Cross-posting, posting the same content across multiple social networks – is something that divides a lot of marketers. Those who are against cross-posting have very strong and loud opinions on the subject, and those who are in favour often just get on with their cross-posting with not much care.
While it might seem harmless at first, I totally understand why some might choose to cross-post no matter what. However, there are a few reasons why cross-posting isn’t the best choice, and why cross-promoting is a much better alternative. You won’t need that many reasons after all – just three will suffice for now.
Why cross-posting doesn’t work
- Account-specific information: things like events, locations, dates, times and similar information can’t be cross-posted if not all the accounts are relevant. For example, if you own a multinational company and you want to promote a local event that’s only relevant to one account, it’s a bad idea to cross-post the same content to all those accounts. In a nutshell, if you wouldn’t retweet it from the other accounts, then you shouldn’t cross-post it to those accounts.
- Platform-specific features: back in the days one of the strongest points against cross-posting was that each platform has its own functions and interactions. Twitter in particular had two main features that were Twitter specific – the #hashtag and the @reply. So, when you saw a hashtag or the “@“ symbol on a Facebook page or a Facebook profile, you knew right away that (9 times out of 10) that was a cross-post. However, times have changed since then – Facebook lets you mention people with the “@“ symbol, and it also lets you use hashtags. However, these symbols being more widespread nowadays, I still see a few Pages inviting their fans to “favourite and retweet”, and a few Twitter profiles urging their beloved followers to “like, comment and share to enter the competition”. (Or how about when you see a “I posted a new photo to Facebook http://fb.me…” on your Twitter timeline?) There are platform-specific instructions and features that just aren’t relevant to other social networks.
- Negative perception: the general perception from people who might catch you cross-posting is “that’s just plain lazy” – and they have a point. We’re all busy, we all have so much to do, and perhaps on top of publishing on social media you’re also in charge of the social analytics and reporting, the social management, the social monitoring and so much more. Cross-posting may appear as a convenient, quick and easy way to save time posting, but if you care about your fans and followers, you should take those extra 5 seconds to tailor your message to not only the platform you’re posting to but your audience too.
Sure, a few social networks are pretty similar – App.net is quite similar to Twitter, in the same way that Instagram is (somewhat) similar to Flickr, and so on. However, despite the similarities in platforms and their respective features, the audience is never the same between two social networks. While your Instagram followers might overlap with a percentage of your Flickr followers, so many factors come into place, like demographics and interests – what if you have a much younger demographic on Instagram but a lot of your Flickr followers are professional, devoted photographers who enjoy seeing your pictures pop up in their streams? Now, imagine them seeing the same pictures you always put on Instagram – those pictures that you’re posting to suit your younger demographic. By doing so, not only do you risk getting a negative perception around your account(s) and your brand, but you’ll also start losing valuable followers chasing the wrong type of audience.
Cross-promote, don’t cross-post
Now that we’ve listed the reasons why cross-posting isn’t a good idea, here’s a confession: I often post the same links across multiple networks. While that sounds like I’m not practicing what I’m preaching, it’s for a good reason – I’m not just cross-posting, I’m cross-promoting. Here’s what I mean: I’m on a lot of social networks out there, and the people I interact with on Twitter are totally different from those I interact with on Vine, or Instagram and other networks. I have social networks where I only post about writing and other creative content that inspires me to write more (e.g. during Nanowrimo). I also have social networks where I just have casual conversations to pass the time. However, if I have something that I feel may benefit both audiences, I’ll post it on both network BUT I’ll tailor it before posting. Doing so, it doesn’t feel like cross-posting anymore – blatant copying and pasting of the same link and caption. What I do is:
- Tailor the text based on the network and the network’s audience;
- (Optional) add tracking codes at the end of a URL, particularly if it’s linking back to my site, so I can see on Google Analytics how those links are performing for each site I’ve posted it on (here’s some more info on how and why I’m doing this extra bit of work).
I guess you could call it “customised cross-posting”, or as I call it, cross-promoting.
I mainly use four tools to achieve this, depending on where I’m posting or how I want to post:
- Best for social: Hootsuite offers the longest list of social networks you can cross-promote to: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, WordPress and mixi (a Japanese social networking service). Now, when I say Google+ I mean Google+ Pages: Google have yet to release an API that supports posting to personal Google+ profiles.
- Best just for Twitter: Tweetdeck, if you want to cross-post across multiple Twitter accounts. While you could do the same on Hootsuite, I prefer using Tweetdeck if all the accounts I’m posting to are on Twitter mainly because of the real-time streams I can set up. (Hootsuite lets you set up streams too, but they update every 2 minutes, and as I’m impatient I often find myself defaulting to Tweetdeck.)
- Best for automation: IFTTT is the best tool if you’re a fan of automation. IFTTT works on triggers – if something happens, then IFTTT triggers an action. So, you can set IFTTT to post something on Facebook if it detects a new post on Tumblr, or you can set IFTTT to post a Tweet based on your latest saved URL. or the latest Reddit post – the options are so many to choose from, and they’re highly customisable. You can hook IFTTT up with your favourite bookmarking apps (e.g. Pocket, Pinboard), or note taking apps (e.g. Evernote), or other social sites (e.g. Tumblr) or even Android wearables! It takes a bit of tinkering to get it to work, but it’s pretty straightforward to use.
The fourth tool? It’s my lifetime favourite tool: Buffer. I currently use it to cross-promote and schedule content, mainly because of their good-looking app (great UX and a gorgeous UI always makes me tap on that “download” button) and their extremely useful plugins that always come in handy. One of their strongest points is their useful no-nonsense analytics, which are viewable from within the app. They’re straightforward – they tell you what you need to know in quick snapshots, and oftentimes that’s all you need. This means that I can schedule on the go, tweak times on the go, and check analytics – you guessed it – on the go. Measuring the performance of the content I cross-promote is mainly something I do to pacify the analyst in me, but it should definitely be a must if you’re posting for marketing purposes.
A Word of Advice
When asked about cross-posting, my usual advice used to be: “ask yourself – do people really want to read your tweets on Facebook, your Facebook posts on LinkedIn, and your LinkedIn posts on Pinterest, and your Pinterest pictures on Etsy etc.”. That advice used to work years ago. However, thinking about it, it goes way deeper than that. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll be the first person to recommend cross-promoting your content across networks. I do it every time I have something great to share, whether it’s from my blog or whichever other site: if I find it really interesting or I feel that my friends and followers might be interested in it, I’ll definitely cross-promote that to as many networks as I find suitable – the more eyeballs seeing that content, the better.
However, if you just want to fill up your page or profile with content just so they look “fresh” and regularly updated, then please just don’t.
So, my advice this year is the following:
- If you’re going to post the same content to multiple social networks because you want more people to see and benefit from that content, feel free to cross-promote but make sure you tailor the text to suit the network you’re posting it on and the audience that will be seeing your post;
- If you’re going to post the same content to multiple social networks just as a “filler”, please don’t.
It’s not about the quantity of posts you publish from network to network – the “quality over quantity” mantra works on social media too. (Or if you’re an Analyst like myself, then it’s about quantifiable quality, not just any quantity, but more on that another day.)