Why Social Media is Important to Technical Writers

A long time ago…the world was created…and in this great world, there was a great order of communication with many laws. One law stated that engineers should not be allowed to speak to end-users and so, technical writers were born.

Okay, that’s not really how or why we were created. But the reality is, technical writers did come into existence because there was a gap between a user’s ability to instantly understand a program or a product without assistance…and his/her ability to understand a program or product WITH the assistance of an engineer/developer.

In many cases, what fascinates and impresses a developer has little to do with the end-user. There is so much knowledge that the developer has learned, that does not impact directly on the end-user’s typical workflow. And, by contrast, there is so much going on inside the minds of users that has little to do with the mechanics of creating the functionality within an application.

So, for years, technical writers have been writing; and end-users have been reading; and programmers have been developing. In more recent years, with the continued growth of social media, engineers are once again directly in touch with end-users…or they can be. The question, of course, is should they be?

It is at this moment, that we remember that there was a reason why technical writers were brought into the picture in the first place, and a reason why our participation in the user experience remains a critical element in the success of a product.

What has changed is not the need for our services as technical writers, but rather a need for us to expand what services we offer. We still need to provide valuable user content but now we need to be more involved in identifying and meeting the needs of users who want that information from a different access point. Rather than turn to the standard PDF user manuals, and perhaps even the help files we’ve been generating for years, users are turning to social media – to YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, etc.

The challenge for technical writers is to meet them there, in these other venues and provide answers there.