Sometimes You Just Need A Moment Of Silence

Where were you when Steve Jobs died?

I’m sure that if you’re into social media, it’s a question that you’ll be able to answer in twenty years. Facebook and Twitter grew pretty quiet about every other subject. At one point, 17.3% of all posts on Twitter were about Steve Jobs.

Personally, I was standing outside of Potomac Mills Mall in Woodbridge, Virginia, waiting for a bus home when the news broke on Twitter. And I had just made the following tweet:

Suddenly, as my timeline began to become a testimonial about the greatness of Steve Jobs, that tweet seemed more inane than it would have ordinarily. In fact, I considered deleting it. Now, conduct a thought experiment, and imagine that I posted that *after* the news of Steve Jobs’ death had started to circulate. It might even seem to border on rude.

Yet, somehow, there were certain people that I highly respect posted similarly off the topic posts at that moment. By accident. The reason? They use auto-posting on Twitter.

If I were to come up with a Ten Commandments of Twitter (as others have), the second would be: THOU SHALL NOT AUTO-POST!

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Now I understand why there is a desire to auto-post. It allows a social media manager to be able to front load content that will post in different time zones at the sweet spot. I know that I, for one, don’t like waking up at 3:30 a.m. to make sure a message gets posted to my Japanese friends at the heart of their day. And as a business, the ability to target a message at the correct time impacts their bottom line.

But the downside of ceding control of the time you post on Twitter (and Facebook) in the name of convenience is that you cede control of your timing. At your own peril.

In the end, I feel that if you auto-post, you will be doing more harm than good for three reasons:

  1. You might step on a story that makes your release seem irrelevant regardless. Or make you seem out of touch. If you were a technology company posting anything other than a story about Steve Jobs when he died, you risked irrelevancy. Silence would have been better!
  2. You miss the chance to connect your brand and its related content to the event. While I personally find this marketing method off-putting, auto-posting takes away the opportunity to use this proven technique.
  3. You miss the opportunity to harness any viral action that might happen due to your content. If a message begins to catch on while there’s “no one at the switch,” you’ve lost an opportunity to connect with those spreading it. Also, if people being to ask questions on your post, you risk alienating them by not answering them within a good time frame.
Of course, it’s up to each individual business or organization to choose if the costs of auto-posting outweigh the benefit. But I think the aftermath of Steve Jobs’ death on Twitter (other social media platforms) proves that there are significant risks to letting technology replace human contact. Auto-posting programs don’t have a conscience. And that’s something that’s crucial to have in marketing in the Web 2.0 world.
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