Users Taking Over the World

As I was reviewing our course syllabus after completing this week’s readings, the title of Unit 3 struck me: “Work and Play in a User-Generated World.” I started thinking about what a user-generated world is and realized that it’s exactly what our readings have been describing. A user-centric sphere in which users demand good customer service, quick response time, new forums to communicate with each other, and improved and more efficient searching is, most definitely, a user-generated world.

While product research and development has always been motivated by the product’s users/audience to some extent, it is clear that consumers have been empowered and their opinions and voices amplified as a result of the rise of social media and digital technology in general. Ann M. Blakeslee’s chapter, “Addressing Audiences in a Digital Age” in Spilka’s Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, addresses how the concept of the audience has changed, especially for technical communicators, since the dawn of the digital age.

According to Blakeslee, while it was once reasonably safe to assume that a print user manual would have a fairly narrow, well

defined audience limited to people who were likely familiar with industry jargon, such assumptions are no longer likely to be accurate. The internet has offered greatly increased accessibility to technical communication, and thus greatly expanded the potential audience for documentation. While Blakeslee acknowledges that it may be difficult for technical communicators to understand and define their now larger and more varied audiences for general documentation, she points out that it is easier to predict and understand the audience for particular types of documents such as instructional documents (2010, p. 201).

Just as digital technology has facilitated and expanded access to documentation, it is also (according to Qualman, Maggiani, and Marshall) revolutionizing the way we search for jobs. Social media allows for the rapid exchange of information- including information that helps both job seekers and recruiters. Qualman predicts that as with everything else on the web, middlemen will become less valuable and eventually be eliminated; job seekers will be matched with more appropriate jobs without the need for classified ads, job boards like Monster, or headhunters (2013, p. 178).

Qualman anticipates that LinkedIn will be a major player during and following the elimination of the middleman from the recruiting and job seeking processes (2013, p. 178). Therefore, he can see job searching and hiring becoming even more referral based than they were previously.

The article “Using LinkedIn to Get Work” by Rich Maggiani and Ed Marshall also voiced the idea that LinkedIn will become increasingly more important in hiring and job seeking. In addition to advising job seekers, the article also advises the currently employed on how to maintain their profiles in order to stay up to date with their networks and potential future employers. This advice includes frequently posting status updates and listing events attended.

I had no idea how much LinkedIn offered in terms of job searching prior to reading this article. I did not know how LinkedIn job postings work or that there are job tabs within groups. I was not surprised to hear that LinkedIn is an increasingly important recruiting tool, though, as my company is currently using LinkedIn for recruiting.

I was intrigued by the idea of constantly updating the LinkedIn profile with status updates and the like, but also a bit wary. I’ve always had the impression that being very active on LinkedIn in the way the article recommends implies that a person is looking for work or projects or is advertising their own services. In the case of someone who is happily employed, I could see this being a red flag for their current employer and triggering questions about whether the employee is looking to leave. Maybe though, employers will understand the benefits to them of their employees expanding their social networks, and this will not actually be a problem.

Posted on November 3, 2013, in Social Media, Society and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. evelynmartens13

    I share your concern a bit about being active on Linked In perhaps making it seem that we are actively job hunting. I got a sense that we’re supposed to be thinking about it in terms of expanding our professional networks over the long haul, though. On the other hand, we read this week about how many times people will change jobs in a lifetime, so maybe there are a lot of people who ARE always looking for the next great job.

    Qualman does discuss the elimination of the middleman quite a bit, in a lot of contexts, and he’s probably right. In my world what that would mean is that people would teach themselves directly from the website and eliminate the middman role — teachers. I wonder when that’s going to happen?

    • I hope not for a long time! Personally, I really like having teachers. 🙂

      • Yes, please keep me employed! LOL. But I do wonder if the move to MOOCs is taking the focus away from teachers?

        As for your point about being too active on LinkedIn as a red flag, you reminded me of a former student’s post on the matter: https://745techprofcomm.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/what-linkedin-means-to-paranoid-employers-week-10/. I had never considered what a profile might look like to a current employer until Laura’s post.

        For now, I still see it as a worthwhile profile to maintain and as an alum of USF, I just requested to join “the official professional networking group for alumni and friends of the University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences.” Keeping these connections in place, more-so as an adviser who could recommend a student to one of their programs or point him/her to a job ad, is useful for me.

        • Yes, Laura’s post articulates exactly what I’m worried about. I also work in a small, close knit environment and am linked in with many of my coworkers, so I do think it’s possible that constant activity on Linked In could send the wrong message. I can definitely see, though, how it is helpful for you as an adviser for your students.

  2. Resume’s and profiles have always introduced a paradox to me. There are always tips to create a successful or appealing profile, but doesn’t following those tips to the letter result in a profile that looks just like everyone else’s? That invites the question of who the person really is, and if they are hiding something or not representing themselves accurately.
    It will be interesting to see how it all changes as time goes on.

  3. Like with all social media, I think you have to look at it strategically and make a determination how you want it to work for you. I have been using LinkedIn quite a bit lately and have tried posting more often. I don’t post things that are advertising my skills or availability to start a new job; rather, I post relevant articles to the industry I work in. For example, my company has a Facebook page and will post when there is a new research study regarding allergy drops. Well, the company’s FB page has very few followers (I think it’s up to 15 right now). However, I have a 100+ LinkedIn connections who have connections who have connections and so on. By sharing that same post on my LinkedIn page, it reaches a broader audience. And the cool thing is, I can see how many people actually looked at my post!

  4. I think Lori is absolutely correct. It is whatever you want it to be. I think these days no one is ever loyal to their company anymore. Not to say they don’t do everything it takes to make that company successful, they just always need to think of themselves first (this probably comes from how easily companies have been laying people off over the last few decades). You never want to let go of your connections or network. Even if you don’t need a new job (in which case I usually see something like ‘Happily employed at company ABC’) but a friend might and if you help them now, they can help you down the road when you are ready for a change.

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