Social Media is still a fresh concept for many companies and the resources allocated to these efforts are usually a slim as possible. However, cutting corners to save time could end up hurting you and your accounts down the road. One of the biggest time-saving items that can cause disunity and confusion when speaking to your fans is the use of automatic feeds on social networks.
What are feeds?
Before continuing, let’s talk about what a feed exactly is. Any type of communication (RSS, XML) from your website (or other social site) for easy consumption on social networks or readers would be considered a feed. Now there are many programs that exist that take these feeds and push them through your social accounts. So if a blog post is written, the post would be sent out through a feed, then the title and information along with a link is pushed out onto the social networks.
What are the problems with feeds?
There really isn’t a specific problem with using feeds, it is simply the way that they are currently utilized. It seems that there are so many companies have that Ron Popeil “set it and forget it” mentality that think Twitter is simply a broadcasting medium and hooking up a feed from their Facebook account or website is all that needs to be done. In reality, users should be engaged differently on each medium and communicated to in different formats as well. In addition, the feed may not translate due to the different character allotments. For example, here is a tweet that was published by a feed from RSS:
The main point of the update is missing and the message is garbled. This can also happen when pushing longer Facebook wall posts, Posterous updates or Tumblr posts to Twitter. Also, many times your Twitter update won’t translate when simply used as a feed. People on Facebook may get annoyed by the use of Twitter specific jargon (hashtags, RTs, etc) and the use of Twitter handles in the Facebook environment.
Are all feeds bad?
Not at all. In actuality, if specific feeds were set up for different social sites we wouldn’t even need to have this conversation. So if a blog could set up with a 140 character excerpt that would be send out to their Twitter account, many of these issues would be solved. Same with updating for Facebook feed with the proper link information and image would help to make a much more tailored message.
While I don’t think that using these auto-updates is bad, I do think that many times they lead to missed opportunities. When doing tests to see levels of interactivity, we have seen a distinct advantage in customized messages that really speak to the audience. For example, instead of using a feed to update a Facebook page with a Grammy recap, using a feed from a blog post might look like this:
Grammy Recaps – Best Performances from the 2010 Grammys
While the following customized post would garner more feedback, buzz and awareness:
Just launched our Grammy Recap post! So many great performances…who do YOU think was the best?
Seeing that this asks a question and speaks to users in a very human form, we would expect a much higher response than a simple blog feed that only pulls in the post title. You can see that each of the examples will work and share information, but one may end up with a higher click-through rate, more conversation and help you grow your fan count.
Are there workarounds?
Absolutely. Here are a few current tricks for having a much more customized and selective feeds:
Blog to Twitter: Twitter Updater – This WP plugin allows users to change the text that will be sent to Twitter and turn the auto updates on or off.
Twitter to Facebook: Selective Tweets – If you are publishing your Tweets on your Facebook page, this app can help you become more targeted. By adding a #fb to your tweet, it will be sent to Facebook as an update, without the #fb, it will stay Twitter only.
Blog to Facebook: Customize a Blog RSS Feed Reader – This app allows you to not only bring a feed onto Facebook profiles and pages, but it also allows you to customize the description, link, image and much more.
Hopefully this information will help you communicate more effectively with your audience on social networks. The more customized the message you can send your social audience, the more successful you will be!