Should you Cross-Post to Social Platforms? What does FEMA do?

Post by: Kim Stephens
twitter logo map 09

twitter logo map 09 (Photo credit: The Next Web)

The other day in a SMEMchat we debated (briefly) the pros and cons of cross-posting to Twitter and Facebook, particularly the practice of posting to Twitter from Facebook–not necessarily dual  posting from a third party application such as Hootesuite or Tweetdeck. I recalled reading that this was problematic in a scholarly article by  Axel Bruns, et al (see page 12). They were writing about QPS Media (yes, I know everyone is a little tired of me bringing them up) during the flood event of January, 2011. They stated in the report:

Indeed, the social media use of several of these organisations underwent a rapid development process as the emergency unfolded; this is best illustrated using the example of the official Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Queensland Police Service (QPS). Initially, QPS had mainly shared its own advisories and news updates through its Facebook page, with messages automatically crossposted to Twitter. This was problematic for a number of reasons, however: first, the lower 140 character limit for messages on Twitter, compared to Facebook, caused several of these crossposted messages to be truncated and thus unusable (especially when embedded hyperlinks were broken in the process); additionally, this also meant that users on Twitter may first have had to navigate from Twitter to Facebook, to see the full, original message, and then to follow any embedded links to their eventual destination; and even this may only have been possible for users who already had Facebook accounts.

Further, for reasons of site design, Facebook messages are more difficult to share with a larger number of users than those on Twitter, where a simple click of the ‘retweet’ button passes on an incoming message to all of one’s followers; and similarly, ongoing conversations are more difficult to manage on Facebook – where the amount of commentary attached to each of the QPS’s posts was rapidly swamping important information – than on Twitter; indeed, Facebook knows no equivalent to the concept of the hashtag, which allows a large number of users to conduct an open, ongoing, public discussion centred around a common topic. These shortcomings were quickly (and courteously) explained to the QPS media staff by a number of vocal Twitter users, and the QPS used its @QPSmedia Twitter account prominently throughout the rest of the flood crisis.

I have also heard Shayne Adamski, the Senior Manager of Digital Engagement Public Affairs Division, Office of External Affairs at FEMA speak several times and mention that they too craft messages specifically for each platform, for a myriad of reasons. He graciously agreed to an interview and in a follow-up email he stated:

“When it comes to using social media sites to communicate and have a conversation, we don’t write one message and then post it on both Twitter and Facebook.  We write our message for the platform we’re using.  On Twitter, we use any appropriate hashtags that will add value to the message and when appropriate, we cross-link to other Twitter accounts.  On Facebook, because the character limit is much higher than 140 characters, we take the time and write a longer message to take advantage of the fact that we have more room to work with, and when appropriate, we cross-link to other Facebook accounts.  We will also RT messages on Twitter and Share content on Facebook, so it appears in our respective timelines.”

Shayne provided  examples of messages  tailored to the respective platforms. The first pic is of a post to their Facebook account about severe weather. The second is the same day, with the same concept, but the post looks completely different on Twitter.

Shayne went on to state:

“Obviously, during a response, your time is even more limited compared to steady state and you’re being pulled in multiple directions, but there is value in writing the message for the platform you’re using.  And just like anything, practice makes perfect, so utilize the time you have during steady state to practice and get in the habit of writing for the platform.”

From my perspective, I think it is important to also note that different social platforms have different audiences, and the ability to tailor content to target these different groups is one of the great advantages of using social tools. Furthermore, Twitter and Facebook have really different “languages.” I’ve seen organizations post content on their Facebook page so that it reads well on Twitter, including hashtags and acronyms. For those people who are not also on Twitter, this cannot only be #confusing, but also extremely #annoying. Just because something is easier to do doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do.
Tell me if you think I’m off track here!
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10 responses to “Should you Cross-Post to Social Platforms? What does FEMA do?

  1. Cross-posting makes a ton of sense for initial engagement of an audience, but as Shayne@FEMA alluded to, it can’t be the same message across all channels.

    I’d recommend taking a page out of any good designer’s book and aim to write for the most constrained medium first (Twitter+SMS in this case).

    If you can be lucid within a 140-char context, then you can elaborate further on FB, Email and G+ channels to fill-out less essential but informative aspects of the topic or event.

  2. I think another consideration is how people use social media platforms.

    I use Facebook simply as a way to stay in touch with friends – I do not subscribe to any pages at all. Twitter is my forum for those external, non-personal pages. While that’s my approach to social media, I am sure others approach it in different ways.

    I know my point doesn’t support or contradict what you have discussed in your post, but I think it is another consideration in how organisations manage their social media.

  3. Pingback: Should you Cross-Post to Social Platforms? What does FEMA do? | #UASI

  4. Well. For me it is clear than Facebook and Twitter have different languages and different public. So it’s difficult, as well as not suitable cross-posting messages, for all the reason you say here. I know it is much more work, but I agree with the statement that it is much better to write a message for each specific channel.

  5. Hi Kim. I think you are spot on here. Messages often do not translate well across platforms, particularly from social networks ( Facebook and LinkedIn) to Twitter. As you note, this means that content should be platform-specific. You also highlight the other reason to do this: social web platforms can have different audiences and content should be tailored to meet audience needs.

  6. Kim,
    Thanks for posting this as well as the link to the QPS Media article. I hadn’t read it yet so it was worth it ;-)
    - Stuart

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