We’ve all seen instances of businesses repeating themselves on social networks — reposting a morning message in the evening for a new audience, perhaps. Sometimes this cross-posting can be a social win, helping more viewers see your messages, but other times it takes a nose-dive into spam territory, which is likely to drive your follower counts down.

When you’re trying to get your message across on multiple social networks, it can be tempting to start repeating yourself — but is duplicating content spamming your followers, or helping to keep them informed on your brand’s latest news? To get a look at just how businesses are managing duplicate content, we spoke to these business pros to get their opinions on best practices.

Should Brands Duplicate Content on Social Channels?

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“I see a lot of valid uses for duplicating content across multiple social platforms,” explains Jeremy Goldman, founder & CEO of Firebrand Group. “For one, it would be incorrect to assume that consumers typically spend equal amounts of time on multiple social platforms; some people are simply ‘Facebook people,’ some prefer LinkedIn, and so on.”

Duplicating content is especially important for smaller businesses that don’t have a large staff to customize their messaging across numerous social channels. “You gain efficiency by posting duplicate content across multiple social platforms,” Goldman continues. “It’s not that easy for most brands to create content for social media in the first place, and to expect completely fresh content for each social platform is a bit of a stretch.”

Unfortunately, cross-posting to multiple networks successfully isn’t as easy as cutting and pasting from one to the next. “It’s important to be strategic and smart about when and how you post on social networks,” says Apryl Beverly, President of BAAB Writing and Marketing Services.

“Smart engagement requires changing the lead text when sharing the same links; thinking about a lead that would be most interesting based on the time of your post and intended audience, and distributing content throughout the day. It’s always a good idea to share useful content across different social networks, but you must accessorize your posts accordingly.”

Always Tailor Your Content

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So just when does duplicating your content from one network to the next make sense? “It’s very important to utilize each social platform how it is meant to be used,” says Allison Way, Content Manager with Inboun.

“When it comes to Twitter, you only get 140 characters. With Instagram, you have to implement a photo and at least a sentence or two for engagement. On LinkedIn, you can post entire blogs or paragraphs,” she notes. “There’s a reason there are so many different social media platforms — they all do different things. Why treat them all the same way? In my opinion, it’s best practice to use each social platform how it was intended — and that could mean posting the same content in a variety of different ways.”

The key is knowing both your audience and your medium. “It’s important to analyze what types of followers you are engaging with on each platform,” says Way. “Your Facebook fans may be 30-40 year old females, your Twitter followers may be 20-30 year old males, and your LinkedIn connections may be 40-50 year old males. Although these audiences are very different and you can probably get away with producing duplicate content on these platforms, it’s smart to tailor each and every post, article, or tweet to your exact audience.”

Duplicating content on the same network, however, is usually a bad way to go — with some notable exceptions. “On Twitter, it’s not a bad idea to tweet something that is time sensitive multiple times,” says Goldman. “Another exception is when you have something that’s pretty old that you want to dust off and possibly revise a little bit. The average member of your social audience is simply not going to remember a blog post or Instagram picture from a year or more ago.”

When Duplicate Content Is the Wrong Way to Go

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Every social professional needs to be worried about the dreaded spam label. “Companies and brands that decide to post the same content over and over again can decrease SEO because they are being spammy. If there is one thing online users do not like, it’s spam,” says Way.

Spam isn’t necessarily just repeating yourself; it can also be about sharing information your audience doesn’t find useful. “It’s always a good idea to share relevant, useful content,” explains Apryl Beverly. “However, it’s never a good idea to share junk multiple times a day.” She says it’s okay to give your followers a peek into your human side from time to time, but most won’t really care. “Duplicate content becomes spam for your audience when you share too many junk posts and too much promotional, salesy content. By doing this, you cross the line from being an expert to being an obnoxious, annoying salesperson.”

Posting spammy content can do worse than just get you labeled a spammer by former fans. “A brand that decides to share the exact same post across multiple social media platforms will not only look spammy to a digital audience, but will also look spammy to Google,” says Way. “It’s important to mix up the content not only for your audience’s sake, but to improve your social media rankings.”

The consequences won’t necessarily stop there, either. “On Facebook,” Goldman says, “if you duplicate content and thus receive less engagement on your posts there is strong evidence that you will be penalized with a lower News Feed algorithmic score, and therefore people are less likely to see your fresh, unique posts in the future.”

“If you don’t have time to generate fresh content daily or weekly,” advises Way, “then produce similar content that is worded differently. Your fans and followers will appreciate it.” Another method of mixing things up that Way recommends is retweeting and sharing others’ content that’s relevant to your audience.

So should you be duplicating content? The answer appears to be sometimes. As with all things social, it’s important to know your audience. Even if you’re saying the same thing, posting a reminder, or trying to talk to night owls rather than early birds, be sure you’re tailoring your message just for them. Whatever the social network, your followers will be glad you did.

[Image credits: Charles Williams, mkhmarketing Alan CleaverOfficial GDC]