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Relationship Status of Technical Communication and Social Media – It’s Complicated

I have to agree with Elise Verzosa and Amy Hea regarding their paper on “The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the Age of Social Media,” when they say how most people feel that posting on social media websites can have disastrous results for one’s professional career, but in reality, social media websites can actually be helpful and build a person’s professional career in technical writing.

While it is true that there have been cases of people’s careers being ruined because of some inappropriate, personal postings such as scandalous photos or opinions, if a technical communicator uses social media for business goals and stays away from religion, politics, and things that one would not share with their grandmother, they can be successful. Stories of social media success can also be found on the internet, although they are not as popular to talk about as the scandalous stories are.

Naturally, the first social media place that most professionals start with is LinkedIn, as that social medial website’s target audience is professionals who want to network with other professionals and companies. While building a profile and adding samples of your work there is a great start, there are other websites to join as to display technical writing skills. These websites include Dice, Instructables, eHow, and Fiverr, just to name a few. With Dice and Fiverr, technical communicators can not only build their portfolio, but they can also build a client base too.

Fiverr, like Instructables and eHow, allows the technical communicator to see how much reach they have with their writing, as all three social media websites allow users to like, comment, and share the technical communicator’s website page. If the technical communicator’s work has value – users find it helpful, then the more likes and shares his or her page will receive.

Of course, the technical communicator’s writing should be professional written for these websites to show credibility and authority.   Because of the need for clear, professional writing, people who feared that social media eroded the “grammar, correctness, or lack of professionalism” will find that fear to be invalid (Hurley & Hea, 2013, p 60). A professionally written piece is likely to receive a greater audience through shares and likes than a poorly written one.

If it turns out that the technical communicator’s written work needs clarification or a rewrite, the technical communicator can participate in crowdsourcing. In crowdsourcing, the technical communicator can learn what needs to be corrected through comments left on their work’s page, or they can join that website’s community and ask others to read their work and to provide a critique of what was done well, and what needs more clarification. By asking for feedback, the technical communicator is engaging the community and learning from others. This also helps the technical communicator build skills of working in groups, and learning where they could possibly turn for answers when they need help.

Lastly, Hurley and Hea mentioned that the “most successful DIYers had a significant social medial presence across social media platforms,” and because of that, their work had more credibility, their work was shared more often, and they had a large following (p 66). While I believe that to be true to a point, one cannot rely only on plastering work on several social media websites. What Hurley and Hea fail to mention is that to build up that following, one must engage the community as well by responding to users’ comments, questions, and private messages quickly; create a call to action by asking questions or feedback; and by posting their message on several websites, but with each posting, writing something a bit different, otherwise, it would be deemed as spam, and the technical communicator could actually lose followers. If people liked or added a technical communicator to several of their social platforms, the users will want to see something different on each platform, otherwise, what is the point of adding/liking the technical communicator to each social media platform?

All in all, I agreed with what Verzosa and Hea’s “The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the Age of Social Media,” and found their myth busting of technical communications’ fear about posting on social media to be accurate. I enjoyed learning how Verzosa and Hea, as technical communicator instructors, taught technical communication students find value in their social media writings through reach, via Instructables.com and through crowdsourcing. My only issue was to clarify that posting across several social media platforms was not enough to build an audience. What is further needed is responding to users’ questions and comments in a timely manner, and when posting across several social media platforms that the posts be written differently, as not to be confused with spam. Verzosa and Hea’s paper is a great resource for those technical communicators new to social media and who are carrying the fear of building their professional technical communicator career online.

 

 

Source:

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
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