Be professional

In their article, “The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the Age of Social Media,” Hurley and Hea (2013) discussed their students a fear of “illegitimacy about social media,” which is reasonable considering their introduction of Social Media Gone Wrong: Greatest Hits (p. 56). However, I’ve found the easiest way to counter the illegitimacy fear is to be professional.

Kitten Lady’s Hannah Shaw is a perfect example. She is an animal advocate and on her website, she provides resources — mainly YouTube videos — on how to take care of kittens. As she says on her website,, she started to create resources when she tried to find information on caring for neonatal kittens and came up empty-handed.

Whenever I have a question about kitten care, my first stop is her YouTube channel. Hannah isn’t a vet or vet tech but that does not dimish her credibility in her videos because they are beautifully produced. They look professional therefore her audience associates her with being a credible professional. Even her kitten rap videos, which are made just for fun, follow suit with her instructional pieces.

Hurley and Hea (2013) also mentioned their students were leery about social media because there’s so much noise, it can be difficult to be heard (p. 60). Thank goodness the internet loves cats. Hannah recently hit 500,000 followers on Instagram mostly because her feed is adorable kittens. She uses the kittens as a draw and links to her other media in the caption.

My friend Megan, a registered dietitian who runs, recently posted on Instagram that taking professional-looking photos was a major key to building her business and attracting new clients.

Neither one of these ladies are technical communicators, but they are both using social media to instruct their audiences. Hurley and Hea (2013) had their students complete similar projects for technical communication classes (p. 63).

While social media can reveal negative personal information about people, it can also convey positive personal information as well, which makes social media personalities like Hannah and Megan seem more relatable. Hannah reveals that she takes vacations, so she doesn’t burn out from neonatal kitten care. She also recently broke down crying on a live post because of all the mean comments she was receiving. Most of them suggested she needed to take care of all the orphaned kittens. She used the video to stress “You are someone and you can help, too.”

On her Instagram, Megan confesses that her favorite foods are chips and salsa and she has a penchant for vodka. Again, it’s that “real talk” that adds to her credibility on social media.

Technical communicators who want to use social media should do so professionally and with a human touch. It shows empathy, which I think is the epitome of social media. Think of it as wearing a tuxedo T-shirt. It says “I want to be formal, but I’m here to party” (Cal Naughton Jr. from Talledaga Nights). 

Posted on September 20, 2017, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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