Social Media as a Tool

In Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making: Technical Communication Between the Global North and South (2013), Bernadette Longo discusses the necessity of considering social media as a tool to use as a technical communicator.

When It Could Work

It wasn’t until I changed jobs that I realized the reality of this concept.  Working for an antiquated government agency that prohibited departments and employees from using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for both personal and professional use, I did not see the merit in using social media to promote and advertise business.  In the case of my prior employer, Facebook would have been very beneficial for many of the departments and agencies.  For example, I worked for an Aging Unit and specialized in the coordination of transportation and mobility options for older adults and people with disabilities.  I taught people how to ride the bus, I taught AARP Smart Driver courses, and did a lot with the community such as social events, senior fairs, and educational events at the local libraries.  I also taught Dementia Awareness among businesses in the county.
If the county would have allowed its employees to embrace and use social media as a communicative tool, the county would have the ability to reach a much greater audience by advertising these positive community events and public programs to internet users.  According to the Pew Research Center, “46 percent of senior citizen Internet users access Facebook and other social networks, compared with 73 percent of all adult Internet users. Factoring in non-Internet users, just 27 percent of adults 65 and older use social networks, compared with 63 percent of all adults, and 27 percent of adults 80 and older use the internet” (2014).  There is certainly a market of older adults on Facebook.  If the aging unit advertise its smart driver courses and the fact that by taking the course you could save 10-20% on your insurance rate, I believe seniors would find that very appealing and the advertisement would be effective.

When It Does Work

It’s vital to be able to reach your audience; without capturing an audience, a business venture–whatever it may be–has a very slim chance of succeeding.  I work for a fitness company now, and our audience is the 25-55 year old woman who has an interest in health, wellness, and personal improvement.  We know that our client is online, using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, is a blog reader, on Snapchat, uses apps, in any combination.  So when I develop a marketing campaign, I have to consider my audience, the social media usage, and how to best reach them via those communicative avenues.
Longo speaks directly to technical communicators in her essay:
“Incorporating social media into our technical communication toolset for audience accommodation promises that we can design documents that are more explicitly responsive to audience needs and that are more directly inclusive of a range of perspectives across global communities. These media do help us play the role of a moderator who manages information flows from many sources. But when we think that technological tools can help us make decisions that are true, we need to more deeply explore this utopian desire for inclusion, asking to what extent it is possible” (2013, p. 24).
I heed this advice quite seriously now that I understand how absolutely essential an online presence is.  I know as a marketer and professional communicator that I could have the most incredible message to send to my audience.  But if I don’t use the correct channel, it won’t reach them, thus negating the purpose of my message in the first place.

Bernadette Longo (2014) Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making:
Technical Communication Between the Global North and South, Technical Communication Quarterly, 23:1, 23-34

About mollynolte

MSTPC grad student scheduled to graduate in May 2017. Lover of the outdoors, my dogs, autumn, yoga, and travel.

Posted on November 13, 2016, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. You’re so right about the county missing the boat with social media. One thing that came to mind when you were saying the things that you taught your clients to do is that you could have taught them how to use Facebook. Many elderly people are lonely. Facebook is a way for them to be connected and keep up with family and friends. We recently taught my mother in law how to use it. She’s very much afraid of computers, so my sister in law bought her an iPad and we set up a Facebook. Every day I see my mother -in-law’s name pop up that she liked something. So in addition to advertising, possibly some fundraising, and being connected to the public, I believe it’s also a skill that could be taught to elderly clients. We have one instructor that goes to the Salvation Army to teach. He helps them set up Facebook accounts for two reasons. He can keep in contact with them (the students don’t always have the best attendance) and he helps them connect with each other so they can encourage and help each other. It’s been a great tool for them. At my former job, I set up a group page for my students. If anyone was absent I could post assignments and attach study guides. They could ask questions and hold discussions. I know that many schools now have social software for students, parents, and teachers today. The school where I worked tried that, but after a trial period couldn’t afford to purchase. Facebook filled that gap for me. It was also helpful to be able to create events so parents were always kept informed.

  2. Great close reading and application of Longo’s article. I know many who are close-minded to the idea of blogs or other social media, especially in the classroom. But that’s because they have a narrow idea of what these genres can do.

    And given the profession we are in, in my case more academic than corporate, we NEED to at least recognize these genres. I know many undergraduate alumni whose main writing genre is still email, but being able to suggest other social media channels whenever necessary puts them at an advantage in their job.

    This reading wasn’t pertinent to our course objectives, but the excerpt provides a nice overview of the differences between those [albeit problematic labels] “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”:

  3. Definitely a great point, Molly! Before I left my last job a coworker of mine created a Twitter strategy for our department (a small office within DoD) and it was met with a lot of resistance by the leadership. The problem was, we had a Twitter and weren’t using it really. Just tweeting information out with no idea about hashtagging, following, audience, crafting messages, and engaging the users. My friend Meghan struggled to make them see that there was no half measure with Twitter: the office either need to have one and use it properly or just get rid of it as it wasn’t doing anything for the office image or the potential audience.

    Social media is such a vital tool in the modern tool belt, especially for those of us in the communications fields. I have gained such an appreciation for it in my current role and through this class. It is not something to be ignored, like people I know. It can be used sparingly, in my case I only monitor other people, but not for company’s. A company’s social media is supposed to give the audience the feeling like there are living breathing people behind the cubicles and corporate ladder.

  4. I think commercial use of social media is like any other business project: you need a plan. Flailing about on social media is just as unproductive as trying to start a new business without a plan. I suspect that the reason so many companies distrust social media is that they attempted at one time without a solid plan in place first–it didn’t work out, so they threw out the idea entirely, rather than following up as you would any failed project: lessons learned and revision.

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