Why you shouldn’t schedule your tweets.
Twitter has been on a tear releasing new features, first rolling out on a limited basis the ability to restrict replies to those mentioned, and now adding the ability to schedule tweets directly from its interface. If you’re using the Twitter web page from your phone or desktop the ability to schedule should now show up, denoted by the little calendar icon below.
Such functionality has existed for some time through apps like TweetDeck, but this is the first time it’s been made this easy directly from the social media company.
However, it raises a question of whether scheduling tweets is really worthwhile, and my answer to that is ‘no’.
The inherent strength of Twitter is its ability to allow real-time conversations to unfold. These often emerge organically around breaking news stories, collective entertainment experiences like Animal Crossing, or around accidental memes. While it’s possible to lock down your Twitter account–particularly if you want to interact with a small cadre of close contacts–something about 13% of users do–its overall strength is in its giant, messy conversations.
Uprisings like the Arab Spring, protests such as those in Hong Kong, and this weekend’s protests across the United States have allowed a global community to see these events unfold, often in real time. While other social media–from Messenger, to Telegram, to Snapchat–can deliver this, the ability to engage wholesale isn’t quite the same.
That creates Twitter’s greatest flaw, too: The speed at which it moves feels increasingly rapid. So-called cancel culture–a form of online shaming where support for a public figure who has made (often grievous) mistakes is withdrawn–thrives on the platform and the incredible rate at which things move. In the span of a day someone can go from revered to cancelled. This, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing, as those that deserve condemnation rightfully get it. But the blistering pace at which it happens means the cancelling can happen well before the rest of the public clues in, leading to a loss of sympathy for what may otherwise be a noble cause.
Bots that can all too easily spread information at lightning speed is another problem: In 2017 there was an estimated 48 million of them. Coordinated campaigns of these bots can even top the best coordinated hackers on the planet: Just ask Anonymous.
Such an ecosystem is not one where scheduling tweets is wise, despite the vast number of marketing guides out there that advocate such a process, mostly for its ease of access.
That ease means messages made with the best of intentions may get swept aside, hijacked, or place you in the line of social media fire. Imagine, if you will, having scheduled a tweet for this past weekend promoting your recent work about the comic book character Hawkeye and then walking away for the weekend.
Such a tweet may have been lumped in with others about a man who brandished a bow and arrow at protesters this weekend’s nationwide protests against racial injustice in the United States. After yelling “ALL LIVES MATTER!”, the man threatened an unarmed black man with the hunting bow, before promptly being ganged up on protesters, who went on to torch his car.
That man was quickly condemned on social media, with multiple mocking references to the Hawkeye character, causing Hawkeye to be the seventh most trending topic in the United States for a few short hours. An ill placed, scheduled tweet in that time may have done irreparable harm to a user or organization.
Beyond potentially creating trouble for you, it also feels less organic. If your social media goal is to generate more followers, and thus more eyes on your work, that’s best done through relationships. By scheduling, you remove the ability to respond and interact with your followers, and they, in turn, are less likely to engage down the road. Social media like Twitter works best when it can be a two-way street of communication. Those scheduled tweets can feel completely inorganic because they are inorganic.
Such tweets probably aren’t enough to get you #cancelled but the potential downside far outstrips any upside you might see for convenience sake.