How Do Technical Writers Use Social Media?

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tabletWhat’s the big deal?

Social media is changing the way people communicate—communication is constant, prolific, and global. So, if you’re looking to share your craft with the world, you better jump on the social media bandwagon! This article will explain how and why technical writers are using some of the more popular social media outlets: Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. (This article will not include information about Facebook; studies suggest that you’re already using it!)

Professional communicators must work harder because we’re now in competition for attention with the voice of the crowd. So, we need to create as many voices as we can to tell a consistent story about what we do. By doing so, we can drive more employers, clients, and users to our work. It seems the most successful (freelance) writers are staying up-to-date with the ebb and flow of new technologies and applications. And, because writers maintain a consistent profile across all their media, they generate and/or perpetuate their writing careers.

So, Which Outlets Do Technical Writers Use?

That answer is easy—all of them! The best way to make the most of social media is to have each of your profiles point to another or all of your other profiles. Keep your message or interests clear and identical—the more ways you can get yourself out there, the more successful you’ll be at using social media to bolster your writing career. Many technical communicators use social media outlets to

  • Network with other writers
  • Join discussions about topics related to technical writing
  • Stay abreast of trends in technical communication
  • Find a job
  • Gain clients
  • Market their services

Twitter

Twitter is a free, web-based social network and micro-blogging application that allows users to send tweets (text-based messages of up to 140 characters). Twitter is a great forum for you to learn from thought leaders.

As a Twitter user, you can also follow others—those who

  • Have the answers to your questions
  • Have conversational interests similar to yours
  • Represent your area of expertise

Usually following is reciprocal; once you start following someone, he/she will start following you. Therefore, be picky about you who follow so that you can maintain the professional integrity of your Twitter handle.

When you make the most of it, Twitter will help you

  • Build relationships with your clients, customers, and peers
  • Connect you with influential members of your industry
  • Drive traffic to your website or other social media outlets
  • Establish yourself as an expert

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a web-based networking site for experienced professionals from all over the world. Many employers report that they use LinkedIn as their only method of recruiting new employees. But LinkedIn has become so much more than a job search tool. Using LinkedIn, you can network with the professionals you need to work with to accomplish your goals. You can use LinkedIn to

  • Manage your professional profile and brand
  • Network with others in your field
  • Share your expertise and knowledge
  • Discover opportunities

The more active you are on LinkedIn, by joining groups, giving recommendations, or commenting on other members’ posts, the more visible you’ll be. To get started, check out these groups related to technical writing:

  • Society for Technical Communication (STC)
  • Technical Writer of Writers
  • Writing Mafia
  • Software user groups (Users of MadCap Flare, Friends of FrameMaker, etc.)

You can also check out your alumni group, as well as the following groups to get more tips for using LinkedIn and Twitter:

  • LinkedIn Strategies
  • Twitter Strategies

Pinterest

Pinterest is a social networking site that “connects everyone in the world through the things they find interesting.” In contrast to Twitter and LinkedIn, Pinterest relies on visual posts called pins to connect members.

Pinterest is an image-heavy, information-sharing website that lets you save, organize, and share pictures and links you find online on boards. You can follow other people, called pinners, in Pinterest-speak, and like or comment on their pins. You can also link your Pinterest account to your Facebook or Twitter accounts, which will build messaging consistency and drive more visitors to all of your social media outlets.

At first, figuring out how a technical writer can use a primarily visual outlet may prove difficult. However, once you browse around through the boards, you’ll notice that, increasingly, more pins are being added by writers, who are using Pinterest as a bulletin board to collect ideas for blogs, share links to their work, and more.

Michelle V. Rafter, a business journalist, suggests that writers are using Pinterest to:

  • Support blogging by collecting ideas
  • Drive traffic to a blog
  • Help with story development
  • Get inspired
  • Keep tabs on the media business

Early research indicates that Pinterest is more effective in driving website traffic than other social media sides, including Facebook. So, any business or individual who relies on driving a high-volume of traffic to its website should join Pinterest.