I’ve always resisted the idea of scheduling tweets. I’ve always believed that tweets are meant to happen when you’re on Twitter and you can respond quickly. Doing so is the best way to use the platform in a genuine, authentic way. I still do.
But I recently tweeted: “I just scheduled my first tweets. Should I feel dirty?” So what gives? And should I feel dirty?
Why I started scheduling tweets
I’m not usually working on my computer on Sunday mornings. I do look at Twitter but usually through my Blackberry or Playbook. But it’s not a time when I’m sharing posts from this blog. Partly because it’s intended to be non-work time and partly because I prefer posting from my blog from my laptop which I’m not using because it’s a non-work period spent with my family, taking care of my home responsibilities and being out in my community.
On Sunday April 22, I was on my laptop. I saw a tweet that I wanted to respond to with a post I had written so I did. In fact, I was so motivated by the topic that I wrote and posted a brand new post that elaborated on what I was trying to say.
I had a record breaking month on my blog last month but Sunday, April 22 was my second busiest day when normally Sunday has one of the slowest day of the week. That got me to thinking that people were interested in reading the content that I share here on Sundays. In fact, I expect for some its part of their Sunday routine.
I should note that Twitter is my greatest source of referrals to my blog. What if I was missing readers who could be potential clients because I wasn’t sharing my content when they were open to seeing it through Twitter?
The result? I definitely had people read my posts that would not have otherwise. I also benefited by having my tweets retweeted. I had more page views than my daily average for the month and a noticeable increase over my normal Sunday numbers or the Saturday of the same weekend.
I tried again this past Sunday with just 2 scheduled tweets. Again I got views Sunday morning I wouldn’t have received otherwise and a retweet. My views were double what they were on Saturday and what they normally would have been on a Sunday.
I was never opposed to scheduling tweets. I thought there were reasons why they were valid but I didn’t think they applied to me.
Now I know that I can benefit from scheduling tweets and I’ll continue to do it.
But can you schedule most or all of your tweets? Definitely not if you want to be social and receive the greatest benefits from Twitter.
When is it ok to schedule tweets?
Generally, the people who want to schedule tweets and need to are tweeting for their business or organization. Here are some examples of when I think it’s ok to schedule tweets:
- When you aren’t on Twitter when you normally would be. Ex. A holiday your office marks when others are working. Ex. “We’re celebrating family day, talk to you tommorrow!” or “I’m home with my family. Be back tomorrow. Here’s a link to our special activities for your family.”
- When your work day does not match when your target audience is on Twitter. For me that’s Sunday mornings, maybe Saturday and evenings too.
- When you can anticipate information is going to be desired when you normally wouldn’t be tweeting or can’t tweet. Maybe for example to send out a news release after a media event while you are still at the event assisting the media.
How do you schedule tweets and remain authentic?
When I asked if I should feel dirty, a tweep who I respect suggested I couldn’t and be authentic. I disagreed.
- Share content where the desired action isn’t a response on Twitter. Share content that desires that people read or do something online (or maybe offline). For me it was sending them to a blog post.
- Keep the tone of your tweet consistent with your normal style. My scheduled tweets were written the way nearly all of my tweets about blog posts are written. From the other end, there was no difference in the user experience if they did what I desire.
- Be available to respond or thank people for retweeting. My scheduled tweets have been at times when I could respond immediately or reasonably quickly on my mobile devices. So I get to send a tweet about a post in a way I normally would but at a time when I normally wouldn’t sent it–and still be able to be present.
How not to schedule tweets
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging you to stop spontaneously tweeting and to schedule your tweets.
Here’s what I would suggest you avoid doing:
- You can’t set it and forget it. You can’t just sit down and schedule a day or week’s worth of tweets and come back when it’s time to schedule more. Otherwise, you are advertising which is push, push, push and you never have the conversations that distinguish social media from an ad.
- You need to be present on Twitter. People should see tweets that are definitely real time especially replies and retweets.
- The vast majority of you tweets should be unscheduled. I still think that it’s best to be live on Twitter. If you schedule tweets, they should be the exception or a small percentage of your overall tweets. I’m sure I had as many or more tweets from my business Twitter account on those Sundays as I scheduled and certainly 99.5% of my tweets are still directly from me. I expect that 90% or more of my tweets will continue to be entered live.
- Don’t schedule tweets when people know you’re not sending it live. If you’re giving a speech at a conference, people shouldn’t see a tweet from you in their stream especially if it has nothing to do with the speech or conference. It’d be ok though if it is relevant somehow.
Danny Brown’s view on automation
Interestingly, on the same day that I scheduled my first tweets, Danny Brown blogged about the same topic. His position is clear from the post’s title: Dear Social Media Purists – There is Nothing Wrong with Automation