This week Twitter and LinkedIn canceled their agreement for easy cross-posting, which begot numerous indignant comments from people who seemed to have forgotten that they were using free infrastructure. Social business platforms are built and managed by venture-backed firms that need to execute on evolving business models, so we can all expect sudden changes from any and all. However, with some foresight and preparation you and your firm can minimize disruptions, which we’ll cover here. Even better, the LinkedIn-Twitter dustup provides strategic insights into how to operate within the digital social ecosystem, and we’ll address those, too.
In case you were not aware of these features, for the past two-three years, LinkedIn members could “connect” their LinkedIn accounts with one or more Twitter accounts (authorized by Twitter), which would enable two-way cross-posting. In other words, your Linkedin status updates would publish as tweets for the specified Twitter account(s). It also worked the other way: the specified Twitter accounts’ tweets would publish as LinkedIn status updates. Effective this week, it only works one way now: Linkedin status updates can publish as tweets. People whose workflows depended on the dual cross-post feature are inconvenienced because they have to reconfigure the tools they use or tweak their workflows. We’ll cover both of these below.
Cross-posting is a larger issue that merits some discussion. There are numerous tools that enable firms and people to post to numerous platforms simultaneously. In other words, the same tweet or update or post can publish to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and many others. Of course, this increases efficiency, but it also assumes that all the firm’s or person’s audiences on various platforms are interested in the same things, which they rarely are. Best practice for cross-posting is to filter the posts, so you select the various audiences before sharing with them. I have used Selective Tweets on Facebook for years; it does not publish to Facebook unless I affix “#fb” to the tweet, so I control which tweets go to Facebook. LinkedIn had a similar feature, too, although that’s unimportant now that Tweets won’t publish on LinkedIn.
Cross-posting done badly can alienate audiences, so it’s critical to be considerate. To whit, many of the supportive comments about the LinkedIn-Twitter breakup were from LinkedIn members who were glad to have cheeseburgers removed from their status update queues.
The first rule of cross-posting and “efficiency” is, put your audience first and your efficiency second if your goal is to increase trust and the quality of your relationships.
To do this, you need to have clear visions and goals for each of your presences (on platforms) and build your networks with purpose.
If you have done your homework and cross-posting is important to you (CSRA has done it for years), cross-posting apps (A.K.A. “social media dashboards”) enable you to not miss a beat. If you haven’t used one before, allow yourself time to learn the features of each one. Start with Seesmic, which is the simplest of the bunch, to get used to cross-posting. Notably, most of these apps enable you to schedule updates. We have used Seesmic Ping, Hootsuite, Cotweet and Buffer. Here is a short list; note that many of the links are guides that lead to more links. By the way, the notable exception is Google+, which still hasn’t released an API (that would enable other tools and sites to code interfaces to enable interoperability).
How to Adjust Your Workflows
The app is the easy part, though: the far more important adjustment will be to your workflow(s). Especially if you have a team of people collaborating on posting and interacting, it will help if you have explicit workflows (yes, workflow diagrams) that map how your teams post, respond, etc. Returning to Twitter-LinkedIn, maybe some of your team members (even if they are you, yourself and you ;^) are oriented to Twitter, so they have workflows like this:
See useful post > copy link > share on Twitter > [auto-cross-post to LinkedIn]
The reciprocal workflow, by another team member who’s covering updates by followers of your firm’s LinkedIn profile is this:
See useful post > copy link > share on LinkedIn > [auto-cross-post to Twitter]
As of this week, the second one works, but the first one was eliminated by Twitter. Be prepared for the second one to be discontinued at any time, too. When you use a cross-post app, the workflow is this:
See useful post > copy link > share on Seesmic > auto-cross-post to LinkedIn and/or Twitter and/or Facebook and/or …
In summary, the workflow is more complicated (bad) but it’s more flexible (good), and now you’re more conscious of it (good). The LinkedIn/Twitter connection made it absurdly simple before, which was convenient for the poster but inconvenient for the audience because many posters forget about their LinkedIn audience when they’re posting on Twitter.
Keep in mind, too, that most of these apps have mobile (phone, tablet) apps, too, which usually offer the same core functionality as their desktop apps, but they can be quite different, depending on what you’re doing. Make sure to take that into consideration when creating/adjusting your workflows.
Managing Your Social Ecosystem
The larger lesson is that it is too easy to take the social ecosystem for granted. Virtually all its basic sites and tools don’t cost users, but they aren’t free, so I’m grateful for the amazing capabilities they serve up. I encourage you to keep this in mind and understand when changes occur. (For another example, if you’re hitch-hiking, don’t complain to a driver that her car is dirty!). Startups’ management teams are trying to make money, and you can expect sudden gyrations, new features and removal of features. It’s a constant river.
We advise clients to avoid depending on any platform. Here’s how to plan and manage to minimize your inconveniences:
- Periodically hold “disaster recovery-like” planning sessions for your ecosystem. The interval should depend on how important social business is to your firm and relationships. I suggest at least once annually at a minimum, and once quarterly is better.
- At these meetings, your team(s) ask, how would we be impacted if [social venue] went away (less likely) or if [social venue feature] went away or were changed so much that we could no longer use it the way we do now (more likely).
- Assign each platform you use to a team member, who keeps current on its features. An easy way to do this is to read their blogs and create a twitter list and/or blogroll of people who are on platform features. Startup blogs are usually written by a mixture of techies and marketing/product management people.
- In this example, your team would have anticipated the LinkedIn-Twitter break, and you would have wheeled out Seesmic and its workflow, all without missing a measure of music.
- Read How Brands Cut Their Exposure to Facebook Business Risk; it has more strategic considerations of depending on platforms. Although focused on Facebook, you can apply it to any platform.
- The main risk mitigation method is to invest in people first—and realize that platforms are only venues in which to connect with people. This will help you create purpose in each platform. To insulate yourselves against platform changes:
- Connect with high-priority people in more than one platform, creating redundancy
- Prepare to migrate all your connections/friends/followers to another platform; create that workflow, and test it
- When you are focused on people and connecting, you need to constantly reevaluate how effective is your interaction strategy in each venue. You need metrics to help you measure your results. Each venue has a hierarchy of social actions, which is the cornerstone of measurement (this is a tool that we create for clients). The hierarchy shows increasing commitment via quantitative measures.
- Major disruptions to the ecosystem occur such as the launch of Google+ which engendered elation from people dissatisfied with existing platform choices and anger from those who liked current choices. When you manage your ecosystem proactively, you are prepared to take advantage of the best the ecosystem has to offer and to minimize inconveniences it will cause you. Like all ecosystems, it’s very dynamic, and the firms that produce the most value know how to go with the flow.
Very few firms, to their detriment, manage their ecosystems proactively, so they end up depending on platforms too much, willingly creating “Web 3.0 vendor lock-in”; they also fail to use the most appropriate platforms to achieve their business goals.
What platforms do you use, and what would you do if you discovered lights out tomorrow morning?