Three Reasons Not to Auto-Tweet from Facebook

You’re a busy person. You’ve found time to add social media to your day, but just barely. You want to automate and you’ve seen how easy it is to set you Twitter account up to share your Facebook posts. 

Resist the urge.

Twitter and Facebook are not chocolate and peanut butter. They are not two parts of the same whole, meant to be mixed in any quantity. Below, three reasons to reconsider automating your Twitter account.

Your Message Will Be Cut Short
As you’re well aware, Twitter only allows 140 characters. The current Facebook status update limit is 63,206 characters.  Most Facebook posts are significantly shorter, but many go beyond Twitter’s 140. If you connect the two, the result will be a shortened version of your post with a link back to Facebook. 

Like a lot of Twitter users, I spend most of my Twitter time on my phone. Hitting that link to Facebook takes me to a page that takes longer to load than I care to wait. Any initial interest I had in your post is likely gone…or, at least, my patience has been exhausted.

I posted a new photo to Facebook ******
I posted a new photo to Facebook *****
I posted a new photo to Facebook ******
I posted a new photo to Facebook *****

Annoying, right? Aside from the links to nowhere, Posting a group of photos only adds text to the initial photo (unless you make a point to caption each image). You’ve just posted a list of links with no context, making the average person wary of clicking. Facebook may be safer than the random, but almost any image could be on the other side of that link.

It Makes You Look Less Engaged with Twitter
…And you are. Which is fine, except you’re posting there trying to engage their audience. Channeling everything back to Facebook implies you’re not willing to engage on Twitter. Are you? If someone responds to you on Twitter about your Facebook post, will you be in tune enough to realize it? 

So what do you do? Well, if you must automate, automate with care. Try using a service like HootSuite to schedule your posts, and make sure you check your mentions often to say connected. 

Social Media: The Benefit of Quality Followers

People standing in line

Are your followers just numbers?

When envisioning what a successful social media account looks like, it’s natural to assume that a massive follower count is a positive sign. It’s true, to some extent: big numbers equal big page views–and, more importantly, a quantifiable result you can show your skeptical boss. I know that in my last job before I started consulting, my boss tolerated my “screwing around on Facebook”…until my first account hit 10,000 followers.

To be sure, there’s something to be said for quantity. But online numbers don’t mean a thing if those users don’t interact with you offline, too. So what makes a quality, rather than quantity, follower?

They Remain Engaged
Have you ever liked a page or followed someone, then realized the content didn’t interest you? There’s a good chance that instead of unliking or unfollowing, you just hid their updates…or scrolled past, meaning to get rid of it later? It’s your job to consistently post engaging content, but pay attention to those that are interacting with you and what they’re saying. They are your core.

Dart board

Aim for those most likely to stay engaged.

They Share With Their Friends
A follower you can really count on takes your content beyond their feed. They clue in their social circle to the awesome stuff you’re posting. No algorithm can replace the success of a word-of-mouth recommendation.

They Walk the Walk
Most importantly, they get out from behind the keyboard and give you their business.  People bemoan the toll social media has taken on human interaction, but if you’re cultivating quality relationships, these online interactions encourage rather than replace offline connection.

So, don’t take slow growth as an immediate sign of failure. Look deeper and use quality as your guide. Quantity is likely to follow.

Bullying and legislation

There’s an excellent article on Gizmodo today by Ashley Feinberg titled “Why California’s New Web-Wide Delete Button For Teens Won’t Work. In short, it gives two good reasons why a mandatory Internet-wide “erase” button for the internet as a mechanism to keep minors protected from bullying and other ills can’t be successful.

First, as Feinberg points out, not all sites are California’s to regulate, making compliance essentially impossible to demand. Second, and most important to the everyday user with connection to minors’ concerns, this same “protective” measure can also allow minors using bullying or abusive language to cover their tracks.  Bullying without leaving a paper trail, as it were.

There is no perfect system for regulating the behavior of others, underage or not. There are, however, some steps you can take to keep your minor safer:

  • Most social media sites limit profile creation to those above age 13 to avoid having to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Stand by that limitation and do not allow or assist your pre-teen in creating a social media profile. It will give you and her time to create household social media ground rules.
  • The FTC has a great publication called Talking with your kids about being online. Get it here. It deals more with predators than bullies, but I highly recommend checking it out before allowing your son or daughter online unattended.
  • Create her first profile page together. It doesn’t mean she won’t change it later, but it means you and she will both know the potential for what can be there–and that can help guide the discussions you may need to have later.
  • Make keeping you on her friends list until a certain age a prerequisite of starting a profile. That way you can monitor new friendships and relationships, sensitive photos and the like. It has the potential to feel and be intrusive, so make sure you’re only stepping in when something genuinely concerning occurs–and make sure to handle it offline. No need to embarrass your kids unnecessarily.
  • If you do find someone is imitating your child online, or is imitating someone else to deceive your child, handle it through the social media service.  DO NOT “give them a taste of their own medicine” or the like.  Many schools now have staff monitoring for social-media based problems, so you may have recourse there, as well.

Finally, remember that the benefits of having a digital-savvy kid far outweigh the possible negatives. Work with your child to help them understand those negative possibilities and what they can do to lessen their impact, rather than cutting your child off from the Internet completely.

Twitter Lists: Useless Extra or Nerdy Delight?

My feelings about Twitter lists are as changeable as this Sacramento’s fall weather. While the librarian in me loves being able to categorize and add resources into topic-specific lists, neither the the phone nor the desktop Twitter interface highlights lists enough to incorporate them into regular use. (Hint: if you’re surprised to hear that Twitter even offered a list function, check a Twitter super-user’s profile page to find some they’ve already compiled).

If Twitter users were vigilant with their hashtag use (and even a Twitter lover like me isn’t), lists might be completely superfluous. Might. Regular hashtag use would allow better searching throughout twitter, and the need to find users who consistently tweeted on-topic about a certain subject would be less of an imperative (again, for those who knew where to find the function at all)–especially since it’s human to discuss more than one topic, making list useful for organizations, but maybe less so for individuals.

I create Twitter lists of partners for projects. Sometimes I make them public, and other times I keep them private–just as reference, so I’m not sharing exactly the same information, or so I can see how often they tend to tweet. From a personal standpoint, Twitter lists are completely valuable, and I totally recommend creating them to keep track of public efforts when there are many cooks in the kitchen.

What about you? Please leave a comment; I’d love to know if others find Twitter lists (public or private) helpful.

Faceboot and podcats, photosharking and downloafs: everyone makes mistakes

One keystroke can result in an uncomfortable typo, or a twitchy finger can post something too early…or worse, something you didn’t want to post at all. Here are some suggestions for what to do in common situations when something goes wrong:

General typos or incorrect facts
As you can see from the title, I get a bit of glee from the typos I’ve seen or executed over the years (Full disclosure: I am responsible for podcats and downloafing). While you may be inclined to quietly slip in a correction, with any kind of live document that social media provides (blogs, tweets, etc), it’s proper form to make the correction and note it either parenthetically or at the bottom of the piece if the correction is something like an error of fact or a misspelling of a person’s name.

Getting hacked

Even socially savvy people get hacked. There are great tools out there like 1Password, but if you’re not ready to part with money for the extra security, there’s a chance someone will get into your Twitter account and spam your followers, or possibly even attempt to spread malware with shady links. Here’s what to do in that situation:

  • Change your password. Make it a little tougher to guess than the last one.
  • Remove/trash/unsend anything the hacker sent if you have the option.
  • Send a public message to your followers (or email the same people who were emailed the first time, or DM the same people…etc.) letting them know you’ve been hacked, apologize in very simple language, and ask users not to open links if the offending Tweet (or whatever) may still be cached somewhere.

In short: don’t panic, but deal with it quickly and do apologize for inconveniencing people. You may not have been lazy when you came up with your password, so it isn’t really your fault, but as a matter of etiquette, it’s nice to let your friends and followers know you may have inconvenienced their day.

Conversations or photos and video that weren’t meant to be public

ImageObviously, this is the one that may not be completely fixable.

First: Conversations. The easiest place to make this mistake is Twitter, where the D@_____ command never seems to work. I’d recommend never sending a direct message outside of the “direct message” window and never using the “D@” prompt.

But in general, be honest and humble. If you really did say it, own up. If you were a snarky jerk, owning up to being a snarky jerk at the start is always better than claiming something was taken out of context or altered. Because like it or not, The conversation is now public. You don’t have to draw massive attention to it, but if asked about it, admit it’s you, apologize if needed, and move on…

…and NEVER discuss anything that needs to stay personal online. Don’t share passwords and logons through email and texts. There’s a reason your bank won’t put your account number in the email.

With photos and videos: These can spread fast, but if photos are yours and weren’t shared by the person with the rights to share them (note that this is a complicated issue based on who took the photo, who’s in the photo, and more), you have some recourse with social sites to have them taken down. Check the terms of use of each site to find out how. Another tip: Be good giving your photo files unique names, perhaps include your own name in them. If you’ve got a Google search set up for yourself, there’s a chance the descriptive text on that photo might travel along with it. You may get a heads-up if it goes beyond where you intended it. If you have the software to assign full metadata, all the better.

These tips barely scratch the surface, but I’d love to have some more discussion in the comment section. Any other great typos out there? Security tips I missed?

Getting started with social media when you don’t have time

When I meet people interested in social tools who haven’t yet joined Twitter or some other social network, the reason is invariably that the person “doesn’t have time” to add one more activity to his or her day. For my first post (For my first trick…), here are three tips I recommend to friends and clients to minimize or eliminate time issues when first starting out:

Angry male puppet with grey mustache and sleeping cap.

You don’t have to be a puppet on a string, at the mercy of your schedule.

Stick with what you know and love
Like anything else in life, you’re more apt to make time in life for things you enjoy, so start out with a social platform that resonates with your interests. Most comfortable with the written word? If time really is an issue, Twitter’s character limit should be a blessing rather than a hindrance. More the visual type? Instagram. Like a little bit of everything and want to connect with an artistic, tech-savvy crowd? I’m pretty sure they’re still on Tumblr.

Granted, you’ll see posts online and forwarded emails from coworkers telling you your industry is on site x and you absolutely must be there. Fine. You can cross-post. The point is, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. But if you don’t like sugar, try the social media equivalents of honey, agave, maple syrup…whatever appeals to you.

Set aside time for a daily “five, three, one”
Sound gimmicky? Yep! But it’s the structure that matters here. Five minutes of browsing your chosen social platform, three times a day, one interaction each time. Of the three total times you’ll be interacting, try to make one of those original content, one a share of related content, and one some type of interaction with someone who’s creating content that you like.

For those who truly have difficulty finding spare time in a day, this will be the most infuriating step. If you don’t have 15 minutes available, try two, five-minute blocks, or three, three-minute blocks. Do what you can. My hope is that the final step below gives you targeted searching and automation steps that will buy you a minimum of five minutes a day back to devote to some of these beginning social media steps. So, on to the non-gender-specific monarch of the time-savers: RSS Feeds, email alerts and saved searches.

Use the tools you already have
If you’re in a profession that puts you in the kind of bind that allows you to say you’re too busy, you’re also in the kind of profession where you’re on a smartphone. You’ve got internet access, email, and social media apps at your fingertips. With a little time for setup and research, you can get your social media sharing moving.

I am a huge fan of using RSS feeds to track social media and tech news. Still, many people are intimidated by feed readers so I’ll focus on the friendlier option here. (I will mention, though, that with the recent demise of Google Reader that I’ve switched to and recommend Feedly). For the email alternative, visit Google Alerts and perform a search related to your industry. Set the frequency you’d like (daily is a good option for five, three, one), and enter your email address. Confirm by clicking the link sent in a follow-up email and boom! You’ve just given yourself a daily list of things to talk about and share online. Be sure to perform similar searches internally on your social network of choice. You’ll find people in our industry with similar interests that may be worth getting in touch with.

So there you go. Those are my three tips for jump-starting your social media activity if you feel like time isn’t on your side. They’re on the common-sense side of things, for sure. But it’s why I love social media and why I’m drawn deeper into it as my career progresses: it’s a straightforward way of communicating that allows creativity among the largest base of people.

I genuinely love talking shop, so please feel free to get in touch! Leave me a comment or send an email. Thanks for reading!