Unit 7: Communicating on the Internet
As the Internet rapidly expands, so does the opportunity for businesses to share information and reach audiences online. Technical Writers are increasingly called upon to craft communications to reach a broad online audience. The unit explores how the Internet is used to communicate and how to apply the foundations of technical writing effectively to reach online audiences.
Reading and writing for the Internet presents certain challenges that the printed word doesn't. The largest concern is the shortened attention span of Internet-based readers and reduced reading comprehension. Given the scrolling feature and the ease of clicking away, savvy writers for the Internet tailor their communications with headings, short paragraphs, clear and engaging visuals, and links for further development.
Additional points to consider when writing for the Internet are how to use social media as a tool for both communications and marketing. Given how easy it is to share communication online, the technical writer should be well versed in the social media tools and the common practices for writing on each of the interfaces. For example, what works on a blog post would not work in a tweet. The technical writer must learn how to translate the same idea for several different types of social media and in a way that reaches the intended audience.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 12 hours.
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- distinguish between the variety of online publishing opportunities;
- describe how different online writing contexts impact audience, document design, and creation;
- apply an understanding of purpose, audience and visual presentation in assessing new communications contexts; and
- describe the ethical and safety issues regarding communication and the Internet.
7.1: "New Media" and Generating Content for the Web
Read this section and complete the end of section exercise. Pay special attention to the reflection questions after the activity. In addition to the questions posed in the activity, consider why it is important to understand the revenue streams behind websites as a technical writer, and explore how revenue can impact content.
Read this article for an overview of new media writing and key issues to consider.
Read this article on remediation – the process of transforming the content from one medium into another.
Read this section and complete exercise 2. Share your work with a colleague, friend or family member.
Read this section and complete exercises 1–3.
- Make a submission
When designing communications for use on social media and websites, a technical writer should keep in mind this process of sharing and reshaping as discussed in the links. Moxley's article notes that "a company's new patent or product could be discussed via a news release, a blog, a Twitter stream, or a video commercial". In a paragraph (75–100 words), discuss how a company you are familiar with could share in a message in multiple ways online. What might that message be? What ways/forms might it be reshaped in?
Read this article. While the bulk of the article is about how to use blogs in the classroom, the author discusses the role of blogs to create public discourse. Companies and nonprofit organizations often use blogs to communicate with potential clients and customers. These blogs inform about new products and services as well the general conditions in the industry.
Read this section. As you read, think about why sound bites would be important elements of the communications that technical writers create given the characteristics of new media. When organizations and companies gain so much from viral exposure, technical writers must consider how to gain that viral exposure. The sound bite it a great first step in that process. Complete exercises 1 and 2 at the end of the section.
Explore the following blog examples:
Blogs can be written on a variety of subjects for both personal and professional reasons. For example, in a context for advancing your own career, if you are looking to demonstrate prowess in a new field of study or interest, you could begin to blog about the subject to increase how many people associate you with that new subject. After reviewing some of the examples, brainstorm a list of topics you could write blog entries on, either personally or professionally. In a separate paragraph, make note of the formatting and visual design elements the blogs share. Which ones are effective at capturing your attention and keeping you reading?
- Make a submissionIn a paragraph (50–75 words), brainstorm some ways a business you are familiar with could use blogs to communicate with their customer base.
7.3: Social Media for Businesses
7.3.1: Getting Started with Social Media
- Review this image, which describes using social media in business.
Read this article on social media marketing.
- Make a submissionIn a one-page memo to a supervisor, propose the steps necessary to get a business online and interacting with customers/clients. Remember to follow the best practices and format for developing a memo that you learned in unit 2 of this course and for process documents in Unit 4.
7.3.2: Online Markets
Read this article, which goes into great detail about the ways in which business analyze and discover their audiences online. This process is not that much different from the audience analysis that we learned about in the beginning of this course.
- Make a submissionIn paragraph (50–75 words), brainstorm who the online customer/client audience might be for a business that you work for or want to work for. What traits do they possess? Where can they be found online?
7.3.3: Using Social Media Tools
Read this section, which describes ethical and privacy issues related to social media.
- Make a submissionIn a paragraph (50–75 words), discuss how a business might use these tools to connect with, inform, and persuade clients/customers. Discuss real world examples you have encountered.
7.3.4: Using Social Media Effectively
Read this article, which gives a short overview of social media use for a small business.
Read this article on using social media effectively in a business context.
Read this article, which gives another perspective on using social media effectively.
- Make a submissionConsider the suggestions in these articles about how to use social media effectively. In a paragraph (75–100 words), analyze the social media use of a business you would like to work for or do work for in light of these principles. What areas are they strong in? Where could they improve?
Read this article on using Twitter as a form of professional writing.
Read this article on optimizing business related tweets.
- Make a submissionWith the advice from these articles in mind, compose a few tweets that would share information with the clients and customers a business you would like to work for or one that you do work for. Remember to stay under 280 characters in each message.
7.4: Discussion Forums
Read this article. While it discusses ways to comment on a classroom discussion forum, the comments sections on blogs, social media websites, and even some company's own web pages create opportunities for online discussion.
In fact, be sure to check out the discussion forum here!
Read this article on how you might manage your online public identity.
- Make a submissionIn a paragraph (50–75 words), discuss the issues surrounding employees engaging as representatives of the company when replying to comments on websites.
Read this article. It is important to know how these open source documents work because many entries on wikis (like Wikipedia) are about companies and the people that work for them. Knowing how to create and correct any information on a wiki related to you or your company is a great skill to have as a technical writer.
Read this article.
- Make a submissionIn a paragraph (50–75 words), summarize the types of information and the organization of the information you find. Discuss what value these wiki pages provide to their audiences and if you see any areas for improvement.
7.6: Concerns for Online Writing
Read this article on digital ethics, which is sometimes called "netiquette".
Read this section, which gives an overview of mass communication on the internet. Pay attention to the sections on bias and credibility.
Read this article. There is a distinction between communicating online in a professional capacity and communicating online as a private person. As this article discusses, some employees face repercussions for discussing their work life via social media.
- Make a submissionIn a paragraph (75–100 words), consider the questions in the third paragraph in terms of your personal use of Internet-based communication. What guidelines govern your own posting? How do you choose to present yourself online? How does knowing these implications help you to shape better documents for Internet-based media in a professional capacity?
- Make a submissionIn a paragraph (50–75 words), summarize some of the concerns faced by businesses communicating online. Reflect on your personal experiences with these challenges. What challenges might you anticipate as a technical writer in the workplace?
- Make a submissionIn a paragraph (50–75 words), discuss what social media policies exist in your workplace or the stance that you might take for yourself about what is okay to post online regarding your professional life. Why are these boundaries necessary?
Unit 7 Assessment
- Receive a grade
In this assessment, you will apply the concept of text to visual remediation to produce a meme. Respond to the questions to evaluate your work, and then use the sample responses to assess how effective you were.
- Receive a grade
In this assessment, you will write a blog post and then answer a series of questions to evaluate your work. You will also be given sample responses that will help you assess your writing.
- Receive a grade
In this assessment, you will write posts for social media. You will then assess your work using a rubric and a series of sample responses.