When I first took over our newspaper’s Facebook and Twitter accounts a few months ago, posting was fully automated and it was kind of a mess.

No one was commenting on our Facebook posts and very few people were “liking” them. We were basically spamming our fans, who were very kindly putting up with us.

Since then, I’ve turned off most of the automation on Facebook although there still is a bit via RSS Graffiti. That app works in mysterious ways. It’s often unclear to me exactly what stories it will post, but it’s functioning well enough with the changed settings for now.

I’ve been concentrating on trying to put up images with every story and asking questions in a lot of the posts. Things are going well: Post feedback is up 416 percent in the last five months, and post views are up 134 percent. Likes are also up quite a bit, but I care more about the feedback because I think it’s a positive thing for historically one-sided media to be interacting with readers. It might bring us into the 20th century at least and hopefully give people warmer and fuzzier feelings about the paper.

Twitter is another story. It’s quite hard to break down the automation vs. hand-Tweeting thing well for a newspaper. I would love to hand-Tweet every story, but a) I have a full-time job as a reporter for the newspaper and things get super busy even in mellow Marin and b) I’m (thankfully!) not working every second of the week. I sometimes go to the movies or to a museum or open-water swimming and breaking news may happen then.

So I switched from Twitterfeed to dlvr.it for our main RSS feed because dlvr.it has better controls for WHEN you want it to grab stories for your site, i.e. you can specify the hours and days.

However, I keep running into a problem when there’s breaking news or another reason to hand post something while the automated Twitter feed is active. I basically have to turn it off and then re-start it later so there aren’t duplicate posts, but that leaves the problem of stories that are not breaking news not getting posted.

Ugh, maybe some day there’ll be an app designed specially for smallish newspapers with one measly, part-time social media person. Until then…

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