Being constantly connected is both a blessing and a curse. As a journalist, it’s almost necessary to be in-the-know and ready-to-go with the most up-to-date information at all times. As a human being, walking around with your head buried in your phone is less than desirable.
I am extremely guilty of being too connected. Sometimes my neck will get cramped and I can’t figure out why — until I realize it’s been in the same position focused at my phone for hours. Last week my hand started hurting, the same pain I used to get when writing a lengthy paper in college. But, I hadn’t put pen to paper in hours. The pain was coming from a different kind of correspondence: Tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Vining, Snapping, Emailing, Texting, yada/yada/yada/blah/blah/blah. It’s such a problem in my house, my husband has instituted a ‘no phone at dinner’ policy. I balked at the idea at first, “What if there’s breaking news!” And then, heard myself out loud. Stop. Take a breath and put down the phone, Nikki.
Yes, this is a millennial problem, but it’s also a journalist problem. We want to be first, fast and of course accurate. But we also need (and should want) to experience life and not have crippled hands and necks in our 30’s.
I am still trying to find that happy medium, but here are a few suggestions that have helped me keep one foot in and one foot out.
The concept of this sounded disingenuous to me at first, like was trying to fool my followers into thinking I was tweeting or posting at that moment. Instead I look at it this way: By scheduling posts I can continue sharing anything I find interesting, important or newsworthy, without bombarding your social feed all at once and without constantly staring at my phone.
You can schedule posts on Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram. Let’s start with Twitter.
WHAT to schedule
There are certain criteria I try to follow for which posts should be sent out immediately and which should be scheduled. A few reasons posts should NOT be scheduled or withheld until a later time:
- There’s valuable information to the viewer/reader
- It’s something that won’t make sense if it’s posted hours later.
Look for more in-depth, evergreen or feature posts to schedule. For example, recently I scheduled nine posts throughout my day from a variety of different sites. Here’s a quick rundown of those:
- A bride and her bridesmaids decided to hold rescue puppies in their bridal shoot instead of flowers. I mean seriously the world NEEDS to see this, but do they need to see it right now…or will it still be interesting/valuable in an hour or two?
- A link to a very interesting Washington Post article about a non-profit group that helps rescue girls from sex-trafficking by posing as Johns. This is a sort-of evergreen piece that is still valuable to the reader in 2 hours or 2 days.
- A tear-jerker of a story about a real life “Fault in Our Stars” story. This one has been making the rounds for a few days now. I posted it in the late afternoon and even though it wasn’t new at the time, it got several retweets.
- A WaPo article about a little-boy who wrote a letter to Obama about a refugee brother in Syria. Not new, but still relevant.
- Astronaut will vote from orbit if trip is delayed. WHAT? First of all, so cool. But does it need to be posted now? No. The election isn’t until November so we’ve got time.
- Your Zodiac sign may have changed thanks to NASA. Another cool piece that’s an easy read, evergreen and very retweetable.
- An interview with Debbie Allen addressing violence in Tulsa and Charlotte. Timely post for today – but not breaking news. As a contrast – a post about what’s happening now in Charlotte, the officer making bail at this hour or something breaking would not be a good scheduled post.
- And last but not least I scheduled a post of a dog that’s up for adoption at the local Humane Society. Because puppies.
- Bonus post: A little self-promotion. Social media is easy and free. Use it to promote your work. “Thanks for following, have a good story idea? Send it my way!” Or, “If you’re on Facebook take a gander at my page…LINK.” Don’t do this every day though, too much self-promotion is just, well, too much.
HOW and WHEN to schedule posts
I don’t do this every day, but usually a few days a week. In the morning when I’m reading emails, scrolling through what’s trending on Twitter, reading up on Skimm and about a dozen other news sites, I copy and paste articles into my notes. Then, using a scheduling app, I set up several tweets to go throughout the day. I like CrowdFire, but there’s also TweetDeck (which works even if your laptop is off), Hootsuite, and Sprout Social.
Timing is everything. I’ve often noticed if I tweet too much in a short period of time, my followers vanish. People want to see what you’re saying, but they don’t want you to flood their feed. You’re not the ONLY person they follow, don’t make it seem that way. Schedule your posts at least 45 minutes to an hour apart. That way, if you happen to tweet spontaneously in between those, you’re not bombarding twitterverse all at once.
Here’s another reason I’ve found scheduling posts to be beneficial: Say you’re out on a homicide scene, sad story. You post an update from police and then a picture from the crime scene. You already know not to tweet out a selfie at the crime scene, but in my opinion, tweeting out an article to a ridiculous BuzzFeed story, a funny lyric or a picture of your dog might seem insensitive to the work you’re doing. Focus on your job and the task at hand.
If you’re anything like me and your ADD kicks in – here’s where the scheduling is super helpful. Instead of saying to yourself, “I’ll tweet that later” and then obviously forget when you get sent out on 2 more VO/SOTs and an extra live shot for the 7pm show… schedule it for a more appropriate time You don’t forget about that witty tweet you composed and the world will still get to see your puppy pic. (Please don’t deprive me of your puppy pic).
The rules of scheduling on Facebook are similar to Twitter, although as a general rule I don’t post nearly as much on Facebook. I like to keep my Facebook posts to 1 or 2 a day. Twitter feeds can get crowded, but depending on how many people you follow it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle and over-tweeting can sometimes be overlooked. On Facebook, those posts live on your page. Over-posting often leads to un-liking. To schedule a post on Facebook, you don’t need an external app, Facebook has a tool that makes it really easy.
Still need help? Download one of these apps to keep your digital diet in check, like Break Free, Moment, or Checky. Each monitors how many times you check your phone that day and helps limit your use. BTW, the average person apparently does so more than 100 times a day, so the average journalist? Triple that.
So here’s to staying in contact, churning out content without bombarding your viewers, keeping your spouses and friends from hiding your phone and maintaining the health of your neck and hands.
PS Tweet any feedback but mostly puppy and kitty pics to @NikkiBurdine