Right Place, Wrong Time: Avoiding Prescheduling Pitfalls

June 26, 2012
Posted by: Matthew Hammer, VP- Marketing

Do you schedule and publish your social media content on Facebook or Twitter using tools like Buddy Media and Hootsuite?
If you’re managing a content calendar that includes 50 or more posts per month and spans across social channels, publishing tools make good sense and ensure consistency in post quality.

(Photo: Reuters)

But these tools come with some risk, and sometimes it takes a big – and in this case tragic – reminder that the simplest of social media tasks can make or break a brand image.
What happened?
A stage collapse at a recent Radiohead concert in Toronto led to the death of a drum technician and injuries to 3 others, and the band cancelled the sold-out concert before it began.
Unfortunately, prescheduled tweets coming from the venue promoter continued after the tragedy took place, and failed to acknowledge the unfortunate turn of events. The tweets continued to reference a concert that wasn’t happening and boost excitement for the event.
To schedule or not to schedule, that is the question.
The tragedy has stoked a lot of conversation among social media professionals, and Scott Stratten makes a great argument against prescheduling Twitter content, but I don’t think it’s time to do away with scheduled content quite yet.
Great lessons from Radio

(Photo: news.sky.com)

I worked in radio for 10 years, where ads are run on a computerized system and scheduled to take advantage of higher listenership during hot programs, but there is ideally live accountability too. It’s not enough, for example, to avoid scheduling two ads for competing airlines back-to-back . The host or producer needs to be able to pull ads about airline deals if they’re scheduled to run just after a breaking news report about a catastrophic air disaster. Failing to do this not only offends listeners, it hurts your station’s reputation, and makes your sponsors look bad. The same is true for brands broadcasting social content online.
4 Tips for Successful Prescheduling
1. Act Confidently On What You Know – It’s fine to preschedule certain things like holiday greetings. We’re pretty sure the 4th of July and Christmas will take place as scheduled.
2. Be Like Santa – Check your list twice for time and dates after you upload your posts or tweets for broadcast. It might seem obvious, but you don’t want your tweets about the big event going out the day after or the day before. Check and re-check your work.
3. Peer Into A Crystal Ball – check all prescheduled outgoing tweets at least daily, and more frequently based on what could happen. Five minutes of checking now, can save you hours of explaining later. Is that doorbuster item you’re advertising so hot it’s going to fly off the shelves before the tweet can even go out? Is that limited new release likely to go into backorder status quickly?
4. Talk To Strangers – Open the lines of communication between different departments so the social media team knows what’s happening across the organization and can adjust outgoing content accordingly.
Best Practices for Covering a Live Event

  • Never post “I’m on the scene!” observations about live events unless you actually have someone on hand, in person and on the scene tweeting or posting.
  • Retweeting a trusted partner who is there is fine. Emphasis on “trusted.” Confirm that they are actually at the event too
  • Make sure the person on the scene is paying attention to their surroundings, your brand’s stream and related hashtags – and not tweeting for the brand as an afterthought “because they’ll be there anyway.”
  • Set clear frequency expectations for the person in charge of on-the-scene social media coverage. Should they update every half-hour? Do a play-by-play? Live-tweet? What will your followers expect? If they’re on the red carpet on Oscar night, the expectation is probably different than if they’re tweeting about a local community bake-off.
  • Realize that mistakes do happen. Sometimes a mistimed or inappropriate tweet will go out. It’s advisable to follow up with more information if that occurs, both on your stream and in direct @replies to people who point out the error. Thank them for letting you know!

While you never know what might happen, there is still a time and a place for prescheduled content. The critical difference is to understand what you can preschedule and the sorts of things you shouldn’t.
Has one of your prescheduled tweets or Facebook posts ever gone out at the worst possible time? What happened?