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Using social networks to collaborate on content development

October 19, 2012

Social networking has exploded over the past few years. Corporations added Facebook pages to extend their websites, product user groups have sprung up on LinkedIn and Yahoo and a host of other sites, and even Twitter’s gotten in on the action.

But for most part, it feels like companies are using social networks for two things– marketing or customer support.

How many are leveraging social networks to develop technical information?  A few months ago, I read and reviewed Confluence, Tech Comm, and Chocolate by Sarah Maddox, a technical writer with some great ideas for doing just that. One of my favorites? Using Twitter to connect users in a high tech Dragon Quest, which was really a way to tackle a complicated integration process.

Technical Information has a bad image…  everyone hates reading instruction guides. They’re long, they’re usually boring, and don’t always dive deep enough into the content to truly help users. And the process for fixing them is even longer.

Social networks mean we — technical writers, not Marketing, not Support, not even the contractor hired to create some survey — can have direct access to our audience.

How do we make it happen?

I see this is a two-phase process. First, you have to get people to listen to you. Second, you have to encourage them to help, make it too much fun –as Sarah did — not to. T

Yeah, easier said than done. I know. But it’s a start.

Phase 1: 

In the Listening phase, we need to show our audience, our end users, what’s good about our technical content. Find the success stories, the examples when a revised procedure solved a customer’s problem and share them — Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Get the word out that Technical Information is more than long, boring manuals.

Phase 2: 

In the Encouraging phase, we need a mechanism that makes it easy for readers, the users of our information, to report problems, suggest changes or additional topics, and even submit their own content. Wiki, website, or even blog technology works well, depending on the scope of your information set.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten.

Are you collaborating with your customers on content development? How are you doing this? Where do social networks fit into your process? 

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