We Need A “Big Red Button” For Tweet Schedulers

by on October 6, 2011 | posted in Marketing

For anyone who was witness to the outpouring of deserved admiration for Steve Jobs in the Twitter stream last night, one of the most jarring sub-plots of the event were the unfortunate barrage of scheduled tweets from those who couldn’t have possibly accounted for such an occurrence. In many instances this simply made the parties look bad and actually offered a bit of a PR blow to many Tweeters’ reputations.

For a few people I was already non-convinced about the value of, I was actually triggered to finally unfollow after seeing a few strange scheduled tweets after news of Jobs’ death had broke. I found the dissonance between the event-stream and their off-topic tweets to be almost offensive, and because of that, it crossed the line. However, my feelings independent of what obviously is a valuable and useful tool for many people (scheduling tweets), this “crisis event” brought light to a feature that is currently interestingly missing from all tweet schedulers – crisis-event accountability and the mass-eject-functionality of a “big red button”.

In light of Steve Jobs death, these tweet schedulers could have easily paused tweets for their mass of users (now embarassed), if some obvious unique conditions were getting triggered. First, they could have instantly stopped the tweets based on a “big red button” any administrator could hit, or a variable event button that could be flagged by an abnormal volume of user scheduled tweet pauses in a set timeframe.

Of course, pausing scheduled tweets would often be a power invasion that would cause user blowback, but would also be useful for the power-user who trusts that it would only been used in apocalypse like conditions such as this, Osama Bin Laden dying, or any other “Twitter earthquakes” which make any off-topic tweet damning to the party who releases the 140 characters to the world.

Our ethos about “robotic tweets” aside, the ability to remove as much “robot” from these events as possible does the best for the tweeter – and the person who views the tweet – in dissolving the negative resonance that can occur when we realize we are being subjected to non-sophisticated gamification – especially when connected to a very, very serious event.

Hootsuite, Futuretweets, Socialoomph, CoTweet, et all – care to schedule that in?

  • http://www.freshviewconcepts.com/ Nina

    Maybe they were unaware of what had happened to Steve Jobs at the moment they tweeted. Some people don’t always look at their streams before they tweet.
    Also, it may have just effected them differently, and they may have not wanted to post about Steve Jobs, but still wanted to go about their own business.
    No one would pause their scheduled tweets if someone not famous died, what is the difference here?

    • http://www.rosshudgens.com Ross Hudgens

      That was definitely some portion of the population, which is their choice. But it was pretty obvious who was doing that and who wasn’t clearly using scheduled tweets. Really the impact of this event was so large that if you didn’t directly or indirectly get impacted by the tweets in the stream, that was a red flag.

      But for sure this kind of instance would be opt-in, it’s everyone’s choice to do as they want, but I guarantee that many people were not pumped, or would not be pumped, if they saw everyone’s reaction to their scheduled tweets.

  • http://www.bayareaseo.net Ross Taylor

    This happened to AppSumo last night with their autoresponder. They sent an email out with the title “Steve Jobs was originally obsessed with typography” as part of their pitch to sell some kind of font manager tool. They followed up with an apology this morning.

    While I know that tweet schedulers are being used all the time, I don’t like *feeling* like I’m reading a scheduled tweet. I’ll use buffer or HootSuite, I try to only schedule my tweets out a little bit in advance mainly so I don’t flood my small group of followers with multiple posts at once.

    Also, I’m not a serial tweeter and check in a few times a day to engage and comment on the current stream, so if someone responds to a scheduled tweet, I’m not always in the position to get back to them right away, which can look like you’re ignoring them.

  • Alan Bleiweiss

    I think it really comes down to those who pre-can tweets, then don’t monitor Twitter throughout most of the day or night, vs. those who pre-can tweets, yet actually are present throughout and in between. For those who pre-can and walk away, there’s no way they could have known, without some artificial intelligence engine script being invented that could determine when to auto-pause the stream on their behalf.

    Personally, I only pre-schedule a smattering (3 or 5) tweets a week at most. And time them so they go out just a few minutes before I know I’ll actually be live on twitter. That way, if anyone responds to one, I’ll have the option to respond in real-time.

    I also think people who tweet real-time in oblivious ignorance of such a monumental event are actually even more of an issue. I mean, you’re tweeting live, for cryin out loud – are you not reading other people’s tweets?

    Then again – if I’m on the road, I can’t always take the time to read my stream while I can take a few moments to tweet. So who knows what the answer is. I only know you’ve got a valid point. So what’s the solution given these complexities?

    • http://ericpratum.com/about-eric-pratum/ Eric Pratum

      I don’t think I’m really disagreeing with you here, just framing my own experience.

      I had just gotten on a plane when the news broke, so I unfortunately wasn’t really able to keep on top of what was going on, and I made the decision to not really post anything about it (except for a few replies to people), which probably made it look like I was oblivious to what was going on. Ultimately, my feeling was that me saying something in a tweet would not really add any value to the streams of my followers, so I remained quiet on that topic while continuing to tweet about other.

      I schedule with Timely, but always keep on top of it, and before scheduling, I do my darndest to think about how evergreen the tweet is and whether or not I think I could run into any issues. As with all scheduling you, you can’t know what you’ll run into when it actually goes live.

  • Bill Rowland

    I agree with both Alan & Ross (Taylor) above.

    I occasionally use a scheduler, but primarily to prevent polluting my followers streams with a flurry of tweets. Frankly, I think that most users should be on top of what’s going on and manage their presence accordingly. Therefore I don’t think that a “big red button” is necessary – unless you want more automation.

    Ultimately the poor use of this technology will help us make room for those that provide real value and interaction.

    • http://www.freshviewconcepts.com/ Nina

      Bill- You really think that most Twitter uses should be on top of what’s going on? That is just not practical thinking. Not everyone can be social media savvy or have the patience to care what is going on. That does not always mean that those people do not have some good content to share, or that they do not add value to the “technology”.

      • Alan Bleiweiss

        I can’t speak for others, only myself. I try to only follow people who are in my peer community of online marketers and bloggers. To me, that means they are expected to be social media savvy, and have the patience to care what is going on. Sure, there’s a few others who don’t fit that bill, but they’re the exception, not the rule.

        Given that truth, when I see scheduled tweets or tweets about anything else during such a significant occasion, I pause to wonder whether I want to follow them anymore.

  • http://pointblankseo.com/ Jon Cooper

    I haven’t used scheduled tweets just yet, as I was on the brink of doing so until this happened. What happened with Appsumo is pretty eye opening – I heard Rand mention it in one of his tweets, but I didn’t exactly know what he was talking about (until now).

  • Tim

    Hard to agree or disagree without seeing the examples.

    If the pre-scheduled tweets were Apple related (especially if those were in competition with Apple) then I would agree with the premise of this post.

    However, if the pre-scheduled tweets aren’t related to Apple or Steve, then I don’t think all of the rest Twitter should’ve been expected to take a huge moment of silence for unrelated, unaffected topic matters.

  • Arienne Holland

    I think I’m with Tim.

    Here is what I’m thinking:

    AP doesn’t stop reporting and posting when a major event occurs. Most attention will go to the breaking news, but many, many other things get published, too. For those who say Twitter is their first (or only) source of news, why would those news/content providers stop publishing it for a death?

    That discord you feel, Ross? That’s the discord an editor feels looking at a wire feed. We are accustomed to it. Then we select what we want to publish and publish. It involves human intervention. Automation tools could help, but even with print someone–a person–still has to run to the pressroom and yell, Stop The Presses! (Yes, that happens.)

    The difference is, much of what is auto-scheduled is a) promotional b) archival or c) not really news as you would define it compared to breaking news. It’s information, but not news. From a company brand or news source, we can forgive the discord for a while. From an individual, we judge more harshly. (A hazard of the personal brand?) For both, the best “Big Red Button” always, always requires a human to press it, not a tool. The tool can take the action (physically stop the presses or halt the automation), but a human should make the decision.

    p.s. Keep in mind time zones/international audiences and the breadth/quality of your Twitter feed. All of those are factors for publishers and readers, too.

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  • Tracey Swanson

    I also think Tim and Arienne have a valid point. Neither the death of Steve Jobs nor Osama bin Laden were such signficiant news that all other news should cease, not for all audiences, anyway. People still need to know about the weather before they leave the house, for example. Accounts that are calibrated to serve a particular population or a specific purpose are often expected to be neutral with respect to unrelated breaking news, and by abruptly disrupting their normal flow, reveal a bias that could hurt the trust they’ve built with their followers. That said, auto-tweeters certainly aren’t for everyone.

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