Test Blog #2: User Beware!
It is easy to see why so many of us back away from recognizing social media as a serious communication tool. Who hasn’t scanned a friend’s Facebook page only to see a post and think, “Eck! Why on earth would they post that for everyone to see?” We have all heard about teachers who have lost their jobs for posting snarky comments about students or politicians who have lost respect for their social media faux pas. The cautionary tales are endless.
And then, there is always that “friend” on social media who just seems oblivious to his or her inability to put together coherent thoughts. While we may not judge them as harshly as we do the ones who make the ethical mistakes via Facebook and Twitter, we still walk away with certain ideas about their intelligence or attentiveness to detail. When we look at the assortment of photos on a person’s Facebook page, we make certain conclusions about how they spend their time. With one click our comments, photos, thoughts, and stories can be seen by anyone. People can access our list of “friends.” They can see what sites we are linking to and make assertions about what is important to us. Our life is naked for (potentially) everyone to see. The opportunities for drawing conclusions, and often negatives ones, are endless when so much information is visible.
It’s hard to not judge someone by the quality and content of their social media use. That judgment that we feel towards others, can translate into a fear that prevents us from fully harnessing the positive power that social media can provide us in our professional careers. However, we damage our careers by not adopting a positive relationship with social media in the professional arena.
In “The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the Age of Social Media” (https://uwstout.courses.wisconsin.edu/d2l/le/content/3019142/viewContent/17759443/View), Hurley and Hea discuss the reasons many students are reluctant to accept social media as a legitimate and necessary tool in their professional careers, while they may utilize it–albeit cautiously–in the personal lives. Within the technical writing community, “assumptions about professionalism and credibility seem too high a price to pay for (social media’s) use (p. 56).” There is fear that one poorly thought out post or “tweet” will make us look incompetent or worse. Your reputation or job may hang in the balance and throwing something out to the public that could strip you of those, can be scary business.
Hurley and Hea also point out that students have “concerns about the immediacy of social media–that users can write something and instantly send it to numerous audiences on the Web–suggested for them a carelessness about the craft of writing (p.60).” That immediacy may seem fine in your social circles, where friends are posting photos of what they ate for dinner. It may not seem so simple when you are representing your company. But it is precisely that same immediacy that allows a company to reach the desired audience, with a message that is effective for them (the audience), at precisely the right time. It can be an extremely targeted method of communication with consumers and therefore vital to most businesses.
Potential technical writers must begin to get comfortable with professional social media practices while they are still pursuing their formal education. It is not for social or professional purposes; it is an intrinsic part of both. It is no longer an optional tool in the technical communicator’s “tool belt,” but a necessity.