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.