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Live from Twitter!

The rules of social media appear to be simple. Us Twitter-happy souls know that interaction is key. But some areas may be less than black and white. Rules regarding scheduling tweets and syncing up posts are not finite, at least within the media and PR industries.

Programs like HootSuite and TweetDeck allow users to choose when to tweet by scheduling them into the future, while also allowing enthusiasts to post the same message to multiple platforms by syncing Twitter with other social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Although plenty of tweeters send out synced-up postings to their other accounts, some agree it isn’t good manners.

Even if you’re reusing the same content, it’s worth it to make each post unique for each platform, noted Menachem Wecker, education reporter at  U.S. News & World Report. He even tried syncing his posts a few years ago, but decided to stop. “It sends Twitter-specific language, such as hash tags, through to Facebook, which can be annoying to your friends or subscribers, and it discourages people from subscribing to multiple channels of yours, because you’re double-dipping on all of your posts,” he said in an email interview.

Expressing similar sentiments was Jon Alhart, public relations supervisor and integrated digital media specialist at Dixon Schwabl. He feels it’s inconsiderate when people blast out all their Twitter content on multiple platforms. “It’s definitely the lazy way out,” he said. “It doesn’t take that long to repurpose the content.”

Scheduling tweets also isn’t desirable, at least when it comes to PR, noted Alhart. “To actually schedule a tweet isn’t very transparent or natural or organic, which is what social media is all about. In theory, when you’re tweeting you want it to be so there is a response right away,” he said. Journalists, however, can play by different rules since they are more focused on getting their content out, he noted.

Even so, Wecker, a journalist, thinks scheduling tweets is just another way to cut corners. “If you have a scheduled meeting, a date, or are just hanging out with someone, would you compose everything you are going to say ahead of time? I think it’s fine to be prepared for some circumstances, but you need to go into the engagement willing and ready to adapt if you don’t want to sound robotic,” he said. “If you actually schedule the tweet to run and don’t plan to go back into it – to make sure it still applies, that it hasn’t all of a sudden been rendered hurtful/inappropriate due to some unforeseen developing news story, etc. – you also risk a wide range of potential PR nightmares.”

But scheduled tweets do serve a purpose, noted Brian Hook, editor of the Missouri Journal. For journalists, at least, scheduling tweets can help with time management. Regardless, he still advises against doing it too much. “There is nothing more annoying on TV, for example, than scheduled ‘breaking news’ coverage,” he said in an email interview.

Dr. Marcella Wilson, lifestyle tech expert, doesn’t think one mode of tweeting is better than the other. Although deciding what kind of tweet to send does depend on the user and how the Twitter account is used, she noted.  “I think that a journalist or PR person who uses a scheduled tweet is timely, motivated, forward thinking and good at planning,” she said. “Sure you can say that tactics are involved, but that’s part of the game.” Meanwhile, unless the tweet is obviously responding to something happening live, one can only guess whether it was scheduled or not, she noted.

But Hook believes it is possible to tell when tweets are scheduled. “Periodic scheduled tweets are unnoticeable. But if there is no other form of interaction, others will soon notice,” he said.

“In general, people on Twitter seem to like the social part of social media. Also, I have found that mentioning [@ing] people is very effective. People love to be noticed. It’s similar to writing for a small town newspaper and covering the little league team. Everyone wants to see their name in the paper.”

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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