Tech Writing for Social Networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) (take II)

Subject: Tech Writing for Social Networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) (take II)
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Julie Stickler <jstickler -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2009 10:05:22 -0400

Julie Stickler asked an important question: <<So according to this new
social media paradigm I, the admittedly introverted technical writer,
should be spending my working hours pretending to be extroverted and
chatting up users on the Internet?>>

The goal isn't to "play" anything or deceive anyone. Just like when we
have to go interview SMEs, it's part of the job. No role playing, no
attempts to pretend to be someone you're not -- just do what you're
paid to do, namely learning about your audience. This is one of those
activities that many consider expendable, but it really isn't.

<<Or is social media better suited to sales and marketing, where there
are more extroverted personalities?>>

They should be using it too, but in different ways and to achieve
different goals.

<<How many hours a day would one be getting paid to do this? How many
tweets a day is sufficient before a writer can get back to writing

There isn't any "quota" you must fulfill for this kind of activity: Do
it when you need to obtain information; don't do it when you don't, or
when deadlines take priority.

<<I'm curious as to how this fits in with the "too much work, not
enough writers" scenario that I've encountered at every tech writing
gig that I've had so far.>>

It always comes down to some form of triage. Clearly, you can't go to
your boss just before the product ships and state proudly that you
haven't actually documented anything, but that when you do, it will
superbly meet the needs of the users. <g> At the end of the day, you
still have to produce something.

This kind of social interaction provides clear benefits when it lets
you answer key questions you might not otherwise have thought about
(thereby saving hours of technical support calls), when it lets you
eliminate whole chunks of documentation because they're not necessary
or streamline them by providing only the key details (i.e., so you
don't waste time writing that information), when it lets you design
the documentation right the first time (i.e., so you don't waste time
going down blind paths), and so on. If the product developers use
these technologies, joining them online (or at least monitoring what
they have to say if you're truly introverted) can also provide useful

Bottom line: You still have to write the docs. Use the social
networking tools when they help you accomplish this goal, and avoid
them when they don't.

Geoff Hart (
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Re: Tech Writing for Social Networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.): From: Julie Stickler

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