Facebook And Twitter: Fitting Your Voice To The Environment

Last night I had the good fortune (along with Cynthia Cotte Griffiths who recently launched Online and In Person) to attend the first DC-area meetup convened by Facebook + Journalists at American University.

It included a great panel discussion that included friends Mandy Jenkins (social news editor at Huffington Post) and Ian Shapira (enterprise reporter at Washington Post).

l-r: Vadim Lavrusik, Mandy Jenkins, Laura Amico, Bryan Monroe, Ian Shapira

The evening included a great deal of sharing about best practices when it comes to how journalists can (and do) best use Facebook to do their jobs. Facebook’s journalism program manager Vadim Lavrusik gave the opening remarks and to my pleasure gave a shout-out to Rockville Central as a  media organization that had moved entirely to Facebook.

One of the main take aways for the evening, as far as I was concerned, had to do with voice and authenticity.

Ian Shapira, for instance, talked about the need to appear human on Facebook so potential sources will feel more comfortable interacting (he told a story of a potential source who gave him an exclusive interview on a sensitive subject because he contacted them on Facebook and so the subject was able to check him out before responding). Other panelists repeatedly talked about the need to be “real” and “transparent.”

There is an interesting nuts-and-bolts corollary to this idea. Vadim Lavrusik reported on research that Facebook had done that suggests that status updates that get automatically pulled from other applications get 2-3 times fewer interactions than posts that are organically produced within Facebook.

In other words, auto-tweeting, or even pushing your Twitter updates into Facebook, is far less effective than crafting a post designed specifically for each context.

Many blog owners set up plug-ins that will automatically tweet their latest blog post into their stream, and then automatically pull Twitter updates into their Facebook account. This saves time, but it comes at the expense of engagement.

Vadim pointed to New York Times journalist Nicholas D. Kristof as an exemplar of this. He organically uses his Facebook updates almost as a reporter’s notebook, and his voice there is very, very Facebook-ish.

Vadim did not go so far as to compare Kristof’s Twitter and Facebook behavior (I don’t think he mentioned Twitter once, actually, but who can blame him since this was a Facebook event) — but I thought it would be instructive to make the comparison.

Look at this recent post by Kristof in Facebook:


(click to see full size)

In the post, he talks about a nonprofit he recently ran across, describes it briefly, and shares a link.

Here is the same thing in Twitter:


(click for full size)

Much briefer, too the point.

The lesson is that the time saved by auto-linking Facebook and Twitter may come at too great an expense in terms of engagement.

My own strategy is to keep some of the auto-linkages when it comes to my blog posts, but I try to add a great deal more organic updates to my stream (mostly in Facebook, but also in Twitter). The auto-links are there (based on RSS) because I find it useful to have a mechanism to create an “archival” or “official” record in each stream of my work — I often use this as the main post I link back to when I re-share.

If you are a content creator with a blog and working in both Twitter and Facebook, how do you deal with the three worlds?

2 thoughts on “Facebook And Twitter: Fitting Your Voice To The Environment”

  1. Hi, Brad!  I was just catching up on your blog and noticed this interesting post.  This definitely rings true for me.  I use RSS feeds and such to announce NCDD’s blog posts automagically on our twitter feed, our Facebook page and group, our LinkedIn group, and on my own Facebook wall.  I certainly get WAY more responses when I post things myself; but then again who has the time?  I like not having to worry about re-posting all the NCDD blog posts and resources on those social media sites.  It ensures we have a constant stream of content and lets me still post things directly when I’m inspired to do so.

    It’s not a perfect system (by far), but I love knowing that our posts are potentially being seen by many more people than just those visiting the site… without having to repost and reframe in each network. One of my worries, though, is that all of these automatic posts will drown out the ones I take extra time with.

    Sandy Heierbacher
    Director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)

  2. Sounds like we are on the same page. My worry with the auto-links that I do have (I have some) is precisely yours: that they will undercut the posts I spend time on. 

    I go back and forth. Sometimes I turn off every autolink feature and just go organic all the time. It is hard to sustain — if I am honest, it is not becuase it “takes so much time” (if I am systematic about it, it takes maybe 90 seconds per share), but because of perceived energy it takes (it feels like a pain when I think, “I ought to post that article to LinkedIn” . . . so I don’t do it.)

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