Shortie: How Do You Tweet?

According to a May 31 Pew Internet Report, “As of February 2012, some 15% of online adults use Twitter, and 8% do so on a typical day. Overall Twitter adoption remains steady, as the 15% of online adults who use Twitter is similar to the 13% of such adults who did so in May 2011. At the same time, the proportion of online adults who use Twitter on a typical day has doubled since May 2011 and has quadrupled since late 2010—at that point just 2% of online adults used Twitter on a typical day. The rise of smartphones might account for some of the uptick in usage because smartphone users are particularly likely to be using Twitter.”

It’s interesting that the growth is attributed to smartphone use. For individuals posting to Twitter, that makes sense. But for organizations, you would think staff would still be tied to computers, laptops, or tablets, unless they are tweeting remotely from a conference, tradeshow or event of some kind. It would be interesting to see what percentage of staff tweeting is done by smartphone vs. traditional avenues.

How much of your audience is on Twitter? How often do you tweet to your audience – daily, weekly, when news happens? Is it as useful a tool as Facebook or other social media for your organization? Are you seeing the kind of follower growth that is listed above? Most of all, do you and your audience typically access Twitter via smartphone? Please reply in the comments.

Journalists Investigating Military “Info Ops” Find Themselves Subjects of “Infocrafting”

For some web editors, danger may lurk around certain kinds of stories. Take USA Today Washington Enterprise Editor Ray Locker, who was working with Pentagon reporter Tom Vanden Brook on an investigative piece about Pentagon propaganda contractors – “info ops” – whose work was allegedly of questionable quality.  In true cloak-and-dagger style, as the duo was conducting citizen oversight of government, someone was conducting a covert misinformation campaign against them, creating fake Twitter and Facebook accounts in their names, plus creating Wikipedia entries and dozens of message board postings and blog comments, all intended to sully their credibility. Websites were mysteriously registered in their names as well, although they were later taken down following Pentagon inquiries. It was a lesson in what Locker called “infocrafting” and the dangers of working in today’s world of high level technology and the cyberwar. Watch your backs, web editors.

The details, provided recently in USA Today, The Washington Post, and the Tucson Citizen, read like a military intelligence spy novel.

What dangers can you imagine might be lurking behind your efforts to publish The Truth?

The Errant Tweet: Editing Social Media

by Rebecca L. Wells

Whether you’re in a one-person consultancy, a newsroom, or a large corporation, your marketing and communications strategies likely include social media assets that must be edited and curated. But not every social media site is the same. How do you craft an editorial policy that covers all the bases?

While there is no solid consensus on editing techniques for each type of social media site, there are some general guidelines to consider.

The Permanent: Wikipedia, Message Boards, and Blogs
Some social media properties have more staying power. They may show up in search results for years, or have trackable editing that makes any change to the content transparent. Examples of this type of social media include Wikipedia, Linked In, message boards, and blogs.

Wikipedia is somewhat self-policing in that an editing history is visible for every entry. But blogs are trickier: do you edit old posts? Delete them? What merits an update – a typo, or breaking news that contradicts your original post?

The Washington Post handles it this way:

Blog posts should be updated quickly and transparently to correct erroneous information.The placement of the correction should reflect the gravity of the error. Major corrections (e.g., when the headline or driving premise of the blog post is wrong) should be noted in the headline and at the top of the post as well as within the blog item.

Many media outlets and personal bloggers follow this rule. For example, if you have published a post complaining that cable service is down in your neighborhood, and those services are reinstated shortly thereafter, you should edit your post to reflect that. Your statement was valid given the situation, but you don’t want to misinform your readers.

A less obvious issue is what to do when you discover a typo. If you are merely changing a “thier” to “their,” it would be more distracting than it’s worth to call that to your readers’ attention. You have not changed anything of substance; you’ve merely corrected a spelling error and made your post easier to read in the process.

Corporate blogs
Corporate blogging can be a different, and less transparent, example. As an editor, you should make sure your writers are familiar with libel and defamation laws; you also must ensure that your legal department reviews content before you post it. This could prevent you from being asked to remove information that was already published.

Message boards
Some website message boards can show up in search results for years. Yet it is a method of communicating that often focuses on short-term (and therefore quickly outdated) content.

The best practices for message boards are similar to blogs; you should provide transparency and clarity for your readers. For example, if you posted a link to a site that is now broken, and the page is still prominent on your site or through searches, add a note to your original post that says “ETA: this link has now been changed to (provide new link).” (ETA is an abbreviation commonly used by online community posters; it means “edited to add.”) You can also add disclaimer language warning readers of outdated information that will appear with old posts. You should not, however, worry about correcting old news or outdated information as a rule; it’s an archive and readers should understand that.

If some of your message board threads are very out-of-date, lock them so users cannot post new messages that may keep old pages high up in search results.

The Ephemeral: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest
Some social media sites, unlike Wikipedia and blogs, produce more ephemeral, or short-term, content.  On Twitter, frequent users may post several tweets a day, but if followers are not checking often, they may miss several of those tweets and only see a few that were most recently posted.

News feeds on Facebook are similar. If your rogue post, rife with misspellings or a link that doesn’t work, shows in others’ timelines before you can delete it, it won’t last for long unless somebody captures your error with a screenshot.  But if it has been out there for a while and collected “likes” and comments, leave it and issue an updated or corrected post.

To delete or not to delete?
Regardless of the nature of the site, there are times when you need to update content you have published. If breaking news impacts a story you posted, for example, you should update your Twitter or Facebook feed with that breaking news. As with blogs, if you have to fix a minor typo that bears no weight on the matter at hand, deleting a post to replace it with the correctly spelled version is fine.

On these dynamic social media sites, you should be careful to credit any other people who have provided content you are referencing. On Facebook, if you are sharing something one of your friends shared first, it’s appropriate to say “via.” For example, if your friend Debbie Brown posted a review of Jimmy’s Deli that you noticed and now you want to post it too, you should post it as “Jimmy’s Deli Review via Debbie Brown” (with Debbie Brown’s name linked to her profile).

On Pinterest, if you are re-pinning somebody’s pin, they are automatically credited; and if you want to change the description of an item, it’s understood that users add their own labels. So you don’t need to call out the fact that you have changed the wording of the original description. But if you are using the original description, you should make sure that it is appropriately written for your audience and your brand.

Twitter has a more complicated etiquette. If you are quoting another person’s tweet, you should use the QT (quote tweet) abbreviation so the original tweet appears in quotes. If you are shortening a tweet so you can fit it and your comment within Twitter’s 140-character limit, you should use the abbreviation “MT” (modified tweet). Otherwise, you are editing someone else’s words without acknowledging it.

Because the social media landscape is ever-changing, you should review your policies on a regular basis. One good resource is the Social Media Governance site, which provides a list of links to social media policies for dozens of organizations, from the US Navy to the New York Times.

A Few Facebook and Twitter Tips for Web Editors

As my role as a web editor grew over the last several years, my duties expanded to include managing the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for my publication. I believe there are many great advantages to publications having a presence on LinkedIn, but this post will focus on a few pearls I’ve collected that will help web editors manage their Facebook and Twitter accounts. These tips can help the newbie start off on the right foot and help the veteran save time and reach the right people more effectively.

First, if you’re going to be managing multiple accounts, it behooves you to choose one of the many platforms or apps that can help you control several accounts from one place. The one I use daily that has become second nature to me is TweetDeck, but colleagues of mine are using HootSuite with just as much success. Using one of these will save you time. And what I like most about this tool is that you can preschedule your tweets or Facebook posts from one place. That gets to my next point: a schedule.

The most important part of a Facebook and Twitter feed, aside from choosing the right content to publish of course, is publishing it at the right time. If your readers work in offices where their Internet use is limited during the day, why try to send them your hot article or blog post of the week at 10 a.m.? Some common times that people check social media are before work, during lunch, during afternoon breaks, after work and before bed, but again, you need to know your audience to choose the right times.

You might be wondering how to figure out the best time of day to send tweets and Facebook updates to your readers. It seemed mysterious to me, too, until I discovered some sites that measure readership and engagement, like how often and when people retweet your tweets on Twitter. One popular example is TweetStats. And Facebook’s “Insights” seem to be improving all the time. It still takes some time to figure this out, and if you use TweetDeck you can create a column that shows you a feed of Twitter users that have mentioned you, so you’ll get a feel for who is reading and when as time goes on.

Another question many people ask when they start a Facebook or Twitter account is, how often should I update? It all depends on your audience, so my recommendation is to set a minimum number of tweets, and then try not to exceed four or five in a day. It’s important to keep up a steady stream of good, relevant updates so you become a trusted source of information. I post at least two tweets and Facebook updates every day.

My last tip for today is: Don’t just post updates. This is social media, not a one-sided conversation. Be social. You can maintain the voice of your publication and still put your personality into your posts. On Twitter, use the list function to highlight Twitter users you think your followers will also like. Read their tweets, retweet them, actually connect with the people behind those Twitter handles. It can help in ways you wouldn’t expect. I’ve found sources for articles I’ve written through the connections I’ve made on Twitter. On your Facebook page (or Page, to be precise), make sure you click “Use Facebook as [Your Publication Name],” search for and “Like” related pages, and then read what those pages are posting (and share it, if it’s appropriate). Thank people for sharing your content, and always respond to questions and comments from your audience.

Thanks for reading! My next post will be about the ins, outs, ups and downs of moderating a webinar.