Tech Comm & Social Media

Social media and technical communication share an interesting sort of synergy when you really think about it. Some of the basic tenants of social media have direct links to tech comm concepts: brevity, visual design and exposure, plain language, UX design.

Something social media does better than technical communication, at least in my mind, is bridge the gap between technical information delivery and pop culture/mainstream information.

It might just be me, but I often find myself turned off by the rigid formality of the academic side to technical communications. I can say that about any scientific or professional field, but you have to learn how to speak to the people where they live and social media outreach does that so effectively.

Of course, with the good you have to take the bad. Unlike “usable” technical communication products, social media does not have to researched, arranged proofed, or even properly discussed before being put out into the world.

I love the idea of freedom of speech, but the modern implementation of it through social media leaves a lot to be desired. The power to say anything you want whenever you want is a powerful tool. It has power, especially in the hands of marginalized groups, but anything beneficial can be exploited.

So how do we reconcile the two?

There are professional social media sites like LinkedIn that led the charge to normalize and propose order on the online social spheres being created.

Something I connected to in the reading was the idea that social media has the ability to place two figures, customer/client, business/public, celebrity/fan, on the same level.

“To succeed in the age of social media, Pearson suggests that businesses need to adapt to the affordances of the Web in terms of users’ social and browsing habits; companies must reach customers before customers turn to them, and they must answer people’s questions by becoming a peer in their customers’ communities” (Hurley et al pg. 61).

That’s powerful and really changes the traditional structures and images people have about companies/figures/institutions, especially those that have a pre-social media, established presence.

Moving forward, social media needs to be continuously recognized as the powerful tool it is. But we also have to take into account the two-way street that it has opened up. Technical communicators can only get back what they put into it.


Elise Verzosa Hurley & Amy C. Kimme Hea (2014) The Rhetoric of Reach:Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the Age of Social Media, Technical Communication Quarterly, 23:1, 55-68, DOI: 10.1080/10572252.2014.850854

Posted on September 18, 2016, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “Something I connected to in the reading was the idea that social media has the ability to place two figures, customer/client, business/public, celebrity/fan, on the same level.”

    This might be the start of a final paper proposal, Lloyd!!! Lots of research out there on all 3 scenarios.

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