The New York Times' has been conducting a Twitter experiment: use people instead of automation.
This week, the newspaper's Twitter account is run entirely by social media editors who handpick stories, write tweets and engage with readers, Poynter reported. Normally the account features only occasional contributions by social media editors, consisting mainly of an automated headline feed - a "cyborg".
Turns out, the readers have regarded this kind of impersonal web presence as "mostly an RSS feed of auto headlines," said Liz Heron, a social media editor at the newspaper. According to her, this week's experiment "is about changing the perception, and it's about being a little more strategic about what we put out there -- finding the most engaging content."
Poynter's article pointed out that the results of the so-called "experiment" are in fact fairly predictable. According to The Wall Street Journal's Zach Seward, "human-powered feeds do much, much better than automated ones, by any relevant metric." Unplugging the automated feed could be less about trying out a different approach, the article speculated, and more about convincing management that social media presence is enough important to invest in.
Heron said that no decisions have been made yet about what happens after the experiment, but presumably going back to the half-automated approach would seem like a step backwards.
Earlier it was reported that Heron spoke about The New York Times's social media strategy at the BBC's Social Media Summit. Business Insider quoted her as saying that the newspaper would next concentrate on Facebook since they have "cracked that code" on Twitter but have been less successful on Facebook.
The New York Times has been at the forefront of using social media - it appointed a social media editor already two years ago - and parts of its social media strategy were reported earlier.
More and more newspapers are recognising the need for a social media editor. USA Today, for example, has invested in its social media presence.