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Should You Preschedule Tweets?

I’ve begun a new column for SheWrites called Networking for Introverts, which will run every other Thursday, and I’ll repost those here. Here is the latest:

With the growing popularity of Buffer and the introduction of HootSuite’s AutoSchedule feature, there has been a lot of brouhaha on the Internet lately about whether you should preschedule tweets.

One egregious example cited by Unmarketing guru Scott Stratten happened when Live Nation Ontario, who organized a Radiohead show in Ontario, Canada, failed to cancel a prescheduled tweet that read, “Help us create a Radiohead photo album from the show! Share your Instagram photos of the show tonight with the hashtag #RadioheadTO.” This tweet went out to @LiveNationON’s 15,000+ followers after the show had been canceled due to a collapsed stage that killed one person and injured three others. Followers appropriately responded with outrage.

More recently, author @KristenLambTX, who started the hashtag #MyWANA, announced that she planned to block and report all automated tweets using the #MyWANA hashtag. The reason? She feels that the #MyWANA conversation has become littered with spam created by bots. By “spam,” she means all links, not just ads for Viagara, and by “bots” she means people like you and me who preschedule tweets, not just robots.

This got me thinking: Is it wrong to preschedule tweets? When is it okay to preschedule tweets? Here are my thoughts:

Twitter is a giant chat room. You wouldn’t go into a chat room, write one line and then log off, would you? You wouldn’t chat someone through Facebook or iChat or GChat and then log off, would you? Of course not. That would be rude. If your goal on Twitter is to have a conversation (and it should be, most of the time), then you shouldn’t preschedule tweets. Because when people respond, you won’t be there to continue the conversation. On the other hand, if your goal is to broadcast information (which it can be, some of the time), you don’t necessarily have to be online. My own Twitter use consists of about 75% live tweets and 25% prescheduled tweets.

Why do I preschedule tweets at all? I have two small children, so I can’t be online all the time. I log on every couple of days, catch up on my blog and article reading, and then tweet out my favorites, which frequently consist of more than ten links. By the fifth or sixth, I worry that A) I’m annoying people and B) Only a small percentage of my followers are going to see all the wonderful articles I have to share because, well, it’s 2 a.m. So I preschedule a few for the following day.

Harmless enough, right? Not in the eyes of Twitter purists who believe that prescheduling tweets is akin to rolling up your mattress so it looks like you’re in bed when really you’ve snuck out the bedroom window to meet your friend Joey at the cemetery to drink wine coolers.

Prescheduling tweets, like prayer, like vegetarianism, like your political party affiliation, is a personal choice. Be aware of the pros and cons of each side. Then preschedule responsibly, taking care to cancel prescheduled tweets that are no longer appropriate and to avoid excessive prescheduling. Like all good things, prescheduled tweeting should be practiced in moderation.

What are your thoughts on prescheduled tweets? Are you for or against? Why?

26 comments to Should You Preschedule Tweets?

  • I'm pretty much on the Scott Stratten train. I've read what he has to say on this subject in both his books and I believe strongly in his engagement approach to marketing. I can't find fault is his logic that prescheduled ANYTHING in social media gives the subtle impression (long lasting) that you don't care enough to be present to your followers.

    However. That really applies to businesses and not necessarily for people. I see nothing wrong with prescheduling your tweets for the next day so people can get the greatest benefit from links. But for a business, it's super important to communicate to customers that you're present and listening.

    • meghancward

      Good point on the distinction between businesses and individuals. Like I said above, it makes no sense for me to tweet out 10 links at 2 am. If I don't schedule them, no one is going to see them.

  • And congrats on your new column!

  • Kristan

    First, kudos on the new column!

    Second, “Twitter purists”? Oh lord.

    I respectfully disagree with Sierra, although I appreciate her distinction between tweeting as a business and tweeting as a regular person. The fact is, Twitter is in many ways a conversation, yes, but it is a conversation with the benefit of not necessarily HAVING to be had in real time. That for me is one of the major perks of communicating via the Internet. Yes, immediacy is a great tool, and I often take advantage of it, but if I'm busy, traveling, or just plain don't feel like it, I can leave my messages for later. They will still be there, and my responses will be just as valid and sincere.

    • meghancward

      That's a great point, too, Kristan. Conversations don't necessarily have to be live. We have conversations all the time via email, and that's okay, so what's wrong with responding to tweets a few hours, or even days, later? It's not like we're just spamming them with links to buy our books all day.

      • I think the distinction is really on whether you ARE having a conversation. Does it REALLY matter whether I post a link myself or schedule it? I'd say not as long as when someone responds to said link or other update I do respond in a reasonable time frame.

        I would also say that people choose who they follow on Twitter and other social media because they like what the person is posting. Some people are on Twitter for conversation. Others are on Twitter because it is a great source of information.

        Personally if I see a ton of replies that make no sense when I am looking at someone's stream I'm LESS likely to follow them. I enjoy conversations…I've had Twitter conversations about everything from books to quilts to cats. But my stream is not and endless string of "conversational" posts that make no sense to someone not following the conversation.

        I don't think it is an either – or thing. You can schedule some tweets and do others real time. It makes sense for me to schedule the informational and ad posts that comprise part of my stream. It makes sense for me to live tweet the RT's #FF's and responses to my tweets and RT's.

        I agree Kristan, for me one of the BIG benefits is that a Twitter conversation doesn't need to happen in real time.

        • meghancward

          Thanks for this comment, Laurie. I'm so glad to hear that so many of you are okay with scheduling tweets. After reading Kristen Lamb's post about blocking all scheduled tweets from her hashtag, I felt like I'd been breaking some unspoken Twitter law by scheduling tweets. And I agree – it doesn't have to be all or nothing. We can schedule links and still have conversations real-time.

  • Janice Hardy

    Scheduling conversation tweets, sure, that's tacky. The whole point of tweeting something personal is to connect. But links? I have no issue with scheduling those. I read a lot of writing blogs (like this one) and I used to tweet them as I read them. Then I realized I was spamming the feed with 15 or so articles, and unless you happened to be checking your feed at that time, you missed all those great articles. (Or got spammed with my tweets) Now I save them and schedule tweet them one an hour so folks who follow me know they can consistently get links to writing and publishing info. If I read something timely (I schedule several days in advance) I'll tweet it then and there.

    Of course, if you follow me, then you know I tweet hourly. I don't hide the fact that I schedule my link tweets. I also randomize them so it's not the same blogs at the same time every day. But I also have times where I'm on and chat with folks. Scheduling helpful writing info is a reason folks follow me. I'm not on Twitter for hours a day and I'm not always there.

    I think the issue might have more to do with hashtags. I don't use hashtags for my scheduled tweets, because those get retweeted a lot and I don't want to flood anyone's feed. And hashtags go to everyone who looks at that tag, not just those who chose to follow you. You're intruding where you might not be wanted. If those hashtags are primarily used for live chatting, then it can become an issue.

    Bottomline, I don't think scheduling tweets is the problem. It's how a person uses their scheduler than can cause trouble.

    • meghancward

      I agree 100% that it's not scheduling tweets, but how people schedule tweets that can be problematic. I'm not sure I follow you on the hashtags, though. How would having your tweets retweeted flood anyone's feed? If you tweet one per hour and someone retweets those, are you worried they'll retweet 10 all at once instead of spreading them out like you do?

      • Janice Hardy

        Basically, yes. If you RT something with a hashtag, it goes to that feed. Everyone else who RTs it also sends it there. So if you have a bunch of folks RT you, it's possible to suddenly have a slew of the same posts appearing in that hashtag feed. And if more folks in the feed like it and RT it, then it can get crazy spammy.

        • meghancward

          Got it! I'm writing a post about hashtags right now. I'd love to get your feedback when I'm done.

          • Of course…if you use an appropriate hashtag then only people looking for things appropriate to that hashtag will see it or RT it. Often the hashtag gets removed by the RT-er if the post needs to be trimmed to 140 characters. I'm not a big user of hashtags…mostly because I'm not succinct enough…but I don't see them as problematic. If you use the #writetip tag or something else appropriate then only those looking for material of that type will see it.

            Again…maybe it is more a matter of how you use the hashtag. 🙂

          • meghancward

            I've been using hashtags with caution since researching them for my hashtag post. But I still use them. And back to the conversation about scheduling tweets, I specifically follow some people JUST to get the links. I suppose it would be nice if they were online every time I RT'd them or @replied them, but it's not a tragedy if I have to wait a day for a response.

  • annerallen

    Good post and a very wise comment from Janice Hardy. I kind of agree with Sierra and understand why Kristen had to do something about the overflow of "buy my book/read my blog" #myWANA tweets. They made the hashtag pretty useless. Personally, I never schedule tweets, because I've been so annoyed with barrages of automated Tweets/FB posts that take over my message stream. (Which yours never do, Meghan.)

    But I do what Janice says she used to do, and maybe I should rethink. I browse a number of writing sites at different times of day and if I think the piece is worth sharing, I RT the link. It's part of my reading routine. Scheduling them would be way more work, so I'm not sure if I'll do that or not. But maybe I should spread them out more.

    But if I send somebody a chatty tweet, sending a thank your or congrats or responding to a link, I don't sit there waiting for a reply. I reply the next time I check into Twitter. I guess I treat it more like e-mail than a DM. But this allows me to engage with people without giving up my life to sit around on Twitter.

    • Janice Hardy

      Anne, I always thought of it like Facebook in that way, but email is a good comparison. I respond to every tweet (unless it's a general FF or something where it's not expected) but sometimes the conversation is over a few days instead of real time.

    • meghancward

      Anne, with Hoot Suite and Buffer app's autoscheduling, you can schedule all your links for the day in one swoop, so it's just as fast as hitting "send now." But I think it's a personal choice. Some people would rather know you are online when they see a link you sent, so they can discuss it right then and there with you. I think whichever way you do it is fine, as long as scheduling isn't abused.

  • As with most things I do–fiction writing, blog writing, etc.–I think about things from the reader's point of view. I attach hashtags when I legitimately think people in those hashtags or searching those hashtags would benefit from the article.

    I do the same thing with scheduling. As Janet mentioned, if I think my followers on Twitter would get more out of a link if they see it at X time instead of Y time, I'll schedule it. Sometimes I schedule tweets for 15 minutes later (just to spread my tweets out). Sometimes I'll schedule them for M-F instead of the weekend. But I'm almost ALWAYS on Twitter, so I'm almost ALWAYS around "live" when they go out.

    So I schedule tweets a) as a service to my followers, and b) so I don't forget to tweet it later (when it's a better time for my followers). I rarely schedule tweets for when I'm not around. I do occasionally–about once a month–but not an obnoxious amount. 🙂

    Scheduling tweets is just a tool. People can use the tool to be obnoxious, or people can use the tool to get something done. Those who are being obnoxious with scheduled tweets are making the rest of us look bad. 🙂

    • meghancward

      I very much agree that scheduling is just a tool and that people who abuse that tool are making the rest of us look bad! I'm not always on Twitter when my tweets go out, but I'm on at least once a day, so I tend to respond pretty quickly to people's @replies (well, except when I'm on vacation, which I was for the past two weeks.)

      • I think that people using scheduled tweets inappropriately are basically making themselves look bad. People can choose who they follow or unfollow. If they are not liking what you're tweeting or how you're tweeting it, they can simply unfollow you. With hashtags that's a bit different as those go to everyone following a hashtag. Still…people can be blocked. 🙂

  • […] Should You Preschedule Tweets? — Writerland (Meghan Ward) […]

  • We are working on a new Twitter scheduling tool. If you are interested, check out

  • Everything should be checked before final schedule. I will be more careful of the tweets, Generally, my topic is about contemporary situation. Thanks