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Humans should post to Twitter, but smart RSS is OK as last resort
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By David Arkin
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Last week, the New York Times announced it would try using editors to post to their main Twitter account, opposed to taking an automatic feed from their website.

Pretty much a no brainer it seems like for a newspaper like the Times. Actually some were pretty surprised to hear that the paper was basically using an RSS feed for its Tweets.

GateHouse Media's Chris Biondi explained in detail today why the Times made the change and encouraged newspapers to be social, in well, social media and that RSS feeds make that challenging.

Jeff Sonderman, a fellow at Poytner, showed some of the more social Tweets that the Times produced during its experiment-week using Storify.

There's really no arguing that using humans to post social media is a best practice. RSS feeds coming from a website section like "news" or "top stories" aren't social media appropriate. The reason: Those sections are very much a catch-all for a huge topic and are written for the desktop user, not someone looking for 100-some characters, who often are consuming Tweets on the go. Today's different platforms and different experiences creates the need for editors to consider the audience before deciding how they're going to distribute the content.

It's likely hard for community newspapers to understand the Times arguing resources as a reason for why it can't Tweet manually. But that clearly is what led the newspaper to using RSS feeds; they felt that they didn't have the time or didn't want to make the time to manually Tweet. No matter what size newspaper you're at, this will continue to be a sticky point today and for years to come as we battle through newsroom staffing issues.

If your newspaper really wants to make its Twitter account work but you just don't feel like you have the staff in place to do it, a smart RSS feed isn't out of question. If a newspaper creates a section in their content management system that feeds to their Twitter account, that they are choosing very specific stories for, there is the potential that their Twitter account won't be perceived as an RSS feed and the content may be engaging. The downside to this model is that you clearly can't use hashtags and @ symbols. However, the upside is that there's very little work for the newsroom and you aren't stuck taking a feed from a big section, but that as you are populating content on your website you can make smart choices about what you want to put into your Twitter account.

The model I just described isn't the preferred model, but for a paper that wants to Tweet, but has staffing concerns on how they are going to make it happen, it may be something to consider. With that being said, we would never encourage this feed idea for Facebook. Twitter to us is more of a place to get headlines and news, but Facebook is a place to participate and play and we wouldn't want a website headline appearing verbatim on Facebook from your website. Facebook is really a place to have fun with your posts, to add some spice and get readers participating.


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