Posted by Rebecca Snyder
Since I have been out of the field of technical communication for the last 15 years, this week’s readings framed my understanding of some of the changes that have taken place since I left. It seems there has been a major shift to all things digital. While I have no work experience in the field to share and relate to this week, I did find that I was able to relate my direct sales experiences to those of my mom 25 years ago. Much has changed, and the shift has seemed natural and easy. As a matter of fact, I am quite thankful for many of the changes and I am beginning to see that, while I have not been a professional writer over the last 15 years and I have not had experience with the changing publishing software, I have certainly kept up with the changes in digital and social media by virtue of simply keeping with the times.
Twenty-five years ago, my mom decided to begin selling Mary Kay Cosmetics on the side to supplement the income from her full-time retail management job.
I was fourteen and she would often enlist my help in handwriting her party invitations that she would give to friends in the mall where she worked. She personally handed out each invitation and answered any questions the guest may have. She also asked that each one RSVP if they planned to attend. The night of the party, she would usually have each person that RSVP’d show up, occasionally with a friend, but not often. In the end, she had a small circle of friends who purchased their make-up from her. After a few years, she lost interest in the business and became more active in her full time career and that was the last I heard of direct sales until I was an adult, married with children, who had decided to put my career on hold.
As soon as I entered the world of direct sales, I knew much had changed since the days of helping my mom with her Mary Kay party invitations. My business is done almost completely online. My invitations are events that I create on Facebook through my business page and share with my customers or give to my party hostesses to share with their friends and family members (see section “More on Facebook Events” below for my thoughts on this aspect). My actual parties are done via my phone camera and broadcast as a Facebook Live video. Gone are the days where my mom would spend hours cleaning the house and baking treats for her Mary Kay guests. I go into my office, put a photo screen behind me to block out any mess from the day and keep my video background clean and focused, and hit “go live.” I am also not limited to an audience of my friend circle and their friend circles. My reach extends across the US as people share my video with their own Facebook friends and family. While I find myself having some nostalgia for the “old way” and that “personal touch,” I admit that my business is much more successful than my mom’s because I am able to reach so many more customers due to the way I use social media to conduct my business.
I am also constantly looking for ways to use social media more effectively for my business. As things continue to change in the world of technology, I often find that something that “worked” for me last month has stopped drawing the same response or interest. That is when I go searching for answers online. Check out this blog post I recently found: 42 Facebook Post Ideas from Businesses Who Know What They are Doing. Fellow Students – I think it could also be helpful as we begin to write our final papers for this course.
More on Facebook Events
Facebook Events seem to be the social media preferred way to invite people to do almost anything. It is simple in that the host just creates an event, fills in the details, and invites most of their Facebook friends list with the click of a few buttons. To see just HOW easy, check out this quick YouTube Video on How to Create a Facebook Event. The drawback? Those invitations have lost that personal touch in a way that seems to be affecting the outcome of the event. While wedding and graduation invitations are still sacred and more personal (usually snail-mailed), I receive about fifteen invites on Facebook each week to join a direct sales online party, to come to a friend’s child’s birthday party – even to attend our family Thanksgiving dinner!
In chapter 4 of Spilka’s “Digital Literacy for Technical Communication,” authors Salvo & Rosinski discuss Johnson’s (1998) research and ask us to,
“Consider memos, parking tickets, wedding invitations, white papers, and reports for decision making: each of these genres carries part of the message in visual design and physical presentation. The design indicates a range of possible responses to the text. One can accept or decline an invitation…Johnson reminds technical communicators of the power of inherent design and presentation: while innovation is possible, it comes at a cost. Innovative documents man not carry with them clear boundaries for readers” (p. 108).
This paragraph resonated with me especially as I considered the part about how, “One accept or decline an invitation…” (p. 108). Facebook events are so impersonal and so generally disregarded by most people that, often, invitees will click “maybe” on an event and never show up.
Maybe they never intended to show up, maybe they had some interest and lost that interest before the event, or maybe they forgot. Whatever the case, Facebook events are notoriously inaccurate when it comes to any kind of RSVP or guest count abilities.
In my business, I will create an event for my customers who wish to host a party. That event links me with their friends so they can invite and I can share what this party is all about and how they can go about shopping. While this method of inviting is convenient (most of my hostesses live across the country), they aren’t always the best method when it comes to getting friends interested and to actually attend the Live party. So many hostesses will complain after the party, “My friends said they were coming and only x showed! I can’t believe it!” Well, I can. It happens every time.
Another ongoing issue with Facebook events is that sometimes the invitees never see the invitation. Recently, a dear friend invited me to her son’s birthday party via a Facebook event. I never saw the invite. She called me a week after the party saying that they missed me and I was totally clueless. Technology is awesome, but nothing beats getting a small, hand-written birthday party invitation in the mail. It shows me that I wasn’t an afterthought to my friend – or part of her, “I’m in a hurry, click, click, click” guest list, but instead I am a treasured friend for whom she made time and gave an effort to invite.
While I am appreciative of technological advancements for business purposes, I wish it wasn’t also taking over in regard to the way we communicate with true friends and family. Where are we going to draw that line?