Writing is more complicated today, even though the grammar and spelling rules are the same. While it’s not new to have to talk to a particular audience, when you’re connecting in the landscape of the Internet, you have a few more people who might be looking at your words.
It’s not enough, it seems, to write something that’s interesting or true. Instead, writers have to focus on how they connect to the audience they target. You can’t just write an article anymore. You need to connect with your audience through Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets.
While you might have thought this would be an article on how technical writers might get a date, that’s an article better saved for another site. That said, there are a number of relationships that are important to the technical writer on an ongoing, everyday basis – and they deserve as much attention as other relationships (but with less flirting).
Technical writers should cultivate relationships with:
Follow WAI On LinkedIn
LinkedIn already has established that it’s the place for professionals to meet and greet each other, but does this mean anything to the technical writer? Absolutely. When creating a document or a user manual, a technical writer can reach out to any one of the many groups of writers on LinkedIn, possibly to learn more about the subject, but more often than not to improve their documentation delivery.
LinkedIn Groups for Technical Writers
Some of the technical writing related groups on LinkedIn include:
Once upon a time, James Erwin was writing software manuals in Des Moines, Iowa. An everyday technical writer, he spent his days trying to ensure that information could be easily used and digested by the reader. Until something happened. And that ‘something’ was social networking.
As James Erwin was commenting about a movie online, his comments received so many responses that he got noticed online. He was offered a job writing a screenplay and had to quit his technical writing job. So, the question becomes, can technical writing skills help to foster a career in another field of writing – like script writing?
Just when you thought there were enough social networks in the world…Technical Writing World emerges. Created by technical writers for technical writers, this free social network appears to offer something new to the world of networking – a place for professional development and camaraderie. While LinkedIn can offer similar groups, a purely technical writing website is an interesting offering – and one that deserves more exploration.
What Technical Writing World Includes
Communication evolved as soon as Facebook and Twitter became more popular. While they might have been used to talk with friends at first, they’ve become places where ideas are shared and where technology can change because of one comment. Though there are downsides to social media when it comes to productivity, technical writing teams can benefit from staying connected.
Editor’s Note: This was the feature article in this month’s TechCom Manager newsletter, reprinted here with permission. Click the previous link to subscribe to the newsletter.
by Nicky Bleiel
Software companies have been interacting with their users online for many years. It’s common to find forums where users can interact with one another AND the company, as well as with web sites that provide multiple forms of assistance. Since 2004, ComponentOne has maintained HelpCentral, a web site that includes forums, knowledgebase articles, FAQs, videos, documentation, access to tech support, and code samples. Search engines can easily locate the site and its content.
Except for the forums, none of this falls into the social-media category. However, HelpCentral is an example of a one-stop, user-assistance shop that includes user peer-to-peer conversations, with a large helping of self-help information. But, as described by supply-chain folks, HelpCentral is a “pull” system. You have to open the site and to see what it offers, or use a search engine and find it.
In his blog, Many Ways to Learn, Mike Petersell asks, “Learning vs. Recruiting: Who Would Win a Social Media War?“
In the post, Mike gives examples that helped him reach his conclusion that:
“If learning people faced recruiting people in a social media war, the learning people would lose.”
Probably the most telling example was that his local ASTD chapter hosted an excellent and informative meeting on social media usage. The guest speaker? A recruiter.
We think Mike (a proponent of using social media for internal training purposes) has a valid point. We’ve learned this from actual experience, in fact. Trying to find professional trainers and instructional designers/developers in social media is no easy task, while it seems recruiters are everywhere you look.
But it’s not just learning professionals who have been slow to join the social media bandwagon. We’ve also brought up the point with our recent post, How Technical Documentation Professionals Can Use Twitter.
We’re not entirely sure of the reasoning behind this, but it could be partially due to the fact that recruiting firms are all about marketing: marketing jobs to candidates and candidates to employers. Because social media has taken such a stronghold as a new marketing tool, it would only make sense that recruiters would be among the early adopters.
Admittedly, even as professional specialty recruiters, WAI has only recently joined the wonderworld of social media. It is indeed a strong marketing tool, but we also find that it helps us stay in touch with what’s going on with both candidates and potential employers.
Social media certainly holds considerable promise for learning professionals, technical communicators and a myriad of others. It just seems that those uses have not yet been fleshed out to the point where they’ve reached adoption by the masses in these professions. What do you think?
Source: Learning vs. Recruiting: Who Would Win a Social Media War?
Related: How Technical Documentation Professionals Can Use Twitter
Since WAI has recently joined Twitter, I really hadn’t had time to think much about how technical documentation professionals like technical writers and others could really make the most of having a Twitter presence.
This post by Anne Gentle published on Twittip certainly stirs the imagination. While her post applies mainly to staff tech writers, she first discusses how technical writers can get started with Twitter:
- Monitor and listen first
- Play your part
- Give more than you get
These steps apply to pretty much anyone who uses social media in general and Twitter specifically, but it’s the suggestions she has for how members of a company’s technical documentation team can help provide information on products and applications they document through Twitter that caught my eye, such as the idea of using Twitter as a medium for release notes.
I’m sure with the ingenuity and creativity many in the technical documentation community enjoy, it’s just a matter of time that this method of keeping customers advised really takes hold.
In what ways are your technical communications and tech support staff using Twitter or other forms of social media to get the word out about your products, latest releases, etc.? Have you given it consideration?
LinkedIn, like other forms of social media and social networking sites, is growing increasingly popular as an effective way to recruit employees.
While recruiters are still using big job board websites, like Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and CraigsList.com to find applicants to fill job vacancies, contacts from these “traditional” sources often include hundreds of resumes from unqualified applicants and plenty of spam.
In her article, Use LinkedIn for Recruiting Employees, Susan Heathfield, About.com Guide to Human Resources provides specific insight from several recruiters on how they are using LinkedIn to find qualified applicants for open positions. And, as she correctly points out:
“The potential for LinkedIn and other social networking sites to play a major role in your employee recruiting strategy increases as millions of potential employees profile themselves on these sites each year.”
Source: Use LinkedIn for Recruiting Employees
For Applicants: Social Media – Are You Missing Out?
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