Test blog #2: Social media a viable tool for dissemination of technical information – Van Beusekom

Elise Verzosa and Amy Hea’s article pointed out that social media often has negative connotations for students concerned that using it will undermine their academic lives and careers. These students are fearful that their university, employer or future employer will see their postings, and it will have ramifications for them, because once posts are up, they tend to take on a life of their own (eg, Anthony Weiner’s photo)..

Of course, their concerns are legitimate when it comes to posting photos and blurbs about their late-night escapades or hateful rants. But people who think that not posting photos of themselves or any information on social media will preserve their privacy have got it all wrong. Today, privacy is an illusion. I don’t have to go on Facebook to find out how old you are, where you live, where you work, where you go to school, who your neighbors are or how high your real estate taxes are. It’s all out there–and much more–for anyone to see.

But posting technical communication on social media is no threat, and I can’t understand why anyone would think otherwise. In fact, I see its usefulness every day on LinkedIn, where fellow professionals post how-tos, advice and other information to enhance both other people’s careers and their own. By making themselves an expert, they are positioning themselves to be seen as a trustworthy, authoritative source. Often, I find myself wondering how to do something (eg, how to remove chewing gum from upholstery) or why something is the way it is (why does my cat go outside only to turn around and want to be let back in 20 times a day?). I’m looking for practical advice (eg, how to get promoted) and personal stories from people who’ve been there (eg, how I got promoted). I’m getting married next year, so I’ve Googled things like “good processional music” and “Minneapolis catering” dozens of times lately.

I’ve also posted some promotional how-to articles on e-how for friends’ businesses (eg, a “how to clean and preserve your deck” article for a local deck-washing business). Of course, I often respond to other people’s how-to questions on different forums (eg, how do I display cupcakes at my wedding? “Try an acrylic cupcake tower.) I once posted a photo of my flower towers, a project I found on homedepot.com and did at home; a friend saw the photos and asked me how I made it, so I ended up posting step-by-step instructions. Anyone can do this, which brings me to the next point.

The caveat in using technical communication via social media is that it’s hard to be sure if the poster is a legitimate expert and not just someone out to make $25 for posting an article on e-how (I’m not sure what they pay now, but they used to pay per article). I find that it’s best to always verify the facts some other way, by checking out similar posts on other social media forums or Googling it. Not that I’m against using Wikipedia; I find a lot of useful stuff there, but I verify it elsewhere. I’m also always skeptical about the information found on sponsored sites.

It can be hard to get the information you need online because the Internet is so congested. I find Pinterest to be one of the top offenders when I’m searching for something in particular, because many people post photos or images of things on Pinterest without saying where they found them, so it’s a couple of wasted clicks when I could have possibly found a solid lead elsewhere. Plus, so often, they’re so old and out of date, they’ve outlived their usefulness.

Another way to be relatively sure of the soundness of the information is to use only trusted sites; I find academic institutions and well-known organizations to be pretty trustworthy. And I tend to rely on information from people with credentials versus without. For example, I am 100% confident I can trust a post on mayoclinic.com written by a doctor (although, chances are, someone else wrote it for him). On the other hand, I wouldn’t go on just any discussion board and take the medical advice of someone whose daughter’s husband’s second cousin once had the same symptoms.

All in all, I find that, as long as I take the time to drill down to the level of information I need and the trustworthiness I desire, I’m able to find what I need. And by posting valuable information to help others, I return the favor.

Posted on September 15, 2015, in Metablogging, mobile, Social Media, Society. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Excellent range of examples here. It’s so true that people generalize social media uses and forget that specific fields, technical communication is our case, have little to worry about, as long as written by verified experts as you mention. This type of audience awareness and skepticism will be discussed in the Rheingold book but Dan Gillmor also wrote of them in his seminal piece “Principles for a New Media Literacy.”

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