Kill the feed already

Congratulations (insert name of news organization here).

You joined Twitter, but if you enabled Twitterfeed or RSS integration your success stops there. If you turned on these services you’re failing to utilize all that Twitter has to offer.

Using Twitterfeed or RSS integration means you are using Twitter as a broadcast medium. It’s not. It’s so much more and you’re failing to use it to its fullest potential.

First off, the tweets these services send out often leave something to be desired. They rarely leave room for traditional retweets. They usually just spit out a headline and the start of a story. Cutoff headlines and leads are also a common problem, not to mention an annoyance for your followers. What about mentioning that awesome video your staff created to go with the story?

Second, consider the timing. Automatic services usually have a delay of about an hour.  So, you need to think about what time your content is going online. I have seen several newspapers posting  several stories around 1 a.m., which means their tweets are going out around 2 a.m. How many of your followers will be checking Twitter at 2 a.m.? Improving your workflow could counter this problem, but it doesn’t reverse all the negatives of an automated service.

Another problem with automated services is that often send multiple tweets in a short amount of time. I don’t know about you, but when I see 10 tweets in three minutes from one organization I get annoyed and tend to skip over all of them.

What about crowdsourcing? Are you following important leaders in your community? Twitter is a two-way communication channel. Start listening. Find out what’s going on in your community, find sources for your next big project or get more information on the latest breaking news event. Best yet, interact with your community. Talk to the people using your service, find ways to improve and connect with them.

I know it’s a lot of work to turn off the automation, but the benefits will make it worth your effort. Look at other news organizations, find ones that aren’t using automatic services and talk to the people in charge of their social media accounts, experiment and find a way to make Twitter work for you.

If you’re looking for some tips look at the various training materials Steve Buttry has prepared, read JouranlismNext by Mark Briggs or look for seminars hosted by groups like SPJ, Poynter or your local press association.

    • JoAnn Kawell
    • July 9th, 2010

    Sorry, but I don’t agree. I use Twitter primarily as a headline service, and I don’t care if feeds are automated. I would rather that a news outlet with limited resources use its energy to do something else better than worrying about whether headline Tweets are great. Yes, Tweet about other stuff too, but don’t overdo it. I really don’t want to get up close and personal with EVERYONE at a news outlet.
    And though it’s hard to believe with all the blah blah going around about how news outlets have to be social on social media, I actually don’t think my view is so rare.

    • JoAnn,
      Thanks for commenting. While I agree it is hard to do with limited resources, I think the opportunities that social media can provide news outlets make it worth the effort. Social media is about connecting with our community and the headline services fail to do that. In some cases, it even alienates them. Twitter is about listening even more than it is broadcasting. I once heard the analogy that people (or organizations) who are just broadcasting on Twitter are like a man walking into a crowded party and just shouting his thoughts at everyone.

      • I’m wondering if the best approach might be to have two accounts — one that’s more for interaction, and one that is just an automated feed blasting out headlines as they’re posted. As JoAnn noted, some people DO like to use Twitter essentially as a headline service. So I’ve been thinking about whether we should have one account that’s used for more interaction and just pushing the occasional high-interest story, and a second account for people who are interested in seeing all our headlines pop up in their feed so they can decide what to read.

      • Erik,
        It’s definitely an interesting approach that I hadn’t considered or seen done. I think there could be some validity behind providing the community a service that they want.

        I however, would make sure that it is clear that the particular account is strictly headlines and would make sure to promote both accounts. The other thing I would say that is while the headlines account wouldn’t need to be monitored regularly, someone should still check for directed tweets. Community members may be reporting broken links or similar issues by replying to the tweet they saw.

        I do still believe that two of the issues I presented in my post would still need to be addressed though. News organizations wanting to utilize a second Twitter account for headlines should be aware of what time the their tweets are posting. While followers of this type of account are probably more likely to look at the organizations entire timeline, posting tweets at 2 a.m. would still be largely ineffective. The issue of multiple stories posting at once may be less of an issue for this type of account’s followers, but I still find it annoying to have eight posts from one person in a row in my home feed.

        The bottom line is, news organizations will need to find a system that works for them and provides the best outcome for their community. If there is a demand for a headlines only service, it probably should be met.

  1. July 10th, 2010

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