Should you cross-post updates to Facebook and Twitter?

Here’s an article I wrote that was published on Ragan.com:

Published: 3/5/2010

Should you cross-post updates to Facebook and Twitter?
By Ari B. Adler

Consider your audience before posting the same update to multiple social media channels

The root strategy for any public relations initiative includes creating your message, determining your audience, and finding the best way of delivering your message to that audience. But now, with social media, technology has given people the ability to blast identical messages to different audiences.

LinkedIn allows you to post your status update simultaneously to Twitter. You can automatically feed your tweets to Google Buzz. You can connect tweets with your Facebook status updates or your Posterous feed. And with third-party software like Tweetdeck, you can post the same message to multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook and LinkedIn with the touch of one Send button. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on whom you ask.

“I don’t cross-post, because I use each tool for a slightly different purpose. Therefore, I target messages for each audience,” says Angela Dockett, marketing and communications manager for the American Cancer Society in East Lansing, Mich.

“I’ve done it, but am starting to back off,” admits Jason Dobson, a professional gaming blogger in Broken Arrow, Okla. “Audiences can be quite different between social media sites, and the messaging needs to reflect that.”

Although there is some mingling of followers and friends from one platform to the other, the style of how people communicate on those platforms differs, especially from a language standpoint.

While Twitter often is filled with abbreviations and symbols, those same messages appearing on a Facebook page could be confusing. Still, that hasn’t stopped some people from connecting their accounts.

“I post Twitter to Facebook, because I have friends and family finally on Facebook that don’t get Twitter. It’s too much of a hassle for me to keep up with both,” says Colleen Lin, senior rich media producer for the Dallas County Community College District in Texas. When asked if the audiences were ever confused, Lin said they were at first.

“I had some complaints, but I find that most people ‘hide’ me (on Facebook) if they’re irritated,” she says.

For some entities, particularly government agencies and universities, cross-posting may make sense.

“We cross-post, using Facebook for students and future students; Twitter for corporations, media and parents,” says Laurie Creasy, a new media specialist at Penn State.

Creasy said they aren’t using quite the same message everywhere, but Penn State hopes all the separate networks see similar messages. She noted the messages on Twitter are “more professional.”

In Rhode Island, the state Department of Transportation uses the exact same message on multiple networks, according to Dana Alexander Nolfe, RIDOT’s chief public affairs officer.

“I have a very broad target audience, and I think my goal is to get my message to as many people as possible. With so many venues, and to ensure consistency, I cross-post my message,” Nolfe says. “Some social media have a good-size audience, and some are very small, but my feeling is if MySpace, for example, is the only place someone is going to go to get RIDOT’s message, then I am going to continue to ensure that the message gets out that way.”

Some argue that business accounts should be given some leeway when cross-posting.

“The audiences are completely different if you are coming from a personal perspective,” says A.J. Teachout, owner of Ulu Marketing in Detroit. “My Twitter followers are likely not my Facebook friends, or friends at all for that matter, so they will not care to hear about what my kid did the other day. My Facebook friends actually know me and care to hear more personal details.

“That being said, from a business perspective, I think it’s a wise move. Your audience is in it for the same reason—to learn more about the business and, likely, your messages will be similar.”

In the end, it’s up to the individual whether to cross-post. With social media being such a new conduit, there’s no proven right or wrong way to do things—yet.

“The bottom line is: Know your audience and how they might be different across multiple networks and social sites,” Teachout says. “How would that affect your message?”

Mr. Watson, I’m on Google Wave! Watson?

The first clear telephone transmission occurred in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell reportedly said to his assistant, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you!”

The telephone would eventually reach incredible usage rates and most people today could not imagine a world without the devices that are both a blessing and a curse in our lives. But what about those first few brave souls who bought into the technology and paid to have phones installed? Were they ahead of their time or just more gullible than most?

I’ve been thinking about this more lately as I signed up for and tried to use Google Wave. I’m talking, but no one can hear me — much like I suspect those first few telephone users felt. If Mr. Bell were on Wave, I can’t help but think his message would be, “Mr. Watson, I’m on Google Wave. Come here, I want you! Watson? Mr. Watson? Is anyone else even on this blasted thing?”

OK, so maybe that’s more how I’m feeling than Bell would. He’d probably find a way to make Wave useful, either with Google’s technology or by inventing his own. But for me, and for many others, it seems Wave is just a novelty at best and a flop at worst.

I’ve tried to make it useful. I’ve shared invites to get more people signed up. I’ve found people signed up and tried to start collaborative projects with them. Most failed to lead to anything more than collaborating on the idea that we should be collaborating.

I understand from his blog posts about it that Chris Brogan is probably one of the biggest power users of Wave, and he seems to like it. But the original premise of Wave somehow becoming an e-mail killer just isn’t materializing for most of us.

I have Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Buzz. I use them all. They seem to make sense — even Buzz, although it seems to puzzle a lot of people. My point is that with all the tremendous Google products that allow me to collaborate with others and to communicate effectively while managing my tasks efficiently,why do I need Google Wave?

Perhaps some day I’ll use Wave more. Until then, I’m considering just dumping it altogether. I still check in every day with it to see if anyone wants to collaborate with me. Unfortunately, I’m only hearing a dial tone. How about you?

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Time management more challenging as new networks grow

Here’s an article I wrote for Ragan Communications about time management and the risk of social networking interrupting our ability to enjoy where we’re at and finish what we’re trying to do. I think social media is awesome, but even I admit there are times we need to evaluate how much we’re doing these days.

Published: 2/16/2010

Time management more challenging as new networks grow
By Ari B. Adler

By the time you’ve tweeted and checked in and updated your status, have you missed out on a slice of real life?

Remember “Where’s Waldo?” That lost-again-found-again character that rocketed to fame in the United States in the 1990s probably wouldn’t have found nearly as much success if he were introduced today. That’s because the answer would be too simple—finding Waldo would just require following him via myriad social networking services such as Twitter,FacebookFoursquare or the new Google Buzz.

If you want to know where people are, just start watching their online posts. They tweet about what they’re doing. They provide a Facebook status update about their plans for the day. They “check in” with Foursquare, alerting the world where they are at any given moment. And, with the new Buzz, they have the ability to drop all of it into your Gmail inbox.

The explosion of online tracking has many users wondering whether they could juggle all the social media tools, and many others wondering why they’d want to.

“For better and worse, we’ve raised our tolerance for how much we can multitask and fit into our days, so we’re better at being able to fit it all in with only some falling to the wayside,” says Andrew Schreck, a director at John Bailey & Associates Public Relations, in Troy, Mich. “There will be a breaking point where we can not, or do not want to, add any more technology and maybe slide back to a bit simpler lifestyle. I’ve seen this with Facebook, where friends are dropping out or paring back on followers because it is occupying too much of their time.”

The concept of time management has never been more in flux than it is lately with all of the different ways people can spend their time, both online and off. Despite fears to the contrary, online social networking has not made society less social. In some instances, the number of social activities people are invited to in real life are increasing.

“I can’t imagine the Foursquare-style check-ins continuing into the future, but I see solutions like Google Latitude taking hold, where your friends and any other applications you authorize could know where you are, without a specific application,” says Charles Hoffmeyer, operations analyst for the Michigan State Police. “Twitter, Facebook and Buzz fall into a different category. The social applications that support conversations with friends and strangers will thrive and will help us interact more effectively in the physical world.”

Automating the process would help the concept grow more rapidly, says Shannon Paul, social media manager for PEAK6 Online, in Seattle, Wash.

“While it’s still novel, location-based technology has far to go. Check-ins at exact locations still need to be performed manually, but I think many will eventually opt into having their location status update automatically during stretches of time,” Paul said.

Knowing when to say when

Automating the processes might raise some eyebrows over privacy, but the folks who are checking in manually have already given up a fair amount.

As more and more services start to crop up, those services heighten the burden of trying to find time for them all.

“Because of all the latest and greatest platforms that pop up on a pretty regular basis, those that try to use all will spend a pretty hefty chunk of time talking about doing rather than doing, and connecting rather than interacting,” says Kasey Anderson, a creative services specialist with Citizens Bank in Flint, Mich. “While this will impact enjoyment, I don’t think it’s a mainstream issue. Most of us know when to say when.”

Perhaps the bigger question is this: Are we all going to be so busy checking in with one another about where we are and what we’re doing that we won’t actually have any time to enjoy where we are or finish what we’re doing?

“I think that’s certainly going to be a concern for some people, but I see distraction as a human problem rather than a technology problem,” Paul says. “Some people have trouble staying in the moment and focusing on a task whether or not there’s technology involved.”

Daniel J. Hogan, an author, podcaster, and media production specialist in Lansing, Mich., agrees with that statement—and so, apparently, would his parents.

“I’ve caught myself checking Twitter updates on my phone when I should be enjoying what I’m actually doing,” Hogan says. “It comes back to self-control, and I’m more aware of it—especially when I’m around my parents, as my mom will point out that I’m ‘being rude.’ ”

The rudeness concept isn’t reserved for the older generations who just don’t understand some people’s need for constant connectivity.

Angela Minicuci, a recent graduate from Michigan State University, says that although she’s been guilty of being distracted by technology, she is trying to get better about it.

“One thing I try to do—and something everyone should remember—is to live in the moment and enjoy the company we have,” Minicuci said. “I think social interactions are less enjoyable when we’re distracted, and while a check-in or update can be fun, we should make our friendsour priorities, not our followers.”

So, is the flashy technology creating some new threat for society, or is this just an old story being retold with new characters?

According to Ryan Knott, manager of communications at the Michigan Osteopathic Association, in Okemos, Mich., society has been here before.

Since the invention of the telegraph and telephone, Knott says, our lives have become less about where we are and more about what has our attention.

“When I’m checking Twitter while at a restaurant or party, it’s not that I’m not taking the time to enjoy where I am and who I’m with,” he says. “But where I am now means more than just where my physical body currently resides. I’m no longer simply engaged in conversations in the space 3 feet around me, but all around the world. Whether you think that’s good or bad will depend largely on what you value.”