Like law firms, news organizations struggle with the return on investment question when it comes to social media.

One specific question for news organizations has been whether personally crafting tweets and Facebook entries is worth the effort? Why not automate the social sharing?

Event after event, post after post, I see law firm marketing people advising law firms to get their content, particularly blog posts, immediately posted to each social network. They advise using “share buttons” on posts, automatically posting to social media with WordPress plugins, or plugging the headline into Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to post on all the networks automatically.

I’ve even been wondering of late whether it was worth my time to personally share my handcrafted posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. LexBlog’s Joshua Lynch (@Joshua_Lynch) and Jared Sulzdorf (@j_sulz) have kept me doing it. “Automated sharing of blog posts is death for engagement,” they advised.

Lynch and Sulzdorf were right.

Nieman Lab’s Joseph Lichterman (@ylichterman), upon talking with seven news organizations, reports the personal touch wins hands down over automated posting.

From ABC News social media editor, Micah Grimes (@michagrimes):

The people ingesting content are humans and there should be a human providing the content to them; we’re not an automated bank or cable phone line — we’re people, and the people we reach are people, and they can sense the way posts are produced. They know the voice of individual editors and producers, and when it comes out artificial, they can feel it.

The power of social media for disseminating news and information becomes very clear in reviewing the practices of the seven news organizations. It’s also very clear a personal handcrafted approach is needed for each medium.

Associated Press, per social media editor, Eric Carvin (@ericcarvin)

  • Do not use automation in our news social accounts. Prefer the human touch.
  • The ideal wording for a headline or photo or video caption isn’t necessarily the same as the ideal wording for a tweet or other social post.
  • The Twitter Card design — where a tweet opens up to reveal more information about the link — will show the same headline twice if you use it as the text of your tweet.

CNN per social media manager, Anna Gonzalez (@webanna)

  • Every post on Twitter and Facebook is handcrafted for that platform.
  • Extensive testing and experiments have found better headlines generate more engagement, re-tweets, favorites, and replies .
  • Adding a fact or detail will increase engagement more.
  • Highest engagement is a direct result of tweets with voice.
  • Tweet like a human. How would you tell or share the story to a friend? Would you share this if you ran across it?

NBCUniversal News Group per vice president of innovation and strategic integration, Ryan Osborn (@Rozzy)

  • Manually post. Takes more time but engagement is far greater.
  • Users are more likely to engage a person than a bot.

New York Times per social media staff editor, Daniel Victor (@bydanielvictor)

  • Mix of automation and handwritten tweets.
  • Headlines from main page and breaking news are only stories manually tweeted.
  • Other stories are sifted through and given handwritten love.
  • Handwritten tweets outperform autotweets in clicks, retweets, favorites, and replies

USA Today per social media editor, Mary Nahorniak (@maryvale)

  • Everything on Facebook is manual.
  • Tested tools to automate posts on Facebook and had poor experiences.
  • Top four stories and breaking news are only stories which are automatically tweeted.
  • Other engaging stories are posted on Twitter throughout the day with strong wording and images.

Wall Street Journal, per social media editor, Allison Lichter (@allisonlichter)

  • Manually write every tweet that goes on the main @WSJ account.
  • See the @WSJ account as a “front page” of The Wall Street Journal on social media. Value the intimacy and immediacy that our @WSJ Twitter account offers to our followers.
  • Know from WSJ data and from Twitter’s own analytics that tweets that are written manually, rather than being automated lead to greater engagement.
  • Have seen followers double every year for the past two years because of personal engagement.
  • Include images in tweets when can as it increases engagement.

ABC News

  • Manually post on Twitter and Facebook because believe that you can’t replace the intuition, analysis, and timing of people.
  • Use TweetDeck to manually schedule handwritten posts.
  • Schedule handwritten Facebook posts in the platform itself.

No question these news organizations have far greater resources for social dissemination than law firms. But law firms are not talking near the amount of content.

Social is about relationships and enhancing one’s reputation. These things come from personal networking and engagement. On social media, this requires a real voice and personal touch.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Thomas Hawk