Adobe eSeminar

On April 20th, I presented one half of an eSeminar, sponsored and organised by Adobe, aimed at stimulating some discussion around how technical communicators can use social media to connect with customers.

A recording of my session is available here (part one here).

The slides I used are available on Slideshare, and I should point out the ‘live tweets’ by Dawn Gartin, quote-tastic!

And I thought it would be good to post my notes for each slide. Enjoy.

Slide 1 – Blogging: The Visible Conversation
Why I think blogging is something technical writers should be doing.

Slide 2 – Agenda
Why I think technical writers should blog and the problems we face that blogging can help overcome
A look at a couple of barriers that you may come across within your organisation
Advice from the trenches on how to start up your own blog

Slide 3 – Why Blog?
There are two themes that every technical writer has experienced:
1. Getting access to your audience
2. Gaining visibility within your own organisation
Blogging can help with both of those, and more.

Slide 4 – Interact with your audience
Is this the biggest gripe in our industry?
It’s hard to do
We are stuck in push mode, lots of information pushed out but not much in the way of feedback comes back
Little pull of information back into the technical writing team
Even less face-to-face time with the customer

Blogs won’t solve this problem entirely, but:
Blogs give you push & pull in one place – write a post, receive comments (feedback) about it
Can be used to keep customers informed
An excellent way to interact with your customers

Slide 5 – Gain some visibility
(No, that’s not me in the photo)

The value of information has changed with the growth of the internet and particularly through the conversations happening, enabled by social media
Senior Management and Executive teams are aware of this, social media is their current buzzword
Engage with them, leverage the fact it’s on their minds

Technical writers are in the BEST position to start or help with a blog – we produce the best content.

Don’t let marketing take over though!

Slide 6 – Be part of the conversation
The conversation about your product, or about the information you provide, is (likely) already happening
So some searching, are there blogs about your product? is it discussed on mailing lists? on forums? on Twitter?
Your customers are already using social media, join them, they’ll be happy to have you there.

Slide 7 – It’s about the content
Blogging suits technical communicators
Good content is a must for a blog and we are the best people in our organisation at producing it!
Blogging is 50-60% about good content, if the content is poor, people won’t return (the other 40-50% is interacting, reading, commenting, being part of the conversation elsewhere).
Why not re-use some of the content you already have?
Blogging is just one channel of information, the others remain valid

Slide 8 – People who blog tend to…
Being part of the conversation (part of the blogosphere) means you should monitor what other people are saying.
It’ll broaden your catchment area
It may highlight new areas of product usage you didn’t know about, or hadn’t considered
It will bring items of interest into your view, items you may not have found yourself.
It may bring you in contact with your competitors

Slide 9 – Hurdling the barriers
Typically there will be two barriers, these are the same in most organisations:
1. Money
2. Fear of the unknown

Slide 10 – Access to your audience
The money barrier is an easy one to get over
The number people want numbers, so give them numbers!
How much would it cost to get you (or your entire team) out to visit a customer? OR
How much would it cost to get some customers to your offices to talk about the documentation?
And how much does it cost to set up and run a blog? A fraction of the cost of face-to-face visits!

Bonus: Blogging will help you identify the ‘good’ customers, those that are invested in your product and want to help out. THOSE are the customers you want to meet face-to-face and blogging can act as a screening mechanism for you.

Slide 11 – Scary Conversations
Blogging sets an expectation of openness
Company MUST buy-in to this and be willing to converse
You need to figure out what to do if something ‘bad’ happens – negative comments, public complaints and so on.
If handled properly, openly and honestly, these things can actually help make you and your company look better (things happen, it’s how you deal with them that people notice)

BUT

If you don’t want an open & honest conversation, don’t have one. Do not start a blog.

Slide 12 – Getting Started
If you get his far, well done!
Presumably by now you know WHY you want to blog, and you’ve convinced the powers-that-be to let you try.
Now what?

Slide 13 – Stop and Think
The first thing you should do is stop, be prepared to plan.
Temptation is to just setup a blog (is very easy) and start, DON’T!
You need to ask yourself some questions

Slide 14 – 5Ws and 1H
Who will write for the blog? Do they understand why?
Who will monitor and moderate the comments?
What will the content be? Maybe highlight a product feature, or republish snippets from existing documentation? Ask your audience what they want!
When? Schedule the first set of posts to ensure you have a regular schedule in place – minimum 2 per week for 3 months
Where? Find a good place on your company website, no point burying the blog or locking it away behind a login, you WANT these conversations.
Why? Already covered in previous slides but, once you have answers to all of the above, check the reasoning is still the same
How? The technie bit – WordPress, Drupal, Joomla? Doesn’t really matter but it MUST have comments.

Slide 15 – DON’T
A blog must sound like a person wrote it, an honest, funny, likeable person.
A blog that overly uses corporate language will soon lose followers, they can read that on the company website
And don’t measure success by the number of comments alone

Slide 16 – DO
Good examples of blogging policies can be found on the internet – Sun, Acrobatusers.com
Commenting is a key part and the best way to drive traffic. Shows that you understand how it works, that you are willing to engage in the blogosphere and aren’t just sitting waiting on people coming to your blog.

Slide 17 – Dylan was wrong
Sorry Bob, times aren’t “a changin'”…

Slide 18 – Times have changed
What was the last big change in Technical Communications?
I asked on Twitter, two suggestions – XML (has it really made THAT big an impact?), DTP (made it easier to publish)

Social media is not a fad
People have changed (and others are changing) their approach and their attitudes about how they access and receive information.

Slide 19 – Quote from Conversation & Community
Blogging is not the be all and end all
Blogging is just one channel and doesn’t replace the need for product documentation, for verified information.
Your blog should compliment other channels of information

Slide 20 – Join the conversation
Get in touch, drop me a line!