Keeping it real on Twitter: the case against scheduled tweets

Imagine this odd and improbable situation, if you will.  It’s 9 p.m. on a Saturday night.  You are sharing dinner with your significant other in a nice restaurant.  But all night, you’ve noticed something strange.  It seems like every fifteen minutes or so, your date says something nice.  But he says it in an abrupt way, a propos of nothing that you were discussing.  You lean over the table and see that he has a numbered list in his lap, composed of brief compliments and comments. You realize, with a shock, that he has planned and scheduled everything he was going to say to you that evening.

Well, you’d feel pretty strange about that, wouldn’t you?  As nice as those comments were,  now they appear inauthentic.  You’d end up feeling unappreciated and cheated out of an opportunity for real interaction from someone you wanted to connect with.  And you’d wonder if you were on a date with a robot!

Well, that is just how I feel about scheduled tweets.

Since many of my clients are B2B businesses and communications consultants, I wanted to point out a communications faux pas that is becoming more rampant on Twitter these days: the inappropriately scheduled tweet.

I was struck by how incongruous scheduled tweets can appear this weekend when I checked Twitter late at night Friday and early in the day Saturday.  I couldn’t sleep because I have a bad cold.  So, I was curious to see who was tweeting what during non-business hours.  Many people were posting about what they were doing, or watching on TV. But plenty of PR and advertising consultants were churning out scheduled tweets, mostly links to articles they had not written themselves.

We all use Twitter like a cork board for our business announcements and blog post links at times. But late at night and on the weekends, these scheduled tweets really stick out like a sore thumb for their irrelevant and non-conversational quality.  And worst of all, they break the rules of good communication, such as

  • Target your communication to specific users and their needs, keeping in mind how they prefer to receive and respond to your communication.
  • Be relevant. Stay on message.
  • Keep it timely.

Timeliness in communication is important, and in fact, it often trumps other factors. For example, a PR professional will delay pitching a story if another big news story  develops that would eclipse the intended message, because it’s just not the right time.

So back to Twitter and communication. How does timeliness come into play there?

Think about it: it’s midnight on a Friday night.  You are the CEO of a marketing firm. Is that the right time to post a link to another person’s article about SEO?

It’s 9:30 a.m. on a beautiful Saturday morning in DC.  You are a respected SVP of a DC PR agency. Do you honestly think a tweet about your daily of PR articles is going to make people stop what they are doing and click through to that link? (and you know, I hate dailies, anyway!)

Of course, both of these were scheduled tweets.

Even worse examples: scheduled tweets when the Japan earthquake occurred and when Congresswoman Giffords was shot.  To me and to some others, scheduled tweets that continued to post during those times appeared inappropriate and insensitive.

There are other times when it just doesn’t make sense for a B2B business to promote itself.  Like when the Oscars are on TV.  Or during the Superbowl.  Or on Christmas morning.  It’s just not good communication to promote your B2B business at those times.  Yet, I’m not kidding, people do. People with years of PR experience do this.

One marketing consultant I follow used Social Oomph to broadcast tweets every hour around the clock this weekend. Not once in his Twitter history did he engage with anyone on Twitter, or respond to a timely news development, or comment on anything that was happening that day.  All his tweets were links to articles he had not written — articles that were about marketing, but not about him or his business.

How is that marketing?  That’s not being a communicator.  That’s being a robot.

Another follower is the head of a marketing and advertising firm. In her bio, she says she will help you build your brand identity. But she hasn’t done a very good job building her own brand identity on Twitter.  Using a scheduling application, she also tweets around the clock, several times an hour, to linked articles.  Again, not her articles. Not one of her tweets is about her company, her expertise, her clients, or even her community.  Not one of these tweets is an interaction, or even a retweet.

Now tell me, how is that about building her brand on Twitter?

Contrast their approach with these Sunday night tweets — from professional communicators with serious social media chops — who can tell a weekend from a workday

AmberCadabra Amber Naslund
Does tomorrow really have to be Monday? I’m not ready yet.
dcconcierge Shana Glickfield
Ok, created 2 new websites, earned 2 new Foursquare badges, ate at Sonoma, Casa Nonna, Hill Country, & drank at Columbia Room. #GreatWeekend
Worob Andrew Worob
Thank you so much to everyone for all the bday wishes, and a major thank you to @LaurenUES for making it so special. You are the best, babe!

Authentic.  Timely.  Relevant.  Is that too much too ask?

How about you?  Do you schedule your tweets, for yourself, or for your company?  Was there ever a time when you wished you hadn’t scheduled a tweet?  What steps do you take, as a communicator, to ensure that your tweets are timely, relevant, and interesting to your followers?


About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince ( Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on March 21, 2011, in Twitter Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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