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Did President Obama Kill the Automated Tweet?

Much has been written already about the news heard ’round the world last Sunday when President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Starting with a seemingly innocent Tweet around 4PM EST and escalating through Sunday night and throughout the rest of the week, every news source on the planet has by now covered the influence that social media has had on this major news story.

To recap, in case you haven’t heard, a Twitter user named Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual on Twitter) in Pakistan was tweeting about an “annoying helicopter” outside his window, without realizing he was accidentally reporting on the Osama raid – while it was in progress.

@ReallyVirtual Osama Raid Tweet

Many people learned about the Osama Bin Laden raid via Twitter and Facebook, instead of traditional news sources, and those who did reported that they heard more news, faster than it was being reported through network news sources.

Caroline Melberg, Social Media Strategist for The Social Media Incubator remarked, “This event really demonstrates how the world has changed forever.  The type of news that used to take days or weeks to communicate through channels from the front during WW2, for example,  is now made available instantaneously – and from thousands of different perspectives – via social media.

But even as we are witnessing powerful cultural shifts due to the way people access and share information, shifts are happening within social media sites such as Twitter as well.

As more people became aware of the news on Sunday, Twitter was alive with conversation about the event in every part of the world.   And as those who were watching Twitter that night will attest, it became very clear which Twitter users were automating their tweets in advance.

As Caroline, who was monitoring the event on Twitter and on television that night, said, “Social Media is about real-time conversation, and never was it more apparent how important that real-time connection is than it was as I watched my Twitter stream that evening.  Powerful and emotional observations, statements, opinions and conversations were frequently interrupted by the random and unrelated tweets of those folks who had a “set-it-and-forget-it” mindset toward their Twitter account.  As one of my Twitter friends said, ‘Any one automating their tweets looks really silly tonight’.”

The event on Sunday saw Twitter friends connecting and sharing around a common, emotional event.  Those folks who had automated their tweets that night appeared insensitive and completely out-of-touch.

Have we seen the last of the “Automated Tweet”?  Probably not.  But if you’re using social media to promote your company, likely “insensitive” and “out-of-touch” are not qualities you want to associate with your brand.  While scheduling some tweets in advance can be a time-saving technique, that doesn’t mean you can completely ignore your Twitter account.  Remember, social media is “Real Time PR.”  When major news breaks in your company, your industry or the world, you’ll want to be responding and sharing conversations in real-time.  Replace scheduled tweets immediately with active, engaged conversation and ensure that your brand does not appear out-of-touch as a result.

Published on: May 6, 2011