Author Archives: stephaniehoff

Final 745 Paper: Technical Companies & Social Media

Hi everyone! I hope the last couple weeks of class are going well for all of you – we’re almost there!

I wanted to check in quick to mention my topic for the final paper. I plan to explore companies that sell technolgy-based products or services and their use of social media and related technologies within their business. Specifically, I’d like to look at blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.

To Email or Not To Email?

I found an interesting article here that talks about a French information technology company who is implementing a zero email policy where they don’t allow internal emails, but rather urge employees to use instant message and other networking tools.

Interesting! My thought is: if they’re still using other tools to communicate internally, will it really save time or is it just shifting that time to other communication methods?

Is the Internet Considered Real World?

A little funny story about technology before I get started on my reaction to this week’s readings. My sister attends UW-Stout and her boyfriend lives in Minneapolis. They use Skype every night to talk to one another, however, the internet was out for 4 days at her boyfriend’s apartment and I got a text at 10 PM at night asking if he could come over to use our internet so he could Skype my sister. I told him sorry and that I was going to sleep and I found out the next day that they had actually gotten in a fight because “talking on the phone is not the same as Skype-ing” and he felt that they weren’t able to connect in the same way! It’s interesting to think that technology has hindered our ability to be flexible. It’s as if we’ve come to expect certain things from our technology and when it fails, we don’t know what to do! Just something interesting to think about!

Chapter 9

“As an ethnical frame of being in this world, it is not only natural to us, but also transparent and invisible.”

At the beginning of the chapter, Katz and Rhodes talk about whether or not it’s hypocritical to refers to their clients in a different way in internal or external communication. When I worked for Target as an assistant manager, they referred to their employees as “team members” and the customers as “guests.” Early on in the training process, I was actually corrected by an intern from corporate for using the incorrect terms. ha! My point is, Target used these terms internally and externally, which I appreciated for consistency, even if it did seem a little (okay, a LOT) like corporate fluff.

“…the virtual reality of media has become as real as, or more real to us than the tangible world” (p. 238). That’s a pretty bold statement that would be interesting to research. For me, I don’t think that’s the case at all. Granted, I don’t participate in too many forms of social networking and I’m far from being plugged in all the time (except for at work, when I stare at a computer screen for the majority of the day…blah!) and it would be interesting to know how many people do feel that way.

Katz and Rhodes talk about how the words and structure we use in email reveal our relationship with the person we’re sending the email to. For me, in the work place, this is very true. There are some co-workers I can write an email to in 10 seconds and not give it a second thought, while there are others, I have really think about how I structure sentences and word things, not to mention re-reading it over and over before I hit send, because of the nature of the subject and who it’s being sent to. Another factor that causes me to pause is the fact that emails are permanent to some degree, so what you type can be forwarded, printed and passed on, so if there’s something really sensitive, it’s sometimes best to pick up the phone or talk to someone face-to-face.

Cross-Culture Digital Literacy

Thatcher stated that technical communicators should possess 4 competencies when dealing with intercultural digital literacy:

  • Understand the rhetorical characteristics of the digital medium itself
  • Match those characteristics to the demand, constraints, purposes, and audience expectations of the situation in their culture
  • Assess how the situation varies in the target culture
  • Adapt their communication strategies to the different rhetorical expectations for the target culture
These are great guidelines when it comes to establishing a seamless transaction between two cultures. While I haven’t worked on a cross-cultural project, I can only imagine that executing the guidelines is difficult on a completely different level. I would think that you wouldn’t realize all the challenges of creating a common digital literacy between two cultures until you’re eyeball deep in the process. Yes, doing your homework could help create a better experience for both cultures on the front end, but I think it would be difficult to fully understand all the issues a particular culture encounters if you’re not a part of the culture itself. Does anyone have experience working with two different cultures? What were some of the challenges you faced?
I thought Thatcher’s case study with the EPA project was helpful in understanding some of the obstacles technical communicators face when working on cross-cultural projects. I can understand why they didn’t get the anticipated level of participation from their Mexican counter-parts (Especially the closing statement in the translated email that reads “I am at your orders.”).

Advertising through Niche Market Bloggers

While reading Chapter 8 in Socialnomics, they talked about the paid-for-search programs they had in place. It was great to learn about how those function and actually put cash back into the consumers pockets because I’ve heard about them before but never really understood the mechanics.  The same principal applies on advertising on blogs – blog owners get paid based on blog reader clicks.

From what I understand, bloggers often sign up with a company that provides the advertising that the author, in turn, posts on their blog. I know there have been blogs that have been scolded by their readers because their ads are for controversial companies or companies that are known to support controversial causes.

Additionally, and I see this more often (I follow a lot of blogs!), companies often get out information about their products or services through blogs. I think it’s great that companies are so in touch with their customer base that they know the blogs that reach their wider customer base. And people who read the blogs trust the author on the subject their speaking on, so if they give an honest, positive review, there’s a greater chance that those who read the blog will view the product the same way.

For example, one of the blogs I read on a regular basis is Clean Eating Chelsea ( and she regularly reviews products sent to her by food companies. She takes posts beautiful, sharp photographs of the food she’s sent and honestly reviews it. It costs the company the cost of the product and the cost of shipping but that more than makes up for it with a positive review that’s basically “free” advertising. Sometimes the company will send additional products to the blogger to offer to their readers in the form of a giveaway. It’s an extremely cleaver, inexpensive way for companies to reach a particular market.

Here is one of her reviews on coconut oil:


Don’t allow technology to complicate things!

I apologize for getting my post up so late! Apparently I was in la-la land this weekend and it completely slipped my mind.

In Chapter 4: Information Design, the sentence “…knowing not just how to do things with technology, but also why and when actions needs to take place” grabbed my attention right away. One piece of technology that the non-profit organization that I volunteer at has started using recently is QR codes.

Here is an example of a QR code:


For those of you who don’t know how these work, you’re able to create these QR codes online by using a QR Code generator, which allows you to link a web address to a QR code. From there, many companies add it to their marketing material because when they’re scanned by a smart phone (with the proper app), it brings you to that designated web site.

The organization I mentioned earlier thought this would be a great way to get the word out about their mission and proceeded to plaster these on promotional t-shirts. Great idea in theory, right? Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they couldn’t be scanned on these t-shirts and the failed to include a web address apart from the QR code that people could go to as an alternative.

This idea really drive the points Salvo and Rosinski make about information design. While companies often want their customers to view them as tech-savvy  and ahead of the curve, it’s really important to be thoughtful in how we approach a situation.

Front-end Strategy

You want the findability to be easy to navigate, so it’s important to work through front-end strategy (site maps, wire frames). I’m a huge fan of mapping out projects before digging into them and realizing you only have half the information you need. I think site maps are a fantastic way to get everyone involved on the same page.

What Happens Here, Stays Here.

What’s 11,688 people strong, has 670,200 likes on their Facebook page and 7,292 views on their YouTube video?

Give up?

It’s the “Know the Code” campaign created by the Las Vegas tourism department. It’s essentially an anti-social media push in certain circumstances. Of course, Vegas tourists want you to Tweet/Facebook about their restaurants, casinos and entertainment but warn against taking photos of people and sharing them through the same social media facets. They even have a place on their Facebook page where you can “Report those who violate the code” through their Facebook page.

I first saw a video on TV and as I dug into it more, I thought it was interesting that the Vegas tourism department used social media to encourage visitors NOT to use social media. Further more, they created rules about what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to Facebook-ing, YouTub-ing and Tweeting.

I think this campaign is successful for a couple different reasons:

  1. It creates buzz around Vegas and buzz equates to more visitors. More visitors create more dollars.
  2. It demonstrates that Vegas is still a “cool” place to visit and shows that they understand issues and challenges that their audience faces. Not only do they understand their problems, they’re proposing a solution.
  3. It created interactivity for participants rather than just allowing the audience to view their site. Audience members can sign an oath, respond to Facebook messages and Tweet “#knowthecode.”
Here’s one of their promotional videos:

Additionally, their web site has some interesting elements that help “humanize” it by calling out individuals who have broken the code. Now, weather these people are actually “real” is another matter all together but I definitely appreciate the effort. See left for an example.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In Digital Literacy, Spilka talks about combining “rhetoric” and “technology” and I think this is a perfect example of the melding of the two. Essentially, the tourism department is trying to promote Vegas through a round-about campaign that not only says “visit Vegas” but also says, “We want to keep Vegas a safe place where ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ still applies despite the advances in technology.” Additionally, Qualman states that “people value the opinions of other people” and I believe this campaign relies on that type of thinking. This campaign boasts the accountability factor that by “knowing the code,” you’ll hold others accountable to do the same. Granted, this is different than what Qualman means in chapter 5 as he is addressing socialommerce, but the bare bones principal that “people value the opinions of other people” holds true in this case.

The Dos & Don’ts of Social Media

Least interesting title, huh? I’ll try to do better next time, I promise.

Digital Literacy – Chapter 2

I was surprised to learn the the majority of technical communicators are women (Spilka, 51) – I guess you know what they say about assumptions! Spilka stated that the entire landscape of technical communication is changing so much so that technical communicators  now know possess a set of skills that weren’t even in existence 5 years ago. It’s safe to say that social media has a lot to do with that. Technical communicators have so many more options to communicate with their audience in the social media world, which can be more effective in a way because the conversation can be on-going and continual when using social media networking sites, like Facebook. At the same time, the author warns that it’s important not to assume (going back to what I just said about assumptions…) that the latest communication trend is the most effective way to communicate with any and all audiences. I think this is something good to keep in mind – as technical communicators, it’s important to do our homework on the front end in order assess and evaluate our audience and figure out the best method to relay the message so it is received the most effectively.

Socialnomics – Chapter 4

When I first saw the title of the chapter – Obama’s Success Driven by Social Media – it mad me think of an article I read recently. It was a critical review of a book where an author dissected typestyles and commented on the typestyle that was used on Obama’s campaign materials, stating that it was a font that can be described as “self-assured” and “take charge.”  Anyway, just a interesting little tidbit…

I thought the number of social media supporters for Obama and McCain was really interesting. It would be interesting to research the issue either further to see if Obama had more Facebook friends fans and Twitter followers due to the type of demographic Facebook/Twitter attracted during the election or if it was just truly because he used social media more effectively.

Socialnomics – Chapter 6

The mention of Sims in this chapter was interesting. I never understood why anyone would want an avatar. For me, personally, it’s hard enough keeping up with my professional and personal personas that I don’t see any fun or value in adding another one to the mix.  Of course, I realize people do it for different reasons, which I totally respect, just not my thing in the least. And I chuckled at this sentence: “or perhaps these simulation games will experience a quick death because people may find it difficult to brag about playing a simulated game that replicates life instead of just leading their own lives.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

I’m not sure what I think about the NFL creating fake Facbook pages in order to gain access to potential new players. I see their point, of course, but I’m not sure if I like the “I gotcha!” mentality.  But in the end, Qualman is right – don’t put anything on your Facebook page that could damage your reputation. Keep it PG!

Dear Tempur-Pedic, You got the right stuff.

I was watching a commercial today for Tempur-Pedic and they stated it was “the most recommended bed in America.” They said to log on their Facebook page and see for yourself. So, I went on the site to see what the buzz was about and I was so shocked to see how popular it was. People posted photos of their new bed (!), opinions of their recommendations and asked questions regarding their bed while other posters responded. Additionally, Tempur-Pedic posted articles about sleep studies and updated their status, one that said “Who needs a nap?”, which 156 people liked. I was floored! I don’t think I’ve seen that much interaction on a company’s Facebook page and I didn’t expect it, especially with a bed company. I love to see that companies that previously didn’t have that type of interaction on the web and with their customers now have an inexpensive outlet to reach their customers through a two-way conversation with other customers and between the customers and the company.

And if all those things I mentioned above were not enough, here’s an example of how the company really takes care of their customers:

I think Tempur-Pedic’s response to this was perfect – and the fact that they responded and offered a solution is great. I really appreciate that they didn’t delete the post to “help” their reputation but posted both the good and the bad, which gives them credibility and, additionally, you know it’s a company that’s willing to work with you if you’re not satisfied with their product.

Qualman mentioned in Chapter 1 that there’s an argument out there, “well I already don’t have enough time in my day, how can I possibly follow anybody else or keep those following me informed? I can’t waste my time like that!” I think that ties into the Tempur-Pedic “case study” nicely because it shows that people follow and keep up with what’s important to them. While I have no interest in what bed I sleep in (and, no, I don’t own a Tempur-Pedic), I do care about what my best friend is up to and going to Better Homes & Garden’s to download a free cookbook. I think that’s the beauty of Facebook – that you can find your own niche and concentrate on that instead of trying to absorb everything out there on social media networking sites.

Do you guys know of other companies who’s social networking web sites are successful?

Social Media Influencing Behavior

Is anyone else with me when I say I am really enjoying Socialnomics? It’s such an easy read and it really holds my attention though out the entire assigned reading.

Anyway, that being said, I’m going to focus my blog post to those readings.

In chapter 2, Qualman talks about the rebellious guy and the prudish girl and how the guy’s behavior might change if he is in the girl’s online network. That got me thinking: So often we view social networking sites as a way to express ourselves, however, I think we publish what we want others to know about us because we want to be portrayed in a particular way. In a way, social media acts as a gatekeeper for information for who we want to be, instead of who we truly are.

I found the case studies on microblogging to be very interesting, in particular the story around Comcast. I thought that was great that they hired someone to follow Tweets on Comcast, however, I feel it is somewhat reactive in nature because they only acted after a problem was identified. However, I will give them kudos for righting a wrong. Additionally, it’s a great PR move on Comcast’s part because it shows they care about their customers.

I found conclusion that a friend posting on a social media site to be very interesting. Qualman stated that if you have a friend who is known to be very picky about a particular product or service, their posted opinion could be easily dismissed. For example, I have a brother-in-law who works with computers and I could see him easily dismissing a particular brand of computer because he has much higher expectations of a computer than the average user.

In chapter 3, I loved the sub-heading: “Are you on Facebook?” is the new “Can I get your phone number?” From my experience, this is SO true! I was trying to set my sister up with a guy from my work and he simply said, “Tell her to add me on Facebook.” I think the idea of blind dating as we know it is gone because someone can easily look up someone on Facebook by a first and a last name.

Overall, it’s interesting to see the way social media influences our lives and the choices we make.

Blogging in Secret!

My Experience with Blogging

I actually have a personal blog, which I write for myself more than anyone else. Considering it’s password protected, and my husband is the only one with the password, I guess it truly is for myself. The first blog I ever had was in college before “blog” became a buzzword (does that make me sound old? I’m only 27!) and it was just called a “LJ” (short for Livejournal). My family and friends had my LJ URL and I updated while I was studying abroad in England. Fast forward to July 2010 – I started my blog, which is what I still write in today. I write an average of one post a day – mostly about what’s going on in my life, nothing very exciting at all. The main reason I haven’t shared my blog with anyone is because it’s my space to be completely honest with how I feel, while not worrying about anyone else’s feelings. Apart from writing in my own blog, I follow several personal blogs, and blogs on natural food eating and DIY/home improvement blogs (how many times did I say “blog” in one sentence? ha!).

Reading Reflections

In Nardi’s article “Why we blog,” they state that in blogging, the reader gets a strong sense of the author, which could be why we’re drawn to them as humans. If you respect someone and view them as creditable, it’s no surprise that you’re likely to tune into their opinions on topics you’re interested in. Something else that struck me in that article was this: “Most bloggers are acutely aware of their readers…calibrating what they should and should not reveal.” I think this is precisely one of the big challenges of blogging. Authors have to censor themselves to some extent so not to alienate or offend their readers, who make the blog successful in the first place.

In Du and Wagner’s article about learning logs, it stated that web logs could be used instead of written papers to prove understanding and comprehension on the students part, which I think is a fantastic idea because it creates discussion between students and the professor instead of one-way communication that papers provide between the professor and the individual student. Plus, I think there are some very interesting and insightful disucssions that could pop up in a blogging environment that normally wouldn’t be brought to light in traditional circumstances.