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Where Social Media Brand Communities and Technical Writing Meet

I’ve been intrigued by both this class’s use of social media and readings about social media, as well as the changing role of technical communicators. It made me start to wonder — what if technical documentation was a social media platform?

Companies are already investing heavily in social media brand communities where they create their own internal social media sites so that customers can connect with each other and provide direct feedback to the company. Earlier research has shown that strong social media brand communities have a sense of connectedness, rituals and traditions in the form of storytelling, and a moral responsibility where users want to contribute. All of these seem like a natural fit for technical documentation.

The company where I work has a vibrant social media brand community based on a discussion forum that is accessible to customers only. Customers use it to post questions and offer support for each other. We’ve begun to integrate it with our repository of published technical documentation through shared searching and allowing for commenting directly on documents.

Using my company’s site as the primary case study, my final paper focused on pushing the boundaries of where we can go next. The idea of social media brand communities creating technical documentation fits with the trend toward user-generated content (a la Wikipedia) and would certainly change the face of technical communications. However, it might be premature to begin publishing both company-created content and customer generated content alongside each other and without distinction without a way to validate what customers write. Users need a way to know which of their peers are credible and to identify trustworthy documentation.

Until we tackle those questions of developing a trust system and a way to maintain the quality of technical documentation, there are some baby steps that both my company and other organizations can take to begin leveraging the power of the user community in technical writing. These include:

  • Integrating social media features such as commenting and “likes” with technical documentation.
  • Using viewer data to organize content and help users find what others similar to them have read.
  • Creating collaborative documents where the company partners with a customer in creating a new guide.

I think the big takeaway for me from this course and from the final paper has been how rapidly technical communication is changing. It’s an exciting time to think about all the new tools that are available, and we’ll also have to be agile and aggressive as we redefine our role in a new age of documentation.

open road horizon

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Doing What at Work?

Bringing it all together, this week’s readings get right at the heart of where technical communications and social media meets. It seems to me that they connect on three levels: personal, professional, and in principle.

Personal Use of Social Media

We began the course discussing our personal experiences and affinity or hesitations with using social media. In Alone Together, Turkle largely focused on the personal space and how we develop online identities and communities as we navigate social media in our discretionary time. I think it’s telling that our exposure and familiarity with social media tools comes increasingly from our personal use before crossing over to the professional realm. This will certainly be true for the upcoming generation of “digital natives,” who learn Facebook and blogging long before they need to use it for work.

I’ll also note that in my experience, there is a brick wall between using social media for personal reasons and for professional reasons. I have a “home” laptop and a “work” laptop, and the two worlds don’t mix, not even in social media. However, as the research from Ferro and Zachry shows, many people don’t experience this separation and the line is a lot more blurred.

Professional Use of Social Media

At this point of intersection, social media is directly used toward professional work — whether advancing your own career or the goals of your employer. Ferro and Zachry put a number on it with participants using social media for 20-27% of their workweek. In Pigg’s example of “Dave” the fatherhood blogger, using social media literally is his work. This is a fascinating trend and a major change from a decade ago. Rocky Mountain Media presents several interesting statistics about this, including the graph below, but the major theme is that everyone predicts professional uses of social media growing.

professional-use-of-social-media

Rocky Mountain Media Group: http://rm2g.com/blog/2012/09/21/social-media-at-work-infographic/

Social media strategy is now a job position and a conversation in many boardrooms. In the resumes that I review, social media literacy and experience with particular websites are nearly always listed as skills and reasons to hire.

Again, in my personal experience, this is a tough concept because we’re a very insulated company with concerns about intellectual property and proprietary information that causes us to ignore social media channels for outreach. Instead, we wait until customers are signed with us, and then bring them into our own social media community that we’ve formed, rather than using social media to connect with a wider audience.

social-media-and-workplace

Graphic courtesy of Bradon Gaille Marketing (note that the study is from 2013) http://brandongaille.com/21-great-social-media-at-work-statistics-and-trends/

Applying Lessons Learned from Social Media to a Professional Workspace

This is the aspect I find the most exciting. How can we take what we’ve learned from the social media phenomenon and use it to improve traditional technical communications? I see it in two major categories:

Managing Content

We’ve discussed this at length in earlier weeks and I don’t want to continue to harp on it, but this comes back to being symbolic analytic workers who are redefining technical communications in a new world. Technical communications is no longer just typesetting and publishing or even producing content, but rather thinking critically about what information an audience needs and the best way to deliver it. We’ve talked about the importance of filtering and navigating to help the audience find the content they need. Pigg discusses this as moving past “textual coordination” to “social coordination,” where we’re not only arranging information but also leveraging the contexts of social media tools and personal careers. Web 2.0 has shown us both the wonders and the pitfalls of mass amounts of content and what types of tools we can provide to help people navigate it.

Managing Communities

We can also take the lessons learned online about relationships and interaction and apply them to technical communication. Longo’s discussion of his “Practicing Science, Technology, and Rhetoric” colloquium hits on two major lessons — the power of collaboration and the ability to cross geographic lines. Lofstedt and Holmberg further expand on this and emphasize how there is opportunity to expand user participation in technical communication today. They write, “SM [social media] make it possible to move TC [technical communication] from the current one way broadcast and producer controlled model into an interactive co-generating model. In this way the problem with passive users and narrow feedback may be overcome.” They also suggest forming user communities and leveraging existing social media platforms for technical communication. Social media has demonstrated the huge potential for forming communities and encouraging user-generated content, and the field of technical communications can begin tapping into this.

References

Abel, J. Social media at work. Rocky Mountain Media Group. Accessed 12 Nov 2016 http://rm2g.com/blog/2012/09/21/social-media-at-work-infographic/

Löfstedt, U. & Holmberg, S.C. Social media as a mean for improved technical communication. Syst Pract Action Res (2016) 29: 297. doi:10.1007/s11213-016-9373-8

Using Social Media to Create Useful Information and Connections

I think of social media as “noise” especially during this political year (2016). How do I know what is reliable information to make an informed opinion? There is so much commentary on both sides of the fence from news sources, politicians, analysts, scholars and general public that I finally had to mute all of them. This social noise needs to be filtered.

Amy Hea (2014) argues that social media is “symbolic representations, metaphors, articulations, assemblages of cultural systems of knowledge and power” (“Social Media in Technical Communication,” p. 2). She further states that social media is a “connection of the medium and the users…cultural practices that shape and are shaped by political, social, and cultural conditions” (p. 2). Making connections with people is innate; however, the context and medium of which it is done has changed drastically in the past decade. Creating credibility and trust between writer and reader is the relationship that needs to exist to provide active engagement. Technical communication instructors define, examine, demystify and expose students to social media as a professional contributor. What we write is shaped by what we read, hear, and understand through other outlets and mediums.

Hurley and Hea (2014) discuss “reach as a metaphor” and “crowd-sourcing” in “The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the Age of Social Media” as methods to provide a needed source of information that would also engage others to respond. Reach pertains to the “reaching the masses” but information that is useful or needed, while crowd-sourcing involves multiple people contributing to a project or content, but also establishes online presence (p. 66). Using social media as a medium to provide useful information also provides credibility and creates a following for future posts.

Social media is useful for engaging people to comment and respond to content as long as it’s useful and credible.

References

Hea, A. C. K. (2014). “Social media in technical communication.” Technical Communication Quarterly, 23:1, 1-5. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2014.850841

Hurley, E. V. and Hea, A. C. K. (2014). “The rhetoric of reach: Preparing students for technical communication in the age of social media.” Technical Communication Quarterly, 23:1, 55-68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2014.850854

#ProfessionalCommunicator

I admit that my knee-jerk reaction to the relationship between social media and technical communication is similar to that of the students in the “Rhetoric of Reach” article by Hurley and Hea. Comparing technical communication to tweets and wall posts seems to cheapen the role of the technical writer, moving it from an elevated profession to the medium of the masses. It suddenly seems like something anyone can do, just tapping on their phone on the bus.

However, there are actually a surprising number of similarities, as I brainstormed in the diagram below (forgive the poor formatting). A job description for a technical writer on Truity called attention to several skills that would also apply to having a successful social media presence, such as strong and clear writing, effective use of multimedia like links and graphics, and continuing revision.

I think Hurley and Hea also identified a major area of overlap in their discussion of reach and creating reader-driven content that is tailored to be relevant to your audience. Understanding and responding to the needs of your audience is a crucial part of technical writing, and the secret to creating documentation that achieves its purpose. In his article “Re-Thinking the Context of Technical Communication,” Kirk St. Amant touches on the importance of audience analysis and how it’s one of the most significant trends in today’s technical writing. I’ve found in my own job that we spend a lot of resources to investigate our audience’s interests and needs and solicit their feedback. Similarly, a successful blogger seeks to build a relationship with his readers and create a forum that connects to their needs.

Despite these similarities, I think the differences are also significant and separates technical communication into a separate art form. I put a few differences in the diagram below, but I’d say that the biggest distinguisher is in purpose and content. Social media contributors with large followings have a strong personal voice. They are very much a part of their work, and their purpose is usually to express a viewpoint or tell their own story. The Forbes article “Are You a Social Media Narcissist?” explores how social media (especially for the millennial generation) is all about you and how you are using social media to elevate yourself and build relationships.

In contrast, the focus of technical communication is on the product or the content being communicated. The writing is objective and divorced from the personality of the writer. The goal isn’t self-glorification or personal connection but rather to provide information to an audience clearly and concisely. The difference becomes obvious in writing style and expression.

Because of the similarities between social media and technical communication and their continuing convergence in audience interaction and multimedia, I’m very intrigued by the rest of this course and look forward to further investigation in how they relate. However, I think it’s important to keep in mind the fundamental difference in purpose and function, and how that plays out in writing style and content.

beecken-venn-diagram

 

Another End Brings New Beginnings

I often say that everything happens for a reason and at the time it should be happening.  But what I have found with my schoolwork over this past year-and-a-half is how the uncanny unfolding of situations at work parallel and seem to be answered by my school work.  This class was no exception.  For the past year, I have worked to try and create a blog just for my own department and for various political reasons it has not been very successful.  Fortunately this class has brought a number (too many to count) ah-ha moments. For example, developing a sound social media strategy is vital in order for organizations to survive in today’s digital world.  But the miss to this strategy is how we can also create a social media strategy as it relates to internal organizational communication.  Something I am now working to formalize with my role.

Just like the following image, however, aligning social media tools can be just as challenging to solving a Rubik’s cube.  Interestingly enough, the Rubik’s cube was actually designed by a professor to help his students look at how you solve an objects structural problem and solve individual problems without the whole object falling apart (Wikipedia).  The same goes for developing an internal organizational social media strategy.  While organizations may have entire strategies to build around this topic, it is looking at each situation that needs to be solved and understanding how that situation and solution fits into the whole strategy.

Rubiks

On that note, a sweet melody that brings to you my…

Final Paper Abstract
Many marketing and communication experts have defined this time in our history as Web 2.0.  It is the time in our digital history that highlights how organizations are required by societal norms and expectations to use social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to communicate and connect with their consumers.  Kids, adults, students, even grandparents are using social media channels to connect with each other on a daily (sometimes even hourly) basis.  But the use of social media for organizations to communicate and connect with employees is uncertain and volatile.  In fact, in a study completed by Towers Watson (2013) the results concluded that just over 50-percent of companies are using social media to connect with employees in some way.  There seems to be little evidence and research into the social media structures and strategy for internal organizational communication.  Therefore, this paper will look at the social media channels that could be used to build an internal social media communication strategy for an organization and to begin identifying the effectiveness of these social media tools and tactics. 

Whew – nearly all of that in one breath.  I will say that the research aspects of this final paper have been tedious, exhausting, and exhilarating.  It can be like finding a needle in a haystack when there is little research out there.  But what has been an interesting challenge is to take the knowledge that has been built around social media and decipher and pull from it how internal communications could benefit from these tools and tactics.

tedius

And although this semester is coming to a quick close, the work around this class and this final research paper will drive my career and school work.  With that, while I could probably write to you for hours on this subject, I’m afraid I must bid you adieu.  Thank you all for such a wonderful semester.  Your thoughtful comments and intriguing posts truly provided for some great thought provoking conversations.

Feliz Navidad.  Happy Holidays.  Merry Christmas.  Happy Hanukah.  And to new beginnings.

Living My Final Paper

I have enjoyed this class, although so many of the conversations have blurred the line between work and school.  I was blessed and stressed by the overlap.  Sometimes, I’d turn to the week’s reading and feel like it was another part of my work day as I read about topics that were related.  I read many responses from my classmates and it seems some of you may relate to that feeling.

In typical fashion, my final paper is rooted in the daily activities of my job.  I am looking at the power of the customer who uses social media to be vocal about their consumer experience.  My primary focus is the negative consumer.  Holidays bring out the worst in people, so I am overwhelmed with angry customers calling in asking for supervisor intervention and responding to a rapidly growing list of social media posts.

I don’t think that my company handles social media with the same finesse that many companies do.  I am looking at some of our operational policies in my paper.  It almost feels like I’m pulling back a curtain that I’d rather leave closed.  I may know the Wizard of Oz is a fraud, but I will always feel disappointed when that curtain is really pulled back.  I live these policies so I’m always aware of them.  Analyzing it and recognizing it in writing though, makes it harder to ignore.

As I write this, I have 183 social media posts that require an email response.  We try to remove the conversation from social media and respond via email.  Professor Pignetti had questioned why my company chooses to have an email sent in response to social media posts.  Although I work for an online retailer, we have felt the negative power of those consumers.  My company is afraid of their power and their stance is to get that conversation moved to a private venue as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, while they view silencing the vocal customer as a priority, they don’t allocate the resources required to do this.  During non-peak times, I usually leave work on Friday with my responses caught up. Even then, it takes a lot of effort to stay on top of and sometimes additional hours.  We are in the middle of a busy holiday and those social media posts are aging by the day and I have no hours in my schedule “ear-marked” for this activity.  Those posters can be aggressive when they are ignored and often continue to be vocal in social media.  Today, I was able to respond to three posts during my spare moments.  While our company culture tells us to fear the posters, our policies and mode of operation does not allow for the issues to be remedied in the time-frame that social media savvy companies do.

My paper is providing me with an interesting opportunity to look at  other companies and how they deal with social media.  While I will not be able to invoke much change where I currently work, I think the contrast between where I work and how other companies are dealing with social media, has been an interesting project.  I think it also gives me some excellent perspective if I find myself working on social media in my future career endeavors.

I have enjoyed this class and the new perspectives it has given me.  I wish everyone luck with their papers.  (And remember, please be extra nice if you find yourself calling a customer care line over the holiday.  Most of us deal with so much negativity over the holidays, but we really have a genuine desire to make the customer happy.)  Happy holidays!

 

So long, and thanks for all the fish

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

– Douglas Adams, the title of the fourth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy

 

My thoughts before and after this course

Social media and how to use it for a business advantage always seemed so simple before starting this course. Now, after this course, I know how to use it more wisely and how to use it more for my advantage.

But the learning did not stop there. For the final paper, I decided upon a topic that the Professor had suggested after reading a blog posting that I passionate about – how companies were exploiting people online without them realizing it.

Abstract of my paper

This paper aims to explore the result of what most people do with technology nearly every day – working for free while thinking that it is play. This working for free while playing is what some people have started calling “playbour” or “immaterial labor.” To avoid confusion in this paper, I will use the word, “playbour” to reference both. Thus, the focus of this paper is the internet and how it blends work and play together and how people are benefiting and/or are being exploited by it. Additionally, because technical communicators are told to create a portfolio of projects that they have done voluntary, these concepts are especially important. Furthermore, this paper also attempts to examine copyright infringement issues regarding work done as playbour, and the advantages and disadvantages of creative commons.

Reflections on researching my paper

 As I have not written a paper in nearly ten years, I was nervous, especially when I tried googling the topic of “playbor,” and Playboy kept popping up instead. (Yes, try to explain this to a boss at work). After those failed attempts, I tried the Stout online library with some success. Luckily, one can ask a librarian anything and they never disappoint. They found several documents for me to begin the paper proposal. But the biggest help came from the Professor herself. Thus, the lesson here is, never be afraid to ask your superiors for help. 🙂

Final thoughts

The only thing that I did not like about this paper was all the research. Most documents were quite long, and two were books. Sadly, I do not have the time for that much reading. In fact, after this semester, I am giving up my college days. My life is too busy at this moment, but I may be back in ten years. =D

I wish everyone much success and happiness in whatever you do. I am sure that whatever it is, it is exciting and a wonderful achievement that will not be taken for granted.

 

 

A Career Primer

A few weeks back, I expressed my desire to work in freelance technical communication.  Stacey Pigg;s piece, Coordinating Constant Invention:  Social Media’s Role in Distributive Work, puts the mechanics of that desire together.

I have a blog.  I am not very good about keeping up with it.  I have a Twitter account.  I am not so good with following up with that either.  I have read a dozen books on how to harness social media to further my career.  Stacey Pigg’s piece did a nice job of simplifying that.

Pigg’s ideas were nothing new, but it was helpful to read those ideas in a scholarly text.  While I can set my blog off to the side for personal reasons, her article reminded of all the practical reasons I should keep writing.

Recently, I parred down my book collection.  I had an abundance of business and marketing books, most were about ten years old.  I tossed all the business and marketing books.  Those books appeared outdated but, in reality, business is business.  The PR and business strategies were different, yet they continuously tell you to find ways to stay in your audience’s view.  You have to stay fresh, current and visible.  Dave’s “daily grind” is all about staying relevant.  He is a living and breathing personal PR machine.  The blog isn’t just to write and it certainly isn’t to entertain.  While the “traditional” advice in those book was useless in light of social media, it still has many similarities.

Dave made his work visible.  In many ways, his blog simplifies how a business, or in this case an individual promotes himself.  His blog is a portfolio of his writing.  It also served the purpose that an ad would by reaching his consumer base.  Even better, he is cultivating his contact list without the expense or effort that a direct mail campaign would require 20 years ago.

 

As this semester winds to a close, I am excited to return to my blog, re-experience Twitter and develop my social media from the stand point of my career versus my “personal” life.  What I let slip away in my private life, is not what I would do for my future or career.

I shared the above article with a friend of mine.  We both identified with Dave’s frantic multi-tasking.  We had never discussed this stuff before but it turns out we both have a ritual every morning.  This occurs whether we are working on our blogs, working, writing school papers, etc.  We both log on and sign into our various email accounts.  We also check back throughout the day, even if we can’t do anything about them.  Dave did reinforce our idea that you have to multi-task and jump around to be successful and get followers.

I loved this article and thought the author put what we need for success in a nutshell.  I did find one thing humorous.  I didn’t tell my friend any of my impressions about this article.  I sent it to her with a simple question:  “What do you think?”  She replied, “In this day in age—even if you don’t have a blog—don’t we all toggle to our social media a hundred times a day?”  Social media and email is part of many of our lives, just like getting dressed for the day.  We are always “connected.”

Job secrets buried in texts

While I enjoy a more direct and simple approach in writing, it seems that most writing is about repetition and telling stories. Both can be good for teaching, but when you wanting to find the main point immediately, it is annoying. So for the three readings for this week, I will suggest the things that I found most helpful in creating a technical communication career.

Get your own advertisers

In “Coordinating Constant Invention: Social Media’s Role in Distributed Work” by Stacy Pigg, we are told that because of new technology and culture shifts, technical communicators will have a hard time finding jobs, unless they can create their own career themselves. The best way to do that is to find something that you love, find an angle that no one else is really doing, and then blog about it. (I know the article showed the writer getting “inspiration” from blogs that already had content similar to his, but in my opinion, why beat a dead horse?) While the writer whom Pigg described waited for advertisers to make offers to be on his blog, do not wait. Instead, join Amazon’s affiliate program and always include a product in your post. (If you do not like Amazon, there are many other affiliate programs to choose from).

Furthermore, if you are comfortable creating your own videos (your smart phone can handle it), upload them to YouTube and set up your account to monetize them. Next, blog about your video. If you market it right with a catchy title, good tags, and a good brief description, your video could go viral. Good luck!

Learn a culture for profit

 In Kenichi Ishii’s article, “Implications of Mobility: The Uses of Personal Communication Media in Everyday Life,” you get to learn how technology is received in Japanese culture. What interested me most was that the culture of the young was avoiding “direct communication” (p 349). As a technical communicator, in what ways, if any, can we use that to our advantage? While I can no longer find the link, there was a story a few years ago where a woman in Japan made a lot of money by selling videos of her staring into the video camera. I believe that she did it to help people overcome their shyness and other social anxiety issues. She probably created and published her own press releases and joined communities on social media to create a following for her work. I would suggest you doing the same (creating press releases, and joining and participating in communities). There are free press release websites available for use, and you can google how to write a press release, if you need experience with that type of writing.

It would be a good idea to learn about other cultures and try to figure out if there is a way to provide help. Your knowledge could help someone live a better life, or, at least, have a better day.

To learn more, just ask

In “Professional and Technical Communication in a Web 2.0 World,” by Stuart Blythe, he talked about creating surveys in order to gather information for his research. He provided some great tips that you can use when creating your own surveys:

  • let your users be anonymous – this way they can feel free to answer honesty
  • keep your surveys short – no more than 20 minutes. Make sure that your survey has a progress bar so people can see an ending
  • if you need a long survey, break it up in sections and send it out
  • use a web based survey – I suggest SurveyMonkey (it is free), to keep everything easy and in once place
  • post a link to your surveys on social media, email, and on your website, if applicable
  • provide plenty of choices – this way the user can click through instead of typing
  • give a deadline – make sure you give plenty of time to complete it though, such as 2-3 weeks. Follow up with a single reminder halfway through the deadline

Conclusion

While I provided just a few helpful pieces of information from the three texts to get you started in creating your own technical communication career, there are many more listed in the readings. If you have read these readings, which information did you find most helpful or intriguing?

Organizational Ethos in Crises Management

Crises Management in the Shadows of Self-Promotion

Melody Bowden’s Tweeting an Ethos:  Emergency Messaging, Social Media, and Teaching Technical Communication focused on the ethos that organizations encourage through their social media posting.  Her viewpoint that such groups have a duty to put their audience’s needs first was eye opening.  Meeting the reader’s expectations contributes to the organizational ethos, but Bowden also suggested that organizations have some responsibility in facilitating an informed community.

I think that most of us anticipate that an organization or corporation, when communicating via non-cyber media, will put their own agenda first.  Oh, sure… We expect them to spin their message so there is the appearance of truly caring about the audience; but, we still notice the shameless plugs, the product placement, or the solicitation for a donation.  We get glimpses of what the organization is really after and usually it isn’t just to be helpful, devoid of an ulterior motive.

Bowden’s study revealed that in a time of crises the Twitter posts by both CNN and the American Red Cross had the highest concentration of tweets fall into the category of “self-referential posts designed to promote the organizations’ programming and accomplishments” (P. 46).  I am not surprised.   But reading about Bowden and her student’s surprise, made me reexamine how I think technical communicators and the groups they represent should present themselves in social media and why social media is different.

Questioning How Social Media is Different 

She suggests that, for the sake of ethos, organizations should not focus so heavily on self-promotion.  She explains, “Technical communication scholars need to continue to study…how these forums can be used to promote a safe and informed citizenry as well as the objectives of corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies” (P. 50).  I find it interesting that she mentions “a safe and informed citizenry.”  This statement seems to be referencing the internet as a community.   This “community” concept has been a subject of controversy in many of our readings.  So, if we accept the internet as a type of “community” does this really make these groups responsible for fostering it?  Or, is she only referring to the specific real world citizens of the community where the crises is occurring?

Additionally, if she is saying that organizations should abandon self-promotion to focus on the needs of an actual non-digital community in crises, then why don’t we have those expectations of the communication that occurs in those communities offline?  Why is this study about the organizational ethos as it applies to social media and not championing organizational ethos as it pertain to all media?  For instance, I lived in Florida for the last 28 years.  I am no stranger to hurricane season.  The television stations, newspapers, radio stations, local organizations and even home improvement stores, grocery stores and convenience stores would get involved in storm preparedness outreaches.  And when disaster struck, they had a plan for reaching out to the community, but you could always see the company promoting itself alongside those efforts.  It was expected.

I am also wondering how an organization can afford to not take advantage of these situations. Perhaps they should not be so overt in their self-promotion, but they may not have this exact audience in front of them except in times of crises.  If they don’t get their message to them now, when will they?  The audience is using the organization for something they need.  Why can’t the organization saturate it in their own message?  Annoying?  Yes.  A bit uncouth?  Probably.  But expected?  Understandable? Kind of.

An Inspiring Future

Before anyone misunderstands my Devil’s advocate type thought process, I am not disparaging or arguing her ideas.  Bowden opened my eyes to a whole set of possibilities.  I actually like the idea of a technical communicator as a facilitator of community who provides a service-oriented message to the reader.  The questions about how to go about it and how to preserve ethos are fascinating.  I think serving the community while somehow satisfying the objectives of an organization sounds both challenging and inspiring.  The questions that I have shared are ones that I continue to play around with in my head.  I rather like this new vision of where technical writing can go and I look forward to seeing how these concepts evolve.

Learning the site. Learning the service. Learning to learn.

What is the difference between a social media “site” and a “service?” At first it might seem that the two words can be used interchangeably to lend a little variety to the wording of a blog post. However, the difference between the two terms is a lot less subtle than that. A “site” is a set of web pages, typically connected by a shared URL. A “service” is an aspect of a site that offers some sort of function (Ferro and Zachry, 2014). For instance, www.twitter.com is a web “site” that offers “services” like microblogging.

In their research published in 2014, Ferro and Zachry take a survey of knowledge workers four years in a row to monitor the frequency of use and the function of publicly available online services (PAOS) in their work. Ferro and Zachry found that the majority of those polled reported using PAOSs during 20% of their workweek (p. 13).

Though the percentage of time spent using PAOSs remained fairly constant each year, the sites and services being used changed from year to year. For instance, the most used site by knowledge workers in 2008 was Wikipedia. In 2009 there was a tie between the use of LinkedIn and Twitter. In 2010, Twitter gained almost 5% in usage over LinkedIn, and then in 2011 Google Calendar took the lead. Not only are the most popular sites different from the previous year, but so are the services provided by the sites. Wikipedia is a wiki, LinkedIn is a network creator, Twitter is a microblogging site and Google Calendar is a knowledge transactor.

What we can learn from this is that, though PAOSs will continue to be important tools in knowledge workers’ professional repertoire, the specific sites and services that are being utilized can rise and fall in popularity in as little as a year’s time.

When reviewing this study I was reminded me of how my undergraduate professors taught my Communications Design cohort how to use the Adobe suite (the industry standard technology in the graphic design profession). To be more specific, they purposefully didn’t teach us a single keystroke. All they did was tell us on our first assignment that we “might want to use PhotoShop” for this assignment, so we should probably go figure it out before coming back to class next week… or at least figure it out well enough to complete the homework. Their philosophy was that the programs that their students use professionally will always be in flux. Whatever software they would have taught us that year would be outdated by the time we graduate. To teach the design students how to use PhotoShop is to make them experts in that specific program only. In forcing them to teach themselves, they are given the resources and confidence to learn to use the next programs after the first ones become out of date.

By the time I graduated I had taught myself the Adobe suite well enough to secure my first job. I have learned a lot since, mostly through continued google searches and discussions with my co-workers, but the knowledge that I can teach myself anything gives me the confidence to jump into the deep end when it’s asked of me.

When a knowledge worker masters the use of a certain social media site, she has no guarantee that that same site will be useful in coming years. If a knowledge worker masters a service, she can apply that knowledge across the range of sites that provide that service. However, we have observed that even the popularity of services seems to fluctuate over the years. Though learning to use a site and a service are both necessary and constructive, the most valuable skill to the knowledge worker looking to stay on top of technology is the ability to learn.

Understanding Social Media Stakeholders and Their Needs

As I read through the Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making, Tweeting and Ethos, and Technical Communication Unbound articles there were two main concepts that really seemed to jump out at me – the idea of social media stakeholders, how those stakeholders use their social media tools, and how [as technical communicators] we may need to adapt our communications based upon social media channels.

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The idea of stakeholder analysis is a way to analytically look at individuals who are impacted by a particular event/situation/problem/etc. and understand how they are impacted.  As technical communicators, by conducting stakeholder analyses we can better articulate the communication messages and more effectively design systems to better suit the stakeholder needs.  As Longo stated in her article on Using Social media for Collective Knowledge-Making, “technical communicators and teachers of technical communication are poised to understand content users now as producers and to work toward relationships between [information and communication technologies] and human interaction to design documents and content in this global context, allowing us to cross community boundaries” (2013).

This statement defines the importance around establishing stakeholders in order to build those relationships Longo describes.  If we can understand how those stakeholders use social media, we can in fact, better communicate and refine our messages to those individuals.   The following graphic by Meritus Media shows, at a high level, how many stakeholders there can be and drives out what they value.  How a customer uses Facebook is different than how an employee uses Facebook.  If we can begin to identify and analyze those stakeholders, we can truly begin those targeted communications that means something to our readers.

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One thought, however, that was raised after reading Bowdon’s article on Tweeting an Ethos, was on how [technical communicators] use these channels.  As Bowdon found in a study he conducted, “[technical communication students] had trouble discerning and articulating the values of their various organizations, but all of the groups faced great difficult when trying to product content to post on Twitter and Facebook in order to keep up a consistent, meaningful presence on behalf of their organizations.  They were unsure how to translate that understanding into a Twitter or Facebook thread” (2013).  What this called out to me was that we, as technical communicators, need to be cognizant now only about stakeholders and how they use social media channels, but how we use social media channels to communicate with those stakeholders.

One of the biggest challenges for us will be to effectively use and communicate via social media channels.  To Bowdon’s point, delivering a message on a social media channel can be very different than drafting an e-mail or writing content for a Web site.  Learning how to translate our messages to a 140-character tweet and learning when it is most appropriate to use Facebook to share messages will become part of our skill sets that we will need to master.

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Ethos and Instagram: Essena O’Neil

Essena-ONeill1

This week’s post touches on ethos, or identity, image or credibility of an author. Ethos can be used to persuade, relate impressions and convey notions about one’s character. This especially is true in online contexts where it is what we rely upon to communicate our sense of self with others.

In light of the major news story this week I think ethos is an important topic to touch on. For those of you who haven’t heard, Essena O’Neil, a social media starlet from Australia with over 800,000 Instagram followers and 270,000 on You Tube is calling it quits and leaving it all behind. This provides a relevant opportunity to examine social media, ethos and the implications it can have. While she looked like she was at the pinnacle of success, her job of being on social media and the ethos she created was consuming her life.

In an online confessional video explaining why she decided to quite social media O’Neil states,“my whole idea of self worth revolved around my appearance and my social media status. Basically, my self worth relied on social approval.” Everything she did- from the food she ate to the clothes she wore to the exercises she did- was to prove herself online and keep up her credibility as a”perfect person”. Because she created an image of herself that others feel that is unattainable, her success hinged on lies, followers, views and likes. One article even said, “The most authentic girl on Instagram is made of plastic.” 

Some may say she is selfish, others may say she is selfless. Is it all a hoax- using social media to criticize social media to become popular on social media?

Real Talk

On Friday we had a slow day at the office, and my coworkers and I spent the better part of yesterday discussing this story. Interestingly, that the group I was discussing this issue with was all female, ranging in age from 23 to 48. While the eldest in our group applauded her efforts to be real, the youngsters of the bunch shot holes in her argument. Below you can find some of the points our conversation brought up:

Pros

  • Quitting to get back to a more natural way of existing and reassessing things in her life.
  • She was encouraged and rewarded with hundreds of thousands of followers, money, contracts, and fame. If she was uncomfortable with it, it is her decisions. Let it go.
  • We shouldn’t feel we have to do anything to be up to someone else’s standards.
  • Now she can develop her new audience and approach with her new website and use Social Media differently.
  • She can use her tremendously positive force and use her frame to rebrand herself into the way she wants to be.
  • Ditching all expectations and pressure is awesome.

Cons

  • Ironic that she “got what she wanted” but then bashes it for being fake.
  • The reason that she is blaming social media is your classic burn out story. She finally realized that relying on her looks will be unsustainable, so she is cashing out while she is on top.
  • What’s wrong with showing a photo or wearing yourself made up?
  • Fame doesn’t equate to happiness.
  • Just because she views likes and views as validation don’t necessarily mean that everyone is that way. Generalizing they way that people view social media and lumping it together is not true. THE ONLY way she can spread her message is through social media.
  • No one talking about social media is trying to deceive you.
  • Its a reflection of her in choosing to wear or promote certain brands.
  • While her comments certainly make sense in her situation, can they apply to the average Instagrammer in the same way?

Conclusions

What I gathered from her post and confessional like videos is that she wants to be more transparent and honest and not do sponsored or extremely posed shots. While I’m not sure her intentions for quitting are 100% pure, this highlights a few important issues. O’Neil’s story opens a conversation not just about this case, but rather as our use os social media as a whole. The ethos she created is an illusion, yet her essence is so much more. She felt as if her numbers were overshadowing the content- her creativity, her personality, her intellect- the person she is. Social media isn’t the problem, but its how people use it that are the problem. It is how people are comparing themselves to these fake ethos, instead of just letting it motivate them. Particularly, the normality of image obsession, especially with younger girls is concerning. O’Neil’s story is especially important because she grew up with social media and belongs to a generation that did so as well.

One user said: “I wasn’t a fan of you before but I am now. Thank you for adopting a smart and realistic approach to social media and an even bigger thanks for moving things in the right direction.”

Perhaps its time for all of us to take a social media break…

A Millennials Experience with LinkedIn

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LinkedIn is a powerful tool to help professionals connect and stay connected. But treating it as anything more than just another tool in a job seekers utility belt is a mistake. While it has all the bells, whistles, and name recognition, I find that people’s experiences and success with the site very greatly. Contrary to what they may claim, LinkedIn in not the golden ticket to your dream job. Rather than an automatic connection to top recruiters, it is a tool people can use to gain a competitive advantage in the workforce market. But is it really meant for everyone?

Be Your Own Biggest Cheerleader

It’s not enough to create a profile and hope that the right person stumbles upon it. You have to be an active proponent and really sell yourself. This means regularly updating your profile, posting relevant articles and content. But with two to three people joining per second, the network is louder and more crowded than ever before. It’s hard to have your voice heard when it easily can get lost in the chaos.

Who is LinkedIn for?

While it may be a good tool for more experienced individuals mid career, it is extremely difficult for younger generations, including myself to use to help start a career. A recent survey of 23 major social networks ranks LinkedIn as the “oldest” social network, with an average age of 44.2 years old (Tumblr, for example had an average age of 34.6 years). So, while 80 million Generation Y users log on to social media daily, only 23% of Millennials are using LinkedIn. Therefore it makes sense that the majority of the content posted is geared towards more experienced users.

While I may be smart enough to be among the 23% of millennials who do use it, the types of positions listed aren’t for someone in my situation. I found that I was generally was either overeducated or under qualified for the vast majority of the positions listed. While I still applied to positions that interested me, the “1-3” or “3-5” years of related experience many employers required were a major problem. How am I supposed to get my foot in the door if employers are requiring experience upfront? There was no good way to win and little incentive to continually engage in this site.

Unfortunately, this is a large problem across all types of industries. Despite having the drive and ambition, many young graduates simply can’t get a start in the field of their study. Employers want young talent with experience, but with today’s job market they are able to employ experienced professionals just as easily, making it easier for established professionals to move up the corporate ladder, not newbies who have little if any substantial professional experience.

Making New Connections

Making new connections sounds great, but it’s difficult to create new meaningful connections. While relationships certainly matter, it is hard for younger generations to make connections that are actually worthwhile. I could reconnect with my past co-workers from Culvers or my lifeguarding days, but how helpful will those connections really be? If I am trying to break into a certain industry, these are not the people I need to target. Rather, I need to connect with notable people in the company as well as recruiters. Simply adding Bill Gates on LinkedIn probably won’t help me get a job at Microsoft. Similarly, sending inbox messages or stalking recruiters will not help generate a lead. There is a fine line between extending your professional reach and seeming desperate.

A Different Animal

Perhaps LinkedIn is less of a true social network and more like a job board with social components. If younger generations are using Facebook more, why not try to turn the tables and revamp its strategy? If Facebook is the destination, why not transform it into something more? Or, why hasn’t LinkedIn paired with Facebook to become just that? Creating a Facebook app that feeds informed networking and job opportunities to people could be a valuable tool for users- especially younger generations. It could combine forces and become a super social network, improving its strength and recognition.

Conclusion

But, after all the smokes and mirrors you can find a platform than can be quite useful in the proper hands. With over 94% of recruiters using LinkedIn, it would be a waste to dismiss it entirely. It may not appear to be as beneficial in the short term, creating a profile has the potential to connect to others later down the line. While I believe LinkedIn’s greatest asset is its ability to help maintain and foster new professional relationships, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Building professional relationships can be exceedingly helpful, but at its core, these relationships already need to already be in place to be beneficial.

Additionally ways to get hired by using LinkedIn

Rich Maggiani’s article, “Using LinkedIn to Get Work,” provided a lot of great ideas on how to use LinkedIn to get a job in the technical communication industry. After talking to a couple of my technical communicator mentors, I wanted to add a few more suggestions to Maggiani’s article.

Showcase your work

If you have started a portfolio of the technical documents that you have created, get permission to post them online. Once you have that permission, add those documents to an area of your profile that makes the most sense. For example, I have created event flyers as well as work instructions. Because I want to focus on obtaining a job as a technical communicator in the medical field, in my Summary section (the very first section that you come to on my page), I have included a sample of the work instructions that I had created.

Additionally, in each section of my Experience area, I have included whatever appropriate document that best displayed my skills. Thus, not only can employers read about my skills and my experiences, they can also see my work samples too. This way, they can imagine what I can do for them to benefit their own company.

Now, do not forget that when you upload your document, it actually goes into a thing called “SlideShare,” which then gets posted into another public area as well. Be sure to use keywords in the description field, so that when someone searches for a particular document, your document can easily be found. Because of your document, you could be messaged to create a similar document for someone’s company.

Be humble by endorsing and recommending others

If you know people personally on LinkedIn, visit their profile page and click on the “Endorse” and “Recommend” links in the drop down arrow menu next to the “Send a message” button. You can endorse one of their skills, or you can recommend why that person is a wonderful employee/co-worker. Often times when you endorse or recommend someone, they will reciprocate the favor. By endorsing and recommending others, it shows that you are humble and a team player. When people endorse or recommend you, it shows others that there is proof to your claims about who you are and what your skills are. Employers do take these in to consideration when hiring.

Volunteer

I am surprised by how many people volunteer but do not put it on their resume or LinkedIn profile. Volunteering is great experience, no matter what it is. More over, many companies are always trying to show that they are apart of a community, so many companies will look for future-employees who have the same values of giving back to the community. As someone who has put together volunteering events for work, many people do not volunteer their time willingly or at all. Imagine a company trying to put on a charity event with very few employees helping out. That looks very poorly on the company and can possibly damage their reputation as a caring community supporter. So, if you volunteer, include that experience. If you have not volunteered yet, do it. Volunteering is fun and is a good networking experience.

Research the hiring manager

Of course, you will want to research the company that offered you a job, but to help get that job, you will want to ask who will be interviewing you. Once you find out who the hiring manager is, research them on LinkedIn to learn about them. Try to find things that you have in common and use that information to break the ice, or to somehow insert it into one of your answers to a question in the interview. The hiring manager will be impressed that you went to that much trouble to not only learn about the company, but about the people as well, and you will be more likely to receive a job offer. (I can state from experience, that this worked for me).

Conclusion

I hope that you found my four suggestions on how to further use LinkedIn to get a job helpful. I realized that showcasing your work, being humble by endorsing and recommending others, volunteering, researching the hiring manager are helpful in being hired. Hopefully, these suggestions will help you obtain a job too.

More Sound Advice for Spending Time Online

Breathe

In the last blog entry, I wrote that I agreed with Sherry Turkle, the author of Alone Together, that a great way to spend more time with people was to avoid social media and texting during certain parts of the day. This is still a good idea so that people can actually face-to-face connect with others, and to have time to allow yourself to think, but in Howard Rheingold’s booked titled, Net Smart, he gives additional ways to take control over technology’s pull. I was amazed by how simple his advice is.

Just like Turlke, Rheingold says that people need to spend some time away from technology and learn how to meditate and to breathe. By focusing on your breathing, you are focusing your attention onto one thing. By learning how to focus your attention on a singular thing, you can re-teach your brain to focus on one thing and let the distractions drop away. By being able to focus on one thing while online, you will be able to focus on your intent – your exact reason for being online – so that you can solely work on that one thing that you need to get done, instead of being distracted by random emails, instant messages, Facebook, or other things lurking to steal your attention away.

Meditation

My husband would agree with Rheingold about meditation, but I never would have thought that one could apply it to thriving online. Thinking back to my husband and about him meditating, I realize that he is a lot more focused on various things than I am. He tells me that I get distracted too easily, and that I need to learn to be more disciplined, which I believe could come from meditation. After reading Rheingold’s chapter on “Attention,” I may have to tell my husband that I will join him on his next meditation journey.

Results are Power

Now, if what Rheingold says is true that meditation helps with focusing attention, which in turn helps with “crap detection” (using your focus to research things on line to see if they are actually credible or not) and “participation power” (participate online by creating content such as photos, videos, news stories; sharing content; or editing Wikipedia or other community-based informational websites), then many people who want to success may want to do this too. I believe that I have had a good start in both crap detection and participation already, as I often create photos, video clips, and share links to other photos, video clips, and news stories on my blog and Facebook page. Just as Rheingold suggests, when I find something on the internet to share, I look at the url of the website, check for the author, and etc. to see if the content is from a place that I can trust. I do this because if I provide crap to my readers, my readers may complain or stop following or unfriend me. I want to keep my authority role as a trusted content provider.

Conclusion

For the most part, I found Rheingold to be providing common sense information and very helpful tips, in regards to thriving online – how to use your intentional attention to focus on what actually matters, which is having some downtime from technology, and being able to detect the credibility of internet content. By being able to do both, I can be a great participator online by creating and sharing trustworthy content on social media websites. But the one thing that spoke out the most was meditating. My sweet husband; he has been telling me to meditate for years, but it took a book to finally do it. I will just tell him that I finally came to my senses.

Balancing truth and a positive image online

What is our responsibility to the truth when we post online? When representing a business/institution online and on social media, must we always represent it with 100 percent accuracy? What is the truth anyways?

At first glance this question seems pretty straightforward. Always tell the truth. Anything other than the truth is misleading and therefore wrong. How could it be otherwise?

The same straightforwardness seems apparent in Jonathan Zittrain’s talk when considering the ethics of interfering with Facebook or google’s algorithms. He uses as an example the potential power that Facebook would have to sway an election by just leaving a reminder to vote off of a person’s newsfeed who shows a preference that is unfavorable to the powers-that-be at Facebook. It would be unfair for these online giants to use their influence to sway something that is as fair and unbiased as a math-based algorithm to anyone’s benefit.

Screen shot of Facebook's reminder to vote.

Screen shot of Facebook’s reminder to vote. Source: TechPresident, Facebook’s Voting Reminder Message Isn’t Working, 2012

But his next example makes the issue a little murkier by explaining how google has removed from its top search results a company that blackmails people by ensuring that their mugshot photos would be prominent when their name was searched unless they paid a steep fee. This seems like justice, even though Google is stepping in to use its power against the cosmic fairness of a mathematically-powered search algorithm.

So when we create a presence for a public institution online – possibly a social network site where we create a public profile, make connections in the community, and gain access to their connections (D. Boyd, Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship, p. 211) – what is our responsibility to the public to represent the institution truthfully?

I’ll use photography as an example that I come up against as a graphic designer in the marketing department of a technical college. Let’s say that we’re posting a picture to facebook of our college’s president smiling next to a student at a college event.

  • The lighting is too bad to post this picture without adjusting it in Photoshop. Do I correct it? Yes.
  • While I’m here, in this portrait the president clearly has lipstick on her front teeth. Would I remove it? Absolutely.
  • How about a couple zits on the student’s face? I would remove most of them or at least lighten them.
  • What if the student has a permanent wart or a birthmark? Those stay. That’s part of what the student looks like, and it would be crossing a line to remove that.

But isn’t the student’s zits also part of what he/she looks like on this particular day? Isn’t it the truth that on this day the President attended the event with lipstick on her teeth? Isn’t it also the truth that the lighting in the room was horrible?

In a conversation about Web 2.0 between Andrew Keen and David Weinberger, Keen likens the story of the Internet to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, where the Internet is the mirror that reveals ourselves to be cockroaches. He compares the multitude of contributors of online content to mindless monkeys. This strikes me as counterintuitive when most of us spend our efforts consciously making ourselves look as good or better than we are in real life.

In our office, amongst the graphic designers, the social media administrator, the copywriter and anyone who is creating content to represent the College, our mantra is to represent our community (students, staff, instructors, even the campus) in a way would be recognized by them as having a “good day.” We choose our content and edits with empathy and compassion. We don’t strive to mislead, and we always maintain what participants would recognize as the reality of the moment. The camera is often cruel, picking up details that we would overlook in person. The candy wrapper on the sidewalk in a picture of the facade of the school does not represent how we see the building. It just happens to be there when the information is flattened into a photograph. No one noticed the white specks all over the shoulders of your shirt, but that dandruff sure does shine in the lighting of the photo. To remove these details doesn’t change the reality experienced by the individual in the moment, it just shows it off at its best.

Would you rather that I not clean up your shirt? Lighten the blemish? Subtract the trash? Am I being kind, or deceitful? Is my responsibility to tell the truth of how you experienced the moment, or the truth of the photograph?

The Illusion of Privacy in a Public Space

online privacy

While we all are vaguely aware of the risks that can occur when we post personal information to social media sites, we still do it. Unfortunately, many of us fall prey to the“Privacy Paradox” that occurs when we are not aware of the public nature of the internet. Oftentimes this is because we believe in the illusion of boundaries, and that these sites will protect us.

Yet, posting to social network sites not only concerns privacy, but can have legal consequences as well. In Boyd and Ellison’s article “Social Networking Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship” they state “The legality of this hinges on users’ expectation of privacy and whether or not Facebook profiles are considered public or private” (p.222). In other words, the uncertain boundaries between whats public and private on social networking sites are forcing us to challenge the legal conception of privacy.

To illustrate, in Wausau Wisconsin, DC Everest High School suspended a group of students from their sports seasons after photos of the students drinking from red solo cups surfaced on Facebook. While school officials couldn’t prove the teens had been drinking, they believed the correlation between the iconic red cups and a beer bash was enough grounds for suspension. As a way “to kind of make fun of the school”, the teens decided to throw a root-beer kegger.

Once the party was in full swing, its no surprise that a noise complaint was called in to the police. At first glance, it looked like an underage party with mobs of teenagers, booming music, drinking games and of course-red solo cups. However, when the cops came to bust what they believed to be a group of underage drinkers, not a drop of alcohol was to be found. Instead, they found a quarter keg containing 1919 Classic American Draft Root Beer. Infuriated, they breathalized nearly 90 teens and every single one blew a 0.0%. As a result, the students were able to prove their point that you can have a party and drink non-alcoholic beverages from red cups.

Needless to say, the story created a buzz and soon made local and national news. Did the school have a right to interject? Or is underage drinking something that should be between students and police? What are our rights concerning online privacy? And how does the law play into all of this?

Stepping away from the light hearted nature of the story above, personal content posted to social media sites can oftentimes have more more serious, threatening ramifications to users. Identify theft, stalking and even murder are all real consequences that can and have occurred. Despite hearing these stories, we continue to make it easy for anyone, including hackers, to access our personal information because it is readily available to anyone with a computer or mobile device.

Consequently, the boundaries between whats public and whats private on social media sites are ambiguous. Even more, “…there often is a disconnect between our desire for privacy and our behaviors” (p.222). So, the real question of how to resolve this issue remains. Would more restrictive settings on these sites help us? Or, as Jonathan Zittrain’s talk suggests, do these sites have a duty to look out for us and minimize potential risks?

While the answers to these questions are uncertain- the need for a more educated and proactive public is. If we are able to fully understand the extent of our actions, perhaps we would take more precautions. Knowledge is the solution to protecting our online privacy and minimizing potential risks. Now it is just up to us to use it.

I am a happy go-lucky monkey cockroach.

Why is it when people want to relax after a hard day at work that some self-appointed authority figures want to try to ruin it for the majority? These uptight authority figures are scholars who found the treasure trove of social media, and have decided that the best way to keep their paychecks rolling is to argue and complain about how social media is not being used to the scholars’ intelligence standards. Well, I cannot argue about them making money with their complaining about social media, as making money from social media is one reason that social media exists.

Most of the people who are posting their thoughts and experiences in social media are using a wide variety of media, such as texts, photos, videos, and etc. Most people are posting for their friends and family; they are not doing it to establish an audience. While some people believe that if you do not like a posting, just move on or post a complaint, or, even better, just block that person, scholars such as Andrew Keen decided write nasty opinions about social media websites’ users. According to The Wall Street Journal‘s article “Full Text: Keen vs Weinberger” (2007), Keen claims that social medias websites’ users are “monkeys” and “cockroaches,” and that our postings are “infantilized self-stimulation rather than serious media for adults.” Furthermore, he states that users’ copy and pasting media (such as YouTube videos, Pinterest, etc.) is “creating a generation of media illiterates.”

Interesting theory, but Keen is wrong. If Keen wants serious adult time on social media, he could create his own online group, or stay at work. When most people need a break from adulthood, they turn to social media, so what? The medical field has stated that we need a work/life balance, so relaxing with a cat video that someone copied and pasted from a social media website is perfect. And from someone whose mother is learning how to use the Internet, copying and pasting anything online is a skill, thus I cannot believe that any generation is media illiterate. Many social media websites were created for connecting with others and allowing users to show off their personality, so social media was created for entertainment, not specifically for intellectual debate, although there could be groups created on these websites for such discussions.

So, how are these scholars finding all of our postings, which are leading to a “digital abundance …to intellectual poverty” (WSJ)? It turns out that what many scholars find disgusting about our postings, they cannot wait to read and analyze. boyd and Ellison, in their article, “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship,” stated that scholars gather information from users’ profiles, forums, and discussion groups for research, and that this information “offers unprecedented opportunities for researchers” (2008, p. 224). I find this very disturbing, that some stranger may be taking much of a user’s posts, friendship connections, and etc. and then analyzing this information for a paper. (Should not the user first be contacted, asked for permission, and receive compensation?) I believe that other people who know about these scholars’ plans do not like this as well, because of the following message that can be found posted on a great number of profiles on FetLife:

fl

I had often wondered why people would have this message posted on their profile page. Who would research people’s profiles? I had never thought to ask, but after reading bodyd and Ellison’s article, I understand that users’ posted information is indeed being used for many purposes. Besides one purpose to tear social media websites down for users’ “digital narcissism” (WSJ), another purpose may be to shape how we see the world, done by website companies themselves.

Now, in Jonathan Zittrain’s talk on the “Is The Internet Taking Us Where We Want to Go?” (Aspen Institute, 2015) panel, Zittrain states that websites like Google and FaceBook use algorithms, that can control what a user sees in a search or in their news feed. For example, he reports that these companies have altered searches (Google can remove people’s history, among other things) and change what appears in a news feed (not letting certain news stories to go viral). In these cases, I do not mind companies not allowing us information because these are free websites, and they have to make their money somehow to pay for all the bandwidth that users burn through. However, if users were paying to use these websites, then whether these companies liked users’ postings, content, etc. or not, users should be able to see everything, and the companies should not be able to force their opinions on the users of how they think the world should be.

Thus, for some social media websites, many users may not be aware that the social websites that they are using for enjoyment and staying connected to others are using their information in way that the user may have never wanted. Because many of these social websites are free to use, some users would be fine with having their information used for marketing, but not for research and analysis. For those who do know what the scholars are doing with their information, some users have posted messages telling people not to use their information for research purposes. If having one’s information used as research was not bad enough, there are scholars complaining how we are using the social media websites for play and not for intellectual discussions. For those scholars, I believe that they need stop forcing a false doomsday on people and enjoy what was meant to be enjoyed. If these scholars feel that they really do not like a path that social media is taking, then they need to stop complaining and find a way to make it better. If they cannot, they can always build something for people like themselves. The Internet is large; there is plenty of space for them, the cockroaches, and the monkeys too.

 

References

Aspen Institute. (2015, July 4). The Internet Taking Us Where We Want to Go? [Video File]. Retrieved from YouTube https://youtu.be/rGUvi5qv6BU?t=29m34s

boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 224.

The Wall Street Journal. (2007, July 18). Full Text: Keen vs Weinberger [Web log  comments]. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB118460229729267677

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writers, writiN & d NXT gnr8n n social media :P

text slang, emojis

In their article “The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Tech Comm in the Age of Social Media” Hurley and Hea asked college student to reflect on the extent that social media influences writers and writing. As a whole, students were able to identity social media’s positive aspects such as staying connected to family and friends and its ability to generate hype over new products. On the other hand, students also agreed that social media generally influences writers to write carelessly and unfinished.

While I was not an English major, I do have an appreciation for good writing. Seeing postings with no particular point that incorporate emojis and shorthand slang make me cringe. Despite this, I agree with the article in that a thoughtful and active presence on social media can be beneficial and bolster careers. However, it made me question what implications will this type of writing have on our younger generations who have grown up with these types of communications?  

Besides proper spelling and grammar, penmanship is a concern of mine. I distinctly remember learning cursive in elementary school and laboring over a capital “Z” so I could write my crushes initials next to mine in the margins of my notebook. (For all of you who are wondering it would be SKJ + ZBS). While I eventually was able to master this skill and fill every space I could with our initials surrounded by a bubbly heart, it took time and perseverance.

Largely due to the excessive nature of my “doodling”, one of my friends told Zach and soon everybody in the class knew. To my disappointment, Zach did not share my feelings and that was the end of my third grade crush. While the love between us didn’t pan out, my love of cursive and penmanship did. My handwriting, (most of which is cursive) is something I pride myself on to this day. After a quick Google search, I discovered that many states are no longer are teaching cursive in elementary schools. While its not completely shocking, it is slightly disappointing to learn that good handwriting is no longer a vital form of commutation.

At the same time, I wouldn’t say that computers and our use of social media are entirely to blame. I simply find it interesting how communication has progressed and the effects it has and will have on writers of future generations. The digital landscape is evolving, and if we want to survive we have to keep up– emojis, shrt& & aL 🙂

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

Using Social Media and Corporate Philanthropy to Drive Traffic

Champions for Kids Facebook Cover Photo - Giving Tuesday

Champion for Kids social media campaign – Giving Tuesday (12/2/14). Source: https://www.facebook.com/ChampionsForKids

One of the aims of my final paper was to identify whether promoting a cause marketing campaign (Giving Tuesday) on social media platforms could increase web traffic to the campaign’s landing page on my company’s own website. In several studies of communication strategies, the effects across multiple platforms are examined. However, the focus of my final paper explains the Champions for Kids’ (a non-profit organization) campaign strategy for Giving Tuesday to engage employees in donating, promote materials on Facebook and drive traffic to the organizations landing page.

In my final paper, I first build on scholarship relating to social media and consumer behavior scholarship to identify digital platforms in cause marketing as a significant method of consideration for communication strategies. For the purposes of the paper, I limit the data findings to two platforms: a website landing page and a Facebook page. I find data to prove a correlation between social media posts on Facebook to drive landing page traffic and  the effects of cause marketing campaign in increasing a social media audience.

Special Agent Pigg

I had a tough time reading Pigg’s “Coordinating Constant Invention: Social media’s role in distributed work.”  Although I found the majority of her article to be convoluted and lacking conciseness, it was her observation of participants in a coffeehouse that I couldn’t look past.  I questioned everything from her description of the coffeehouse to the participants she used and how she chose them.  I will go through her process and ask the questions I had when reading Pigg’s article.

http://www.amsterdam-advisor.com

1-Pigg picked an independent coffeehouse, on major avenue, which links the university and government districts-

Q1-Where is this establishment?  Certainly people in Minnesota would have different habits from people in California which would have different habits from people in New York.  What season was it?  Again, this would dictate behaviors and which clientele frequented and stayed at this establishment. Why an independent coffeehouse?  Isn’t Starbucks the most prestigious coffeehouse?  Was the study looking for anti-establishments types that avoided chain restaurants?

http://www.tvtropes.org

2-Pigg observed for 6 weeks, 5 days a week, at varying times of the day-

Q2-Where these observation times random?  Did she do it in her spare time?  If she observed before work, after work, and sometimes on lunch or breaks, she would fail to see a true representation of people frequenting the coffeehouse.  Was there a systematic approach to observing the patrons?  Did she creep around and spy on people?  Did she sit in a corner?  Was she in the same spot every day or different spots at different times?  What happened when someone confronted the creepy lady that kept staring at people all the time?  Surely this would have altered people’s behavior.  The necessary explanation by Pigg to keep people from asking for her removal from the building would have changed their behavior.

Parature.com

3-Pigg selected four patrons that would be ideal case study participants-

Q3-How many did she select initially?  Did she select four and all four were willing to be part of the study?  Did she select ten and only four gave consent?  Were these people professional writers getting paid for their work?  Were they black, white, Asian, affluent, poor, single, or did they have kids?  Did they have an option to go to an office and chose to go to the coffeehouse instead?

http://www.safetysign.com

4-Pigg videotaped the participants to see the interaction between the bodies and technologies-

Q4-Have you ever been in a coffeehouse and had to fart, pick your nose, scratch your wherever places, or just sit and space out for 15 minutes?  If you were being recorded, would you participate in any of the activities mentioned above?  Regarding the camera pointing at the computer/phone screen.  Would you visit a naughty site, sext a significant other, look at a racy email, post an inappropriate picture, or carry on an extremely personal Instant Messenger conversation knowing that it was all being recorded and you had signed your rights away?  Would you go out for five cigarettes an hour or spit your Copenhagen into a cup knowing you were being recorded?  It’s absurd to think that the recordings were a 100% truthful representations of the participant’s day.

These are just four small pieces that bothered me.  They may seem trivial and petty, but I think an honest answer to any of them could have far reaching implications for the study.  The lack of scientific methods in this study brings its credibility into question.  The basic point that I got from this article was that Pigg maintains that workers, technical writers in particular, are moving more towards non-conventional freelance roles.  In doing so, they use social media to create the conventional “office space” around them.  By using social media, they can essentially carry their office with them no matter where they choose to rest their laptop that day.  They use social media to replace the office chit chat, the exchange of ideas and suggestions, and the personal interaction that they all go without due to the writer’s ever changing locations.  I agree with her conclusions, but I don’t believe the study helped me get there.

 

A Changing Social Field

What I found most interesting in Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge (Longo 2013), was the author’s articulation that face-to-face interaction will not necessarily be replaced by social media. For technical communicators, at this point, this may be true. However, as “New technologies for making and sharing information in a variety of media have made it easy for users to tell their own stories” (Longo, 2013, p. 22), perhaps a more anticipatory view may give readers pause.

While currently this statement may be true as of now, it cannot be denied that technical communicators (in general) work for corporations or organizations. As the rising trend of creating a corporate social media presence rises, what pressure will this place on technical communicators? If software development trends continue at their current pace, easily re-writeable document software may change the traditional claim technological communicators have had. Namely, that of “…audience analysis and user accommodation” (Longo, 2013, pg. 23), since audience collaboration is not limited to social media platforms but in writable software as well.

What do you think? Will audience collaboration in social media transpose to document writing? Will the ‘social’ aspect of social media morph into technical communication fields of document writing? 

Managing information overload

Trust me, there are plenty of days in which I use my access to the Internet very “stupidly.”

I watch funny cat videos, take a look at the most recent viral videos, read nonsense celebrity gossip, and “browser shop” for things I definitely can’t afford.  In reality, I really ought to check out my RSS feeds in Feedly and do some research on the ecommerce industry or read digital marketing tips for work.  I really ought to be reading the news to see what’s going on in the world.  I really should be using the Internet smarter, but some days I just don’t want to.

I think part of this may be due to the fact that I often feel overwhelmed at the amount of quality and interesting information that is available on the Internet.  I want to know everything and the fact that there are so many different ways for me to access “everything” at once is overwhelming to me.  I feel like I can’t keep up with all the information and so instead I take a few minutes or hours to ignore the world’s most powerful knowledge tool in exchange for entertainment and killing brain cells.

Rheingold’s book, Net Smart, is making me rethink my approach to the Internet.  I need to be more focused on what I am doing because I often get sucked into the depths of YouTube while I have an important deadline looming in the near future.  I am interested in many things and I can often get caught in a web of interesting and useful information just as quickly as I can get caught up in a windfall of Internet stupidity.  Rheingold offers some excellent pointers for effectively managing this endless amount of information.  Chapter 6 of his book, “How (Using) the Web (Mindfully) Can Make you Smarter,” brings all of his information management and “crap detection” tips and tricks together and explains how his methods can help you widen your own personal knowledge base.

Rheingold’s book has helped me to stop being so overhwlemed about how I approach the amount of information on the Internet and has taught me different ways I can manage and even filter the amount of information that I see every day.  By doing this I can use the Internet smarter and more effectively instead of being tempted by the cyber black holes of funny cat videos.

Technical Communications & Social Media: Digital Frenemies

I don’t remember the first time I heard the term “frenemy” used in conversation, but I do know that I immediately took a liking to it and could instantly apply its meaning to several people and aspects of my life.  Frenemies are the people you love to hate; the coworker that has great ideas but poor execution; the friend that loves to party with you but doesn’t invite you to the next event. Frenemies are sweet and sour; you’re not a fan of either part of them yet you still give them your time anyway.

Social media itself is a lot like a frenemy.  You spend a huge portion of your time posting statuses, pictures, videos, and stalking your ex from high school, only to be reminded that the dude who bullied you in middle school is now making six figures and drives a Cadillac.  You get mad, jealous, green with envy and yet you keep scrolling, posting, and soaking up all of the negative vibes in your newsfeed.

Yet, you are a consumer just like the rest of us, and you utilize social media because “everyone” is on it.  Businesses owners, media outlets, musicians, artists, politicians – you name it – realize that the majority of people are not taking the time to search websites, but rather click on links posted through their social media newsfeeds.  Writers are then employed to master the art of social media writing in order to compete for the attention of consumers.

On their off days, those same writers check their social media profiles to be faced with the same information that they are paid to flood into social networks.  They are more conscious of the pitfalls of social media and thus “play it safe” when posting to their own social media profiles.  Even though they regularly utilize social media in their daily lives, they realize the devastating things that could happen if the wrong material was seen by the wrong person at the wrong time.

This good/bad dichotomy between writing and social media is what creates the Frenemy Effect.  Communication between consumers and companies/entities has never been easier and more direct since the emergence of social media .  However, companies have never been under so much close scrutiny since the emergence of social media and consumers have never been more invaded with advertorial content.  Social media does not create a clear line between “editorial” and “advertisement” content; there is no sense of what is honest communication and what is an attempt for consumer attention.

It will be interesting to follow social media trends to see if these lines between advertising and honest communication continue to be blurred or clear distinctions and honest intentions shine through on social media.  For now, I will remain a cautious, yet avid user of social media.

Privacy and the internet

Privacy in healthcare is very important. This is something that I have some experience with. This kind of privacy is a bit different than the kind discussed in the reading this week. This Health Care Privacy is more about preventing access to data that exists. Not allowing people who don’t need to access a specific patient, access to that patient. This relates to the reading this week in that privacy is really about what you want to show the outside world. I liked the description of the 3 types of privacy; Expressive, Informational, and Accessibility.

  • Expressive Privacy – The ability to choose what I say and do.
  • Informational Privacy – The ability to choose what information I share with others.
  • Accessibility Privacy – The ability to choose how (physically) close I get to others.

In addition to the three types of privacy described above there are also two forms of privacy; actual and perceived.

  • Actual Privacy – When people are around, my actual privacy is limited.
  • Perceived Privacy – When my family is around, my perceived privacy is high. I trust them to not divulge my personal information, to maintain my privacy.

There are a number of ways that people can protect their privacy online. Depending on the site you are using, for example eBay, you can turn yourself into a pseudonym. You can clear web history, deny cookies and other things. The image below is from a Pew Internet Privacy that was done that describes how much people understand about internet privacy.

Pew-Internet-Privacy-Chart

http://researchaccess.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Pew-Internet-Privacy-Chart.png

Social Media sites also have specific settings in regards to privacy. According to Consumer Watchdog, Facebook and their ads track you even when you are not currently logged into Facebook.

facebook_privacy

http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/node/12480

After Privacy, comes trust. Once you look at the privacy settings of your web browser and or website you are looking at, you have to decide if you trust the web site you are visiting.

01f01

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1807-17752007000300001&script=sci_arttext

This image visibly describes what goes into a decision by a consumer to purchase from a specific site.  “A consumer’s intention to purchase products from Internet shopping malls is contingent on a consumer’s trust. Consumers are less likely to patronize stores that fail to create a sense of trustworthiness and an easily usable context. In the meantime, trust would also be influenced by e-commerce knowledge, perceived reputation, perceived risk, and perceived ease of use, all of which are set as independent variables in the model. Hence trust serves as a mediating variable while purchasing intention is a dependent variable.” (JISTEM, 2007)

I know that I have done research on products and found website that were offering them for less than Amazon or some other known online retailer. I do research not only on the product they are offering, but also the website before I decide to trust the retailer and purchase from their website.

What do you know about protecting your privacy on the internet, specifically the use of websites privacy policies? Does anyone read these before signing up for a new website?

Culture and Community

 

I was aware that culture had multiple definitions, but I guess I hadn’t considered how complex the sociological definition was as compared to the straightforward biological definition. Language and the meaning of words can change and evolve over time. This can lead to very abstract definitions that are very unhelpful. In the Spilka reading, Williams provided a great summary of the meaning of culture and how it changed over time:

‘It came to mean first, “a general state or habit of the mind” … Second, it came to mean “the general state of intellectual development, in a society as a whole.” Third, it came to mean “the general body of the arts.” Fourth,  … it came to mean “a whole way of life, material, intellectual, and spiritual,”’

Culture can mean any and all of the above, which adds to the confusion. We use a word which can have several different meanings, and that meaning is dependent on the context. That creates an opportunity for a vast range or interpretations.

Community seemed more straightforward to me that it has been depicted in the reading. I can understand the desire to create a universal community that includes everyone, but that goal is not realistic. The Brufee communication model explored this option by creating a community with expectations and values that are known by all members.

The idea of insiders and outsiders of a community make sense, but it contradicts the goal of the universal community. As explained by Bernadette Longo, this would be a totality rather than a community. This is also an unlikely idea because individuals do have different values, ideals, and preferences. There are millions of people who use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites, but very few people use all of them. Even if those sites made controlled upgrades, there is no way that they could create an environment that would convince everyone to join and use the site.

I’ve witnessed Rheingold’s spirit of community on forums such as Boardgamegeek, 40K Forums, and Backpacker, but even those online communities are not without their problems. There are still active members who do not share in the value of community. Many put in extra effort to welcome new members and contribute to the knowledge and friendly spirit of the site, but there are others who wish to keep the exclusivity of the community, and drive away those that don’t seem to fit the feel that they have become accustomed to. My experience is that communities often begin to police themselves, both good and bad, to help control their membership. Sometimes it is driving out the disruptive forces through peer pressure, and sometimes it is driving away people that the policing force sees as annoying. Either way, few communities are truly welcoming to everyone.

Map of Online Communities

Retrieved from http://xkcd.com/256/

With online communities, people have a choice about which communities they would like to be part of. They aren’t like geographic communities where you become part of one purely by proximity or location. Online communities bring people together because of similar interests or ideas. People stay a part of the community because of shared information, shared connections, or some other satisfaction gained from it. There are many reasons people stay with a forum or social media site, and each person defines and finds their own meaning.

In Spilka, Baudrillard’s characterization of postmodern as “the age of simulation… substituting signs of the real for the real itself” was a good summary of part two of the Turkel book. Postmodern has always been a term that I have struggled with. I’ve never been good with relative definitions, so saying that it follows modernism is really not helpful to me. I’ve also never been good with art and architecture descriptions. I appreciate the quote because it does describe a lot of the social interaction between individuals on social media sites. They substitute real interpersonal relationships for hollow online interactions. There can still be meaningful interactions using social media, but many are shallow and hollow shadows of the alternative.

(edit – I realised that the image I uploaded last night was not the correct one.)

Is Higher Ed “linked”?

From karmahire.com

From karmahire.com

I realized I’m going to have to undergo a shift in perspective regarding job seeking and recruiting after reading this week’s material. Having spent the last 10 years in just one institution of higher education, I’ve been used to a certain laborious way of doing things.  I’ve probably been on 15-20 search committees in the past 5 years, and, as far as I know, we haven’t used any social media such as Linked In or FB.  We recruit via our website and some online newspapers and job boards, then we get electronic resumes, then we consider them individually, then we meet as a committee, then we usually conduct phone interviews, then on-campus interviews, and hopefully make a hiring decision.  This process is not very nimble and usually takes 4-6 months.

Since I wasn’t sure if this is just specific to my university or to higher ed as a whole, I did some research and found that we’re probably a little late in adopting newer methods, but our field as a whole is still lagging.  In “Web 2.0 in Higher Education Recruitment,” Rob Friedman explains only about 20% of recruiters look to social networks for recruiting and most job seekers are still looking at online job boards. The study also noted that most professionals in higher education are using Linked In to do their networking and the article echoed the cautionary tone of Qualman and Maggiani and Marshall (“Using Linked In to Get Work”) saying, “The utilization of social networks makes it more important for job seekers and representatives of colleges and universities that what people see about them personally is consistent with the image they wish to publicize” (www.higheredjobs.com). Interestingly, the other social media sites professionals are using are Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, and Second Life.

from gridworks.sl

How would professional networking work at Second Life?
http://www.gridworks.sl

Second Life?  How would that work since everyone is a “persona” and doesn’t really know who anyone else is or what they do? Seriously, if anyone knows the answer to this, I’d be interested since I couldn’t find much in my research. Also, if anyone else is working in higher ed, I’d be interested to hear if you’re using SM in recruiting.

It’s hard not to find Qualman engaging, but sometimes his claims seem so contradictory. For example, regarding recruitment through social media, he says “all of this newfound transparency from social business networks is a godsend for employers” (225). Yet, just a few pages later he warns people that “unflattering items should proactively be removed from the public eye” (229).  Of resumes, he says that recruiters used to have to “read between the lines” (225) to get a good sense of the candidate.  How is that any different than reading between the lines of a Linked In profile that has been wiped squeaky-clean?  I think SM is probably more efficient, more convenient, and quicker (which we in higher education could use), but I’m not sure I’m convinced that it’s any more transparent.

Speaking of transparency, I’d hate to be in the shoes of that University of Iowa grad student who accidentally emailed naked pictures of herself to her students. When you think of the potential multiplying effect of those emails getting forwarded, that’s probably not something she’s ever going to be able to “scrub” from her public record (See the story by Lisa Gutierrez at the Kansas City Star/Ihttp://www.kansascity.com/2013/10/24/4574427/iowa-teaching-assistant-accidentally.htmlowa).

The “Human+Machine Culture” by Bernadette Longo probably took me to mental places I really didn’t want to visit. In her discussion of culture and community, she writes “Human+machine culture represents both the hope of freedom from inhuman work and the fear that humans will not be able to control the machines they had made in their own image” (166). She says that technical communicators are in a position of “knowledge making authority” (166) and earlier refers to “the scientific knowledge system sustained through technical communication” (165).

When I read material like this, I worry that I am pursuing the wrong degree.  I sort of “glommed” on to the “P” in the MSTPC Program, thinking more of developing myself as a “professional” writer rather than as a technical writer, but most of what I read in my classes seems to focus on the “technical.” Is that because the means by which we communicate are “technological” or do most people envision themselves entering a “scientific knowledge system”? Am I thinking straight in aspiring to the P rather than the T?

I sometimes worry that the "T" is both literally and figuratively at the center of my degree

I sometimes worry that the “T” is both literally and figuratively at the center of my degree

I guess I need to start thinking about these things if I’m going to get my Linked In profile updated and polished.  That reminds me of some other advice Qualman gives: “if job seekers share a common name with an individual that is less than scrupulous, then the job seeker needs to make certain the employer knows that the person is not them, but rather someone else with the same name” (229).

So, I guess I’m going to have to make a big note on my profile:

from vimeo.com

from vimeo.com

“Please don’t confuse me with Evelyn Martens, the serial killer.”

Does Social Search + Social Media = Social Commerce?

In Chapter 5 of Socialnomics, Erik Qualman (2013) asserts: “In the future, we will no longer seek products and services; rather, they will find us” (p. 72). While on one hand this idea seems a bit frightening, on the other, it is sometimes daunting to have to make a decision about what to buy when there are so many options available, and it seems rather comforting as well as helpful to be able to narrow down the options based on reviews from friends whom, as Qualman aptly points out, we trust more than reviewers we don’t know.

Qualman explains that this is all part of social commerce, a method of using social media as a vehicle for searching and marketing. Qualman refers to the searching aspect of social commerce as social search. He gives the example of Steve who is expecting a new baby and needs to buy a car seat. From Steve’s social search, he can tell who of his friends has recently bought a car seat, which model they bought, the average price of the model they bought, and many other helpful nuggets that will make his purchasing decision much easier. Steve then conducts a similar social search which helps him to decide which new car to buy.

While social media is certainly a very powerful tool for finding out the product preferences of one’s social network, it does not yet offer the advanced level of searching abilities that Qualman refers to with his concept of social search. While the missing components of the social search Qualman describes may evolve naturally with social media, I wonder whether there will ever really be a way to search for a generic product (like a car seat) and find out how many of one’s friends have purchased that sort of product recently, and then narrow the search by brand, model, price, reviews, etc. This seems to me like it would be complicated and privacy invasive; most importantly, I wonder who would profit from implementing a search like this.

In addition to describing the way social media affects searching, social commerce also describes how social media is transforming marketing.TripAdvisor recognized the marketing opportunity afforded by the Where I’ve Been Facebook application, which allowed users to track places they’ve visited, and tried to buy it. When the asking price was too steep, TripAdvisor decided to develop its own version of the application, Cities I’ve Visited, making use of established and free technology like Google Maps.TripAdvisor’s application quickly soared in popularity, and while they didn’t have specific user contact information, they did have great access to information about popular destinations and the ability to provide links for their users to best selling trips. By creating this application, TripAdvisor developed a value-added approach that provided significant marketing opportunities.

According to Qualman, social commerce will also lead to more sophisticated product placement opportunities for companies. As e-books continue to gain popularity, Qualman believes that brand names will be clickable and the site visits will be trackable. While it may be helpful to be able to click on a product I don’t know about to find out what it does, it might be annoying to have every single product mentioned in a book linked to advertisements.

I found Qualman’s example of the “Tom Sawyer approach,” in Chapter 7 of Socialnomics, especially interesting. Just as Tom Sawyer made painting a fence look so appealing that others begged him for the opportunity to help, ESPN similarly offered people the unpaid, responsibility-heavy opportunity to become a Super Fan and report frequently on their respective teams, and people were so eager to have this opportunity that ESPN had a large pool of applicants to select from. This example offers a bigger lesson about how letting fans contribute to a product, show, or service adds value for those fans and for other fans as well as shifts some of the production and marketing burden away from the company and onto the fans. This seems to me to be an incredible marketing and production strategy which will almost certainly gain traction in the coming months and years.

Very ‘pinteresting’: let social media users do the work

In Chapter 7 of Socialnomics, “Winners and Losers in a 140-Character World,” Erik Qualman discusses characteristics companies must now abide by if they plan to break even in a social-media driven world.  He provides the reader with examples of companies who have embraced social media and used it to grow and develop their companies.  Qualman also shares examples of companies who have the what’s-mine-is-mine mindset and have actually lost business due to their ignorance of social media, or their pure selfishness.  I was surprised when I read that Qualman thinks it’s acceptable to let others run your business for you, but his explanation makes sense: “Take advantage of what others who have already done the legwork to help you position your brand throughout the social media space” (p. 171).

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A comparison of Words with Friends and traditional Scrabble. Source: http://www.wired.com/geekmom/2012/10/hasbro-zynga-words-with-friends-board-game/

The example of Hasbro suing the makers of an application called Scrabulous helped Qualman prove his point.  If the company would have accepted the application or attempted to purchase it, they would have probably increased the number of customers instead of irritating people who already liked the application Scrabulous.  Reading this part of the chapter made me think of a similar application that is now popular: Words with Friends.  After doing some research, I found out that a company called Zynga developed the Words with Friends application that users can operate on smartphones, iPads, the computer, and other devices.  However, in 2012 a traditional version of the game was released.  Can anyone guess who was involved?  Yes, Hasbro.  I guess the company finally learned its lesson.  Although the traditional version of Words with Friends is basically the same as Scrabble, users who like the application (and younger users who may not even have ever played Scrabble) may prefer Words with Friends.

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A snapshot of Old Navy’s “Wear Us Out” board on Pinterest.  Source: http://www.pinterest.com/oldnavy/wear-us-out/

This lead to me think of how I have seen companies allow their customers to own the brand.  I am an avid Pinterest user.  On Pinterest, users can “pin” images they like to their virtual [bulletin] “boards.”  Users can see what their friends post and can “repin” something that a friend has already posted.  Users can also “tag” their followers in a post.  When I was off work over the summer, I used the application daily to look at fashion ideas and cookout recipes.  In June, I started following one of my favorite clothing brands – Old Navy.  Old Navy posts images of models wearing their latest trends, but the company also has a “board” dedicated to real people wearing their clothing called Wear Us Out.  Users can “tag” the company in an image, and it will show up on the “board.”  Old Navy representatives can also sort through tagged images, and then post the ones they like on the “board” too.  I think this is a brilliant idea to attract customers.  Of course, the models look good in Old Navy clothing.  However, their strategy makes me, as a customer, think that if these real people can put an outfit together with Old Navy clothing, I can too.  Old Navy is a great example of a company using social media to their benefit and letting customers do the work.

Social Media and Politics

When I first reviewed the books for the semester, I thought the book on Obama and Social Media in Qualman’s book would be a good read. I have never been interested in politics and was confused about the purpose of social media, but this looked like it might be a good introduction.

October 1st, 2013 I realized I need to pay closer attention to politics and who is being elected to represent our country. My husband was upset when Obama was elected in 2008 and down right pissed off when he was reelected in 2012. I was like, how bad can it really be? He can’t really bring down our country. Well, I think he has. To be fair, he didn’t do it by himself, he had help from Democrats and Republicans alike. On October 1st, 2013, my husband woke up for work, after just coming home from a 5 day deployment in South Carolina, got dressed and went to work at the 148th Fighter Wing, here in Duluth, MN. AT 730am i was getting my daughter on the bus and received a call. Because of what was happening in Washington DC, he was being furloughed for at least the next 4 days.

Over the next four days, I started using social media, I paid attention to a few reporters on twitter to help keep me up to date on what was happening. I had CNN and Fox News open on multiple tabs on my work computer. I was listening to the House of Representative and the Senate on-line as speeches were taking place. It got me thinking about how he was elected/re-elected. Reading this chapter helped me understand the importance of social media. This is really the chapter that helped it all sink in.

I found it really interesting the amount of twitter and Facebook followers that Obama had vs McCain and the way Obama used (and apparently) continues to use Social Media. They say Social Media is two way communication, but because I am still a newby with this, I am still using it as a One-Way communication. I get small bits of information given to me that I can read when it arrives. If I have to read an entire article to get the information, I have to take more time away from what I am doing to read the article.

One quote that sticks out to me in this chapter is “The key resides in the ability to identify and internalize issues that help precipitate change. Action earns support, not merely words”. To me this really personifies the two way communication. Social media allows the politicians to indicate what they are working on and for the followers to respond if they are in support or not. This can allow for the politicians to really understand what is concern of the people they represent.

As of this writing, my husband got the call to go back to work on Monday, thank goodness…he was driving me crazy sitting at home.

Search data only tells part of the story

I understand what Qualman is getting at this week, that search data can be used for many things to make the world a better place. It does bother me that he conveniently leaves out that this information should be used with caution, since it only tells part of the story. His example of search trends between “Obama” and “McCain” before the presidential election indicates that they were searched for, but there is no information about what searchers were looking for, or when they looked at in the results. This information was introduced as valid, but potential limitations were only alluded to. 

Qualman describes a future where we might use online voting, but I have strong reservations about that. Our current voting procedures are far from perfect, but at least most involve some sort of verifiable paper trail. Online voting would do away with that safeguard. I understand the excitement and convenience factors, but we need to make sure to proceed with caution. There is already a lot of potential for voter fraud under our current methods. I would hope that we hold off until we can guarantee that each vote is correctly accounted for before we proceed.

The Death of Social Schizophrenia was interesting to me. The chapter indicates that people are better off being comfortable with who they are rather than trying to be someone they are not, but then it provides several examples of people who paid the consequences for being genuine or sharing too much on social media. That seems like a contradiction to me. Then there was another example of an organization creating false accounts to screen potential job candidates, which to me seems like a different form of social schizophrenia. He advocates being comfortable with who you are, but also exercising strong self-censorship. That is probably good advice for anyone to follow.

The section on marketing hit home for me because I studied advertising in college. I appreciate the marketing philosophy of today because of the emphasis on being upfront and honest about the product. The prevalence of social media pretty much requires this approach if companies hope to succeed. 

I’m a fan of online forums, and I have seen several companies pay the price for bad service, poor products, or false advertising. Almost no company is immune to the potential destructive power of social media. It is essential for them to operate more transparently and honestly, or they taunt the wraith of social media users.

The Politics of Social Media: Country, Company, and Communication

If any of us still had doubts that our lives and our work are undergoing major changes as social media and other technologies continue to grow, this week’s readings might have really struck us hard. While I’ve participated in many of these technological changes as they’ve happened, I was still in awe when I read Qualman and Spilka’s impressions of what the cumulative impact of these transitions will look like.

Qualman expects a significant shift in how political campaigns are run based on Obama’s 2008 campaign in which he successfully utilized social media for getting his message out and increasing his popularity as well as for fundraising. I think this makes sense in the context of increased social media use for advertising because essentially a presidential candidate is advertising or selling himself/herself.

I do wonder whether there is any difference in the demographics that will be receptive to increased political social media advertising. My impression is that younger people, such as college students, tend to be more liberal while older people tend to be more conservative. Younger people also tend to use social media more actively than older people. Thus, I wonder whether conservative use of social media in campaigning will be as effective as liberal use because of the demographics in question and their media preferences.

Qualman generally paints a very rosy picture of social media and its ability to facilitate communication. It seems that his rule of thumb is that businesses should use negative comments to improve their products and their customer service rather than trying to delete them. I think though, especially as social media enters the political realm, that it is not always possible to take negative comments and turn them into a positive outcome.

Yesterday I was reading a Facebook post from the Obama administration which contained a factual update of the latest news about the government shutdown. An alarming number of people commented with vulgar language toward the President in posts that did not contain suggestions or anything else that could even potentially be productive. More people responded to those people by returning the vulgar language; thus the entire thread turned into something negative rather than something informative and productive. While sometimes the fact that anyone can post anything and have it be seen by many people is a benefit of social media, there are cases like this one where it can also be a negative.

Qualman also talks about the shift of product and service marketing from message and positioning focused to more customer-centric via social media. I’m not sure I agree with him here. For one thing, I think marketing has always been more customer focused than he gives it credit for. I think focus groups and market research, which have been around far longer than any of the technologies in question, are great examples about how marketers have always cared about what products, services, and features are important to their customers. Also, I think a company could have the best customer service in the world, but without a cohesive strategy and message, I don’t think they could possibly have a competitive product.

The Spilka reading offers more interesting food for thought about how our lives and jobs are changing as technology evolves. Spilka introduces the concept of a constant deskilling and reskilling where technical communicators will constantly need to get retrained as their job descriptions change. I think this analysis may be rather extreme. Because we now perform “knowledge work” or “symbolic-analytic work,” we think critically, and we work with concepts and information; I think these skills are easily transferrable to slightly different job functions and will not require us to retrain ourselves entirely.

I agree with Spilka’s point that although technical communicators will still be writers, editors, and product experts, our function will increasingly become adding value to information as our work becomes even more symbolic-analytic. It seems to me that the tone in talking about our functions evolving is negative, but I think it’s a good thing since we have a lot more to offer. In my job I already fill the roles of technical writer, product expert, editor, customer support person and usability consultant, and I think it allows me to grow, both personally and professionally, more than a traditional technical communications job would.

Technical Communicators, Prepare for the Future(!)

After several weeks of assigned readings, I think it is safe to say that technology changes and social media will continue to play an important role in pop culture, work life, and politics.  The internet and social media are here to stay and will continue to affect our lives, but, just like Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, I don’t think anyone knows exactly what impact they will have in the long run.  Although, how will technology changes and social media affect technical communicators, exactly?

  • Digital and print texts.  Due to increased digital literacy, technical communicators will continue to create texts designed especially for the internet.  Technical communicators must be able to design texts for print and hypertexts as long as the internet continues growing in use and accessibility.  In the future, technical communicators must master skills such as web design, in order to create effective documentation for users.
  • Different product, same user manual.  Technical communicators will need to be able to adapt their writings because “products being documented often differ from those that are mass produced” (Dicks, p. 58).  With the ability to custom order products to fit the customer’s lifestyle and needs, technical communicators must be willing to adapt the way in which they create user manuals or make them universal without being too vague.
  • Does this job come with benefits?  Many technical communicators will be “officially unemployed but constantly working. (p. 59).  Due to the changing needs of companies, technical communicators’ jobs will be contracted positions in the future.  To save money and office space, technical communicators will frequently work from home in the future, and employers will hire them on a temporary basis for special projects so that the company can avoid paying for an employee’s insurance and benefits.  Working from home can be a big benefit for employees.  According to a USA Today article, employees who work from home tend to be more productive and have a better work and life balance.

  • Social media.  I knew social media would be important for technical communicators after several of the assigned readings dealt with this topic, but I was still unsure of why so I needed to do some research.  Technical communicators will need to continue to embrace social media.  An article on InformationWeek explains that social media tears down the wall between the technical communicator and the user.  Furthermore, social media will encourage technical communicators to spend less time actually writing and more time curating the best wikis and videos to promote to users.  This change will somewhat devalue the role of the technical communicator, but will promote the role of community.

I hope these “tips” help you – I know that I will keep them in mind as I start looking for technical communicator positions!

Social Media…. I just don’t get it….Part 2

While I appreciated the history of technical communication and technical communicators, I just didn’t connect to the reading as much as I did with the Socialnomics reading. I was reading while watching my daughters’ swim class and just went “Huh…That’s me in one sentence.”

It was specifically the comment: “Why do I care?” and the response because you don’t understand. I just don’t get it. (I admitted this last week, see my blog post here.)  I go on Facebook and look at twitter, but I don’t post or tweet anything…Well, not nothing, but rarely anything. The New York Time posted an article in Sept 2008 about this in an article called “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy”. This was reviewed in a blog by Lightspeed Venture Partners and describes the phenomenon of posting and reading and keeping up with status updates as “Ambient Awareness”.

“People are willing to keep open running diaries as a way to stay connected because their ultimate desire it to feel accepted.” This comment from Socialnomics really hit home with me. I was not part of the “popular” crowd in high school and didn’t really relate to anyone in my short after high-school career. I believe this leads me to want to be accepted by my peers, but not really willing to put myself out there.

This whole wanting to be accepted thing has even followed me to UW-Stout. I love online learning because I can do things at my own pace and, for the most part, in my own time, but when it comes to discussions (and now blogs), I always feel like what I am trying to relate is not getting through. This relates to the professor communications as well, specifically grades. I had a professor last semester that said “If you are a Grade-obsessed student…”, I replied that I was, but really I just wanted to make sure that my work was acceptable and what was expected.

This maybe another reason that I hesitate about being more active in Social Media is a little bit about privacy. When you are constantly posting about what you are doing, who you are with, how you are feeling, you are really letting down the wall of privacy. Everyone can read that and see into you and your soul (to a point). I’m going to really date myself here….When I was in high school, we had car phones, not cell phones. the phones were mounted inside the car and if you were lucky, it was a portable phone that came in a case larger than most women’s purses. We did have the money to afford one of those, so I got a pager. When I gave the number to my Grandma, she said she would never use it. “You shouldn’t have to be that accessible to anyone.” is what she told me. it kind of sticks to me it this day, even as I know have a cell phone that fits in my pocket. She never did make it to this era of technology, but wonder what she would think about it now.

i-dont-always-go-to-the-gym-but-when-i-do-i-tell-facebook

If I embrace the concept of Ambient Awareness and make the assumption people do care and want to know what I am up to, maybe I need to start posting more updates about what I am doing and where I am going. I probably won’t post every day that I’m going to work or going home, but there are things that I think about sharing, but don’t because I feel that people just don’t care. But it turns out they probably do and I just don’t get it.

Social Media: It’s all in how you use it

I have to start out by saying that reading the Boyd article was strange to me because I witnessed some of the evolution of social networking sites. I guess it seemed odd to me reading the history of something that I participated in, and that still seems fairly recent to me.

I joined Facebook when it was first opened to @UWEC.edu email accounts, and I have been at least a semi active user since I joined. I also joined sites like MySpace and Live Journal, but I didn’t stay with them for very long. I definitely agree with Boyd’s classification of social network sites vs. social networking sites. Many of the successful sites are intended to maintain friendship networks that someone already has rather than expand an existing friend network. That option is still available through comments to posts, but it isn’t a main focus of the site.

Qualman brought up several points, but my experience with Facebook indicates those observations apply to some users, but sadly not all. He mentions that social media has led to a sort of preventative behavior because people recognize that their opinions and actions can have consequences when they are made public. Despite this preventative behavior factor, BuzzFeed still has lots of options when it compiles lists of racist or sexist remarks made on Twitter. A few examples of this are when Marc Anthony sang God Bless America at an MLB game, or when Miss New York was Crowned Miss America. Baron mentions that social network sites have an impact on people’s presentation of self, that individuals tailor their information and interests to display a certain appearance. I think a lot of people engage in this, but there are clearly many that are either proud of what they are, or the concept has not occurred to them.

I believe that braggadocian behavior could be a factor for some, such as posting numerous pictures of their perfect family or full albums of their trip to Europe, but I also see a lot of very mundane posts from friends about what they are watching on TV, making for dinner, drinking, bars they are headed out to, or just a general lack of motivation to do anything. He mentions a reduction in reality TV watching, and an increase in people going out and living their lives. While there may be some compelling evidence of this, I think a lot of people are still watching reality TV. With all the Twitter trending references they squeeze into shows, I would bet that a significant segment of their audience is watching the show while surfing Facebook or Twitter on their phone or computer. Those people are clearly not “going out and living their lives”.

He also provides examples of an elderly gentleman and a mother using their postings to a social network site to review their recent posts and take stock of their life. After reviewing those posts, they used it as motivation to make changes to their life. I certainly don’t think Qualman is wrong, but I think the concepts of self-censorship in social media and using social media to take stock of their life and get out and live it are lost on many people. Perhaps that is just my group of friends…

Social media’s impact on companies is very interesting to me. I definitely think that companies should use social media to put an ear to the ground and enhance customer experience. Rather than wasting time trying to hide bad experiences, they are going above and beyond to resolve those bad experiences in a public spotlight. This is a much more effective strategy because it is also good PR for them. The impact of a bad experience shared on Twitter or Facebook is much greater because of all the friends and friends-of-friends that could potentially see it.

I witnessed an interesting instance of this about a few months ago. An individual had launched a Kickstarter campaign over a year ago to release a game called The Doom that Came to Atlantic City. The campaign was a success, and everything seemed to be going fine, although with limited communication, until the bottom just fell out. The campaign creator emailed all backers and said that the game was dead in the water, and that he was working on providing backers with refunds. Unfortunately, that would take some time since he had already spent a portion of the funds on undisclosed things.

Within a week or two of that announcement, a company called Cryptozoic (which had no affiliation with the game at all) contacts the original creators of the game. They later issue an announcement that they will work with the creators of the game and release it to the backers at no additional cost. This wasn’t their problem to fix, and they could’ve easily done nothing. However, choosing to get involved how and when they did provided a massive amount of good will toward their company, and prompted many individuals to look at and then purchase some of their other products. They went from a company that many board game fans had not heard of, to a company that suddenly had a lot of buzz and positive attention.

I must be missing something, I just don’t get it.

I have not really seen Social Media work for me or affect the way I work. My company has three Facebook pages and at least two twitter accounts, but they are not being used in anyway to assist in customer relationships. Our Marketing Department is in charge of these and they do not post very often and when they do, they post about tradeshows or regulatory changes. They don’t seem to post about new changes to the applications or asking questions of our customer and/or followers. This may be because as much as we work with individuals, we work with companies and I’m guessing most of these companies do not have Facebook or Twitter because of the age of the people they treat.

One of the key points of Socialnomics is that “Consumers want to take ownership of your brand and brag about your product; let them!”. I don’t really feel like we are really using that connection that we could have. We do have an online presence for our customers, but it entirely encompassed within our application. there is no real sounding board for our customers to get  together and discuss their experiences, good or bad, about us. We are not providing our customer away to brag about the good service they receive or for them to discuss the bad services and allow us a way to correct those services.

I am far from what one would call ‘Social Network Savvy’. Yes, I have a facebook page, twitter and instagram accounts, and use pinterest, but I just don’t get it. Even as I sit here typing this blog, i just don’t get what I am doing. I don’t understand what I’m doing or why I’m doing it (other than its required for the class). I did all the readings, I reflected on them and just have a hard time finding something to relate to within these readings. Hopefully next week it will get easier or there will be something that I feel something about that will start the words flowing.

I guess I’m just new to all of this blogging and really this assignment is really no different than any other class and i just have to get myself out of this “Blogging is so different” mindset and just think of it as writing a discussion post and work harder at understanding what I should be getting out of the weekly readings. I never though at age 33 I wouldn’t be embracing a new technology or a new way of doing things. I need to embrace blogging, and look more at what Social Network Site and Social Networking can do for me. Maybe its time to update my LinkedIn page?

Blogging: My Newest Frontier

Originally, I thought I would start this post off by confessing that I have absolutely no experience with blogs, but that turns out to not be entirely true.  While it is accurate that this is my first post—yeah!—it turns out I’ve been reading blogs and not even realizing it. In reading “Searching for Writing on the Web,” Alex Reid lists the top 25 blogs and I am very familiar with 3 of them—The Daily Beast, Think Progress, and the Huffington Post.  Now that article is dated 2011, and 2 years is like a millennium in Internet time, so I don’t know if they’re still in the top 25, but it was comforting to realize I already knew something about blogs.

But not much.  For example, a former student of mine recently got hired to write a twice-weekly blog about holistic dentistry, and I didn’t quite understand why since, as far as I knew, she knew nothing about dentistry, holistic or otherwise. From her description, she is mostly serving as a “tipster,” about how to engage in holistic care of teeth and alternatives to traditional dentistry.  She doesn’t have to be a content matter expert, but rather just do some basic research and engage the material in a lively and readable way.  So, I’m still struggling  a bit to understand this medium and it’s multifaceted purpose, but I am looking forward to the education.

In my case, my mind tends to want to skip the theoretical and go straight to the practical application, often to my detriment, so I think I’ll need to proceed slowly in thinking about what use I might make of my newfound knowledge after class ends. In Langwitches blog post “What does it Mean to Be Literate?” the author cautions teachers to engage in some basic blogging education including “pre-reading and pre-writing”  skills such as understanding how blog platforms work before attempting a blog in the classroom.  I’m definitely still at the pre-writing and reading stage.

When I do feel more comfortable with this medium, one use I’d like to make of it regards my role as the chair of our campus’s “Common Read Program.”  One of my tasks is to get the students, faculty, and staff engaged in a larger dialogue than simply in individual classrooms or book groups.  Last year, our Writing Center held an essay contest and the prompt was tied to the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.  It was reasonably successful for a first-time effort, but I didn’t think the submissions really reflected the level of critical thinking we should be seeing from college students.

I’m wondering if a pre-writing blog might help students reflect on and clarify their thinking before they put pen to paper (keyboard to MS Word) for the essay contest?  “Learning with Weblogs: Enhancing Cognitive and Social Knowledge Construction,” suggests that “weblog technology fits with the constructivism learning theory, and argues that a weblog is a useful online tool for students to reflect and publish their thoughts and understanding.”  I can see some logistical problems already, however, such as the fact that we have about 1,650 students in our freshmen class alone, so I don’t know how exactly this would work.  I’ll be interested in learning more from my classmates and our readings as I formulate my goals and understand more about the medium.

By the way, our Campus Read book this year is Scoreboard, Baby by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry.  It’s a very engaging read, and I highly recommend it.  I’m using this as an excuse to see if I can master the skills of downloading a graphic.

Scoreboard baby cover

As I wrap up my first-ever blog post and I read what I’ve written, I’m trying to discern if it reflects anything I’ve read in “16 Top Tips from Blogging Experts for Beginners,” and I’m not entirely sure.  It seems clear that I’m writing for myself first, which is tip #2, so I suppose I’ve at least accomplished that. Another tip I read was “Get Ideas from Your Audience,” so I read my other classmates posts first and one thing I noticed is that, as a reader, I like bullet points such as those I read in “Testing, testing… What I’ve Learned from Blogging,” by sr hebert, so let me close with these points:

  • I’m very much looking forward to learning from my classmates
  • I feel a little more confident already
  • This course has already forced me to expand beyond my comfort zone because now I have both Skyped and blogged!

Best to you all!

Final Paper | How Did Social Media Effect Occupy UC Davis?

As I was searching for a paper topic, one was unfolding before me over the Thanksgiving holiday. I am writing about how social media played a role in the Occupy UC Davis movement and pepper spray incident that happened in the city I live. Maybe you heard about it on the news. My family in Wisconsin called the day after students were pepper sprayed and were surprised Davis made the national news. So, below is my proposal:

YouTube videos of the pepper spray incident shed light on campus police taking extreme measures to clear away non-violent protesters.

Education is very important to the citizens of the State of California. For a long time, tuition had been free or very inexpensive to residents of the state who were accepted at the University of California (UC) System. It is part of the California culture that low-cost higher education is a right and not a privilege. Within the past years due to a major budget crisis, the state has significantly increased tuition for its UC schools. A significant increase in tuition was one of the main reasons students have recently protested as part of the Occupy UC Davis movement.

While tuition increases have been protested in the past, the Occupy UC Davis movement has gained special attention due to social media. On November 18, campus police used pepper spray as self-defense on non-violent student demonstrators. The pepper spray incident was caught on video and uploaded to YouTube. The video went viral, and it gained national and international attention as the campus community and nation scrutinizes what went wrong. The incident even caught the attention of Jon Stewart, satirist and host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central who mocked the event on his show, stating there were better ways than pepper spray to get the attention of college students, like free tacos or Green Day in the quad.

College students are heavy social media users. Student protesters are heavily utilizing social media, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, creating wikis, and blogging. Social media gave them power to communicate what happened, and because of its viral nature, news of the event spread quickly to many people, including people across the country and across the globe. This is a paradigm shift in power from few distributing information to many, to many creating and distributing information. 

Campus administration and others with high authority roles on campus, including Chancellor Linda Katehi, do not implement social media the same way the students do. People like the chancellor have less time available to interface with social media and tend to rely on more traditional communication devices, including email, press releases, and websites. The chancellor’s staff assists her with communication duties, including sending and answering emails, facilitating her blog, and writing speeches. While Chancellor Katehi emailed the campus community after the pepper spray incident occurred, several hours had passed while her email statement made its way through the appropriate channels before it could be sent to all students, faculty and staff. While her email had an air of authority, the lag in time opened the opportunity for information from other sources to fill in the gaps of what happened. Timeliness of a message is important. Breaking the story first, whether completely accurate or not, is worth more now than it ever use to be due to social media.

There are positive and negative consequences of social media, including the speed and accuracy of the message. This includes accuracy of the message context. Other important issues include an increased participation and awareness, increased two-way interaction between sender and receiver, and an increased authority given to messages that appear online. By examining these issues, I hope to better understand social media’s role in the events that unfolded surrounding the Occupy UC Davis pepper spray incident.

 

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.

Week 8 | Social Media are Tools of Influence

This week’s readings cover many topics relating to how people use social media, including Twitter, product reviews (which I feel are a form of microblogging), and Facebook as tools of influence. Dave Clark’s chapter, Shaped and Shaping Tools on the rhetoric of technology is complex by the nature of its subject matter. He says that both rhetoric and technology are difficult to define individually, yet the two concepts go hand-in-hand. Nevertheless, it is even harder to define the rhetoric of technology. Clark says by its very essence, technology is rhetorical. When it comes down to it, Dave is examining how “technologies structure, shape, and influence the ways we communicate (p. 87).”

Twitter’s Influence
The structure of the author’s latest muse was 140 characters. He was marveling at the fact that while it was a simply coded program and a basic concept, the rhetorical implications of Twitter were very powerful. This was because Tweets are public (unless the author has an account with protected Tweets), Tweets are searchable and allow trends to surface, and Tweets in large numbers about the same subject can be powerful. Those who don’t use Twitter, yet have something powerful to say, lose an opportunity to compound the message through this potentially influential tool.

Product Reviews Influence
Twitter is changing how people communicate and who people communicate with. Similarly, other social media outlets are changing the way people shop online. I like how social media influences the way my friends and I shop. “Socialommerce is a referral program on sterroids (Qualman, p. 94), and “consumers are taking ownership of brands and their referral power is priceless (p. 97).” Qualman says that retailers are encouraging consumers to review products because whether a product is good or bad, eliciting feedback only helps the brand either sell more of the product or improve it. I look at online product reviews when I purchase things online and in the store. They often influence my purchasing decisions, too. Sometimes I write product reviews, too.
Yesterday I received an email request from Eddie Bauer to rate some outerwear I recently purchased online. Since reviewing seemed easy to do, and I liked my new purchases, I took a minute to review the products. On the other hand, I have also reviewed products I didn’t think were that great. I bought a clothes drying rack at a Target store. The rack is low quality and keeps falling apart. While I could no longer return it to the store because the 90-day return period had passed, I decided I could at least write an online review in hopes others not to make the same purchasing mistake I did.

Facebook’s Influence
Shoppers consider anonymous online product reviews, but shoppers also seek the advice of people they know via social media. Just the other day, I saw my friend recruited her friends’ advice on Facebook. She wanted recommendations on best smartphones, but not from anonymous reviewers or technology experts. Since people generally feel strongly about phone brands like Droid and iPhone, her friends and family rushed to her aid. She received many comments on the best phones to buy. Seeking advice gave my friend a list of phones to consider and hopefully helped her narrow down her options.
Companies miss an opportunity to connect with consumers when they don’t utilize social media like Facebook. I love shopping at Trader Joe’s, but I feel the company is missing out on a great advertising opportunity by having a profile on Facebook. The store could tell people about new products, new store locations, specials, and fun recipes to try.

Other Clever Ways to Influence Consumers
In “Winners and Losers in a 140-Character World,” Qualman discusses how integrating product advertising into the programming like the Charles Schwab podcast is smart, but it is not new. When I was young, my mom listened to famous announcer, Paul Harvey on the radio. Paul often endorsed products on air like the Bose Wave Radio. He was known for endorsing his favorite products on air (in turn for advertising support for his program). I felt that when Qualman talked about product advertising incorporated into programming, it was a tangent and not so much about social media. However, maybe it is best to think about it as talking to people where they are and where they will listen. Social media are powerful tools, and they shape the way people and companies communicate.

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?

Week 4 | It’s a Social Media Explosion!

Upon reading this week, I gained a better understanding of social media. I see it as an influential exploding social force. Having a social media presence is not just for teenagers, but for professionals and companies alike. The readings better defined social media, and I picked up a few great vocab words along the way. These include:

  • Braggadocio-describing Facebook posts that boast of awesome fun adventures one recently had (I went mountain climbing and parasailing last weekend, and wow it was awesome—aren’t you jealous sort of thing).
  • Vanity search-Using a search engine to search oneself and especially one’s company to get a clear picture of what the public is saying about the person or the company.
  • Microblogging-Short form of blogging, like Twitter
  • Web 2.0-Website view interacts with the website, as opposed to viewing it passively
  • Social Media-Content developed by users
  • Social Networking-Building relationships and sharing information (a part of social media)

All the readings did not draw a clear line between personal social media use and professional social media use. They all bounced back and forth between the two. It is somewhat symbolic though, as I read in Socialnomics that the lines between work and play for young generations tend to be fuzzy. For this generation, some would prefer, using some of the the work weekday for play (i.e., social networking) and using the weekends to catch up on work (Qualman, 55).

I was surprised to read that social media was overtaking email and that young generations feel that it is yesterday’s method of communication (Qualman, 46).I was even more surprised to read that Boston College was no longer providing students with BC email addresses. An article on Read Write Web stated that students already have online identities established, including email addresses.

Companies are discovering how to leverage influence in consumers’ eyes. Companies like Nike are providing valuable and useful tools like jogging aps. The consumer uses the tool and feels like they own the brand—make it a part of who the person is. The person using the ap shares results of a jog with friends on Facebook (with subtle Nike branding), and voilà, Nike’s sphere of influence expands to all the people on the jogger’s Facebook page.

My company started a Facebook page. It’s safe to say that whatever is posted on the Facebook page is a part of the West Yost brand. Whatever I put on my own Facebook page becomes my individual brand. A corporate Facebook page is slightly different in that it’s more about what other people are saying—good or bad.

Comcast came up several times in the readings as case studies. Comcast provides internet, cable, and phone to millions of customers. However, Comcast has strong competition, including Time-Warner, AT&T, DirecTV, Dish Network, and others. Comcast must pay attention to what people say about the it, especially customers who make decisions about which service provider to use. People—potential customers—pay attention to what others are saying. What was said about a company use to be more company controlled. With social media, the user now plays a strong role in what is said about a company. Companies like Comcast must find out what others are saying and make sure
customers are happy.

Social media is influential in behavior modification, in both companies and individuals. If a company with a Facebook page doesn’t have anything to brag about (like winning awards), social media dictates that the company might modify its behavior and do things that are more interesting or beneficial. Likewise, a teenager might be influenced to behave herself if she knows that her mother, who is in her social friend network, might see whatever mischief the teen has been up to if it is posted on Facebook.

Social media is definitely influential at a corporate and individual level. I thought of a few types social media may not be as compatible with. This includes psychologists  with crazy stalker patients, recluses, members of the CIA, indigenous tribes on remote tropical islands, criminals, and antidisestablishmentists. The article, “Is Social Networking for You?” discusses that in claiming and shaping an online footprint, businesses can grow their sphere of influence and take charge of their initiatives (Molisani, 11). Professionals alike should use social media because having an internet footprint can bolster credibility. (Molisani, 12-13). Those not in the groups I mentioned should give social media and social networking a shot.

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.