The auto syndication paradox: How your social content can both help and harm you.
I am a bit of a sci-fi nerd.
But there is one thing in science fiction that I’ve never been able to fully wrap my head around: the concept of the time-space continuum — being in more than one place at one time and doing things in the past or future that irrevocably change the present.
Maybe this is one reason why I’ve never gotten on board with auto-syndicating my social content to different points in time.
I know a lot of people who are fans of this practice…smart people, people whom I admire.
For instance, one West coast smartie has set it up so his blog posts are tweeted hours before he gets up in the morning to take advantage of East Coast social traffic. Another popular blogger syndicates updates to her network multiple times throughout the day, which enables her to reach a wider audience, and ultimately, increase the readership of her blog.
Makes perfect sense.
But, as we’ve seen with some of the best sci-fi movies, messing with the future before you’re living in it can also have some negative consequences.
I call this the “auto syndication paradox” – when the practice which enables you to reach a wider audience and strengthen your reputation is also the one that could conceivably shrink that same audience and do it the most damage.
Last week I saw two examples of the paradox in action…
Wow…you kinda look gross right now.
Last Tuesday night, I dragged myself home, dead-tired from a teaching gig. Too beat to tackle any work, and yet still too keyed up to go to bed, I decided to lay on the couch and reply to a few tweets I had seen pop up during my class.
While perusing both Twitter and Facebook, I started to notice a wave of posts mentioning that the Chilean miners were about to be rescued (something which I had not been aware of). Anxious to catch up on the news, I turned on CNN and curled up with my iPad to watch history unfold.
I, along with about a billion other people, watched as they pulled the first miner to the surface, hugged his sobbing child and smiled at the cheering crowds. And during that time, I shared tweets with a community of people who were watching the same thing with me – who were also moved, overwhelmed and excited.
But, in the midst of this international conversation and celebration, some auto-tweets popped up in my feed. And in that moment in time, they looked as out of place as a hooker at Chuck-E-Cheese’s.
I knew these tweets were auto-generated, since,
- I had seen the same tweets appear earlier in the day; and
- I could tell by the traffic on the author’s account that this person was not currently online (or at least, was not actively engaging in their social channels at that point in time).
I gotta tell you…in that moment – in the context of, well, life, unfolding in its unpredictable and awe-inspiring way – those auto-tweets out of blue and disconnected from reality made the people who sent them look really, really bad.
This can be a danger when you promote things in the future before you know what the future holds. If an elected official were to be assassinated, an earthquake to hit or any sort of national tragedy to unfold, and you had the bad luck of having auto-programmed a tweet to pop up that says “Read my new blog post!” at that exact same moment in time, you could end up with a lot of egg on your face.
Oops…can I take it back?
The second situation happened at the end of last week.
I recorded a radio interview and, while it was being broadcast, something majorly bad went down.
(You know how sometimes during an audio recording you can hear a little background noise? Well, imagine if the background noise were ALL you could hear – with the radio voices just being a tinny drone in the background. Image if this background noise were, say, someone using the toilet, etc. who was nowhere near the studio where the recording took place.)
Are you with me here?
Now normally, a recording of a show that has technical issues would never see the light of day. But unfortunately, in this instance, the system was auto programmed so that, when the show was completed, its’ audio file was immediately uploaded and syndicated to multiple social channels.
Again, normally, this makes sense and is an extremely efficient way of delivering timely content to multiple spaces at one time. But in this case, it meant that a small public relations problem instantly became a large one.
This can be a danger when you auto-distribute content or social objects before you have a chance to vet them. If something faulty, erroneous or just plain “not up to par” manages to hitch a ride on your stuff, you get stuck playing a enormous game of “Where’s Waldo’s Content?” across the interwebs, trying to track down and delete the information wherever it appears, doing damage control along the way.
Guilty, as charged.
I will admit, I syndicate my content. My tweets syndicate to my Facebook page (yes, I have heard that this is wrong and “a kitten will die” every time it happens, but it’s worked wonderfully for me). Posts from this blog are syndicated to our team’s personal LinkedIn and Ning accounts and our KaneCo Facebook Fan Page.
But, what I don’t do is auto-syndicate content to other points in space or time.
I am always present at the point of publishing – I hit a post/publish button in real-time and watch in real-time as that action precipitates a host of cascading reactions.
I realize that there are drawbacks to this approach.
- My network doesn’t grow as fast as those who strategically connect with their community with similar messages, at multiple points in time.
- The management of my community and conversations is much more labor-intensive.
- I look smaller than other shops that are able to leave a wider brand footprint through their syndication strategies.
I guess I’ve just watched too much sci-fi and fear the loss of control…and the eventual sublimation of our species to robot overlords who will turn the planet into a post-apocalyptic wasteland (just kidding…kinda).
What about you? Are you and your content connected in space and time, or have you learned to solve the auto syndication paradox?
I’ll admit, there are times I will delay posting something to Twitter or Facebook until all of you who are 8 hours behind me wake up and have had your first cup of coffee. Granted, I’m not running a business here, but it is still about relationships, and maintaining a network. The result is sometimes I keep very strange hours.
The future auto syndication wouldn’t work well for me because if I’m about building relationships, and I schedule something to post while I’m sleeping, what happens if someone on my network responds? I cannot respond back while I’m in dreamland. If you post at certain times so that others see and hopefully interact with you, the smart choice is being there to interact. Like you, I am present at the point of publishing, even at the expense of some sleep. 🙂
I think it’s totally amazing how you have managed to maintain such an awesome network after having moved so far away. It’s too bad I couldn’t have an “auto me” that was up at 3:00 am this morning to reply to your message in real time. 🙂
I agree with you. For me, the “magic moments” are those right after “content has left the building” and people start engaging with it/me. If I’m not physically around when that happens, then I’d miss the chance to connect with new people, answer questions, and yes, sometimes field comments from angry trolls (which, left “unattended to” can sometimes blossom into even uglier comments.)
Thanks for finding the post and for reading it (I haven’t even tweeted about it yet. So you win the “early bird” award to have already have picked up on it and responded). Hope all is well!
Great post and I’m of the same mindset. When I consult or talk I always preach against auto-Tweeting and similar practices. I preach against it in it’s entirety because once you start doing it, it’s easy to get carried away. The truth is I do it myself in certain cases. Like you, I never mess with the space-time continuum, and if I do schedule a blog post to go live, I always schedule it for a time I KNOW I will be around to respond.
Personally I don’t link Facebook and Twitter because the audiences don’t mix for me and both would be getting the short end of my laziness if I were to do so.
The things that I auto-synchronize are things and alerts that I know I’ll be able to respond to. If I’m monitoring the channels I’m posting to, I don’t mind a multi-post. Social media is a conversation and if you’re not willing to communicate, don’t use those channels.
When someone asks, I say “Just don’t do it,” but the truth is that with an understanding of the fundamentals of how social media works, it has it’s place. However small that place may be.
I often feel like a lot of these tools are loaded guns. If you know how to use ’em, then cool, you can probably make some amazing things happen. But if you don’t, you can easily shoot your foot off. 🙂
I don’t auto-tweet simply because, for me, that would take all the fun out of it. Hands down, all of the most amazing moments and people I have connected with in Twitter were a result of happenstance and being at the right place and time. Life moves fast, I want to be there when it does.
Thanks for your thoughts Joey. Wish I could have seen your preso on this topic. Hopefully someday…
Yes being present in the conversation and engagement is key. It would be like going to your wedding and having your bride repeat after the person marrying you and you auto reply “hey look forward to saying I do” come to my blog page for the answer….. AWKWARD…..
The only thing I have autoified is my paper.li and it was set up for my consumption, but did not realize it puts top contributors in the send out…..still trying to figure out if good or not. I read them everyday for great recap content and actually have stuck up new conversations based on the @ replies being in there. Why I struggle if good or not….
But one thing I like about how I approach all my profiles it is me all the time. I respond to any platform I am on based on setting up my notifications appropriately. I always want to be present in the conversation, that is what it means to get it. Companies could really learn from not always doing pushing content and only worrying about editorial calendars….it distracts them from being present.
I love that analogy, Keith!
I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the paper.li. It’s so odd to get picked up in one for something I didn’t write, just retweeted. I think the people who read them or understand the media get that it’s auto-generated and that not all of the “articles” are links to that person’s original content, but I’m guessing the majority do not. That whole conundrum could be a blog post in an of itself.
It’s pretty apparent from reading your stuff that it’s you live all the time. And your “in the moment” networking is clearly one of the reasons that your network is so robust. The big question is, “how do you manage that?” Do you possess some magical powers? Are you a cyborg? Do you ever sleep? You’re like the “energizer bunny” of the Twitterverse, dude. 🙂
This is a great post, Jen! I go back and forth on this issue as well.
I pre-schedule tweets often when I know I’m going to be driving somewhere (and want to tell the world what interesting adventure I’m headed on, but don’t want to actually type that while driving and go into the ditch). Another scenario is I’ll pre-schedule things during speaking gigs so they broadcast right in the middle – mainly to stir up anyone participating in the event’s #hashtag. The audience members that notice it always ask how I did that, which opens the door to me talking about magic.
I do have a rule that I never pre-schedule anything longer than 24 hours out. Greg Swan taught me that – what if you shoot out a tweet that says “Hey, check out my new blog post about ME!” during the next terrorist attack or tsunami? Builds on your Chilean miners point above.
Both of those are interesting ideas for the pre-tweet. Particularly the idea of scheduling one to come up while you are presenting. I’ve never thought of that before. (And thank you for not tweeting and driving…Oprah would be very proud).
I agree, “never schedule for more than 24 hours out” is a good policy. Things move so fast, you’re just setting yourself up for a potential disaster if you do.
Thanks for dropping by and reading the post. Hope all is well down there in Iowa.
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