks like:

Step 2: Go into your Google Voice Account and turn on SMS forwarding to e-mail, which is a checkbox in Settings in the SMS and Voicemail tab (if you don’t have a Google Voice account, let me know, I have a few invites). It looks like this:

Step 3: Go into your Gmail and set up a filter account with the following parameters:

Subject: “SMS from” (without quotes)

Has the words: (whatever you want your keyword to be. I was using the twitter account name as a hashtag, so mine is SMStoTW)

Doesn’t have: (you can filter out any text message with a swear word or any words that you think shouldn’t be sent to the twitter account… this is a feature that I am really excited about)

It looks like this:

Then, click next step and have the filter put the message automatically in the archive as well as forward it to a address, like so:

Step 4: Tie Twittermail to your Twitter account by going to and clicking the “Who are you on Twitter?” link in the top right corner and then allowing it to access your new twitter account (make sure you are logged in as your new account and not your public account here). It looks like this:

Step 5: Change the twittermail address to be your keyword by clicking in the twittermail settings, typing in your keyword, and saving the settings. Like so:

If you did everything correctly, anytime that someone sends an SMS message to your Google Voice account with the keyword (or hashtag) somewhere in the message, it will post it instantly to your account. Like this:

Other implications of this workflow are that you would be able to update all of your twitter accounts via text message simply by including your own keywords in your SMS. Your keyword could be as small as a single character with the pound sign so you wouldn’t be wasting any of your 140. I am very excited about the potential of crossposting to multiple twitter accounts using multiple hashtags. I also like the idea that we could use it to engage the community with questions and comments, even away from a presentation setting. But, I’m sure other folks will figure out better ways to use this process that I haven’t even thought of yet. Comment on the post if you come up with anything or if you have specific questions about getting this to work.

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One comment

  1. jjc

    I plan on using this with a digital sign (RiseVision) as a display between (musical) sets while performing at a venue.  Audience’s can text in and the RiseVision Twitter List gadget will show the X number of recent tweets. 

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