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Social Media and the Importance of Written Communication

February 7th, 2014 by

Social Media and the Importance of Written CommunicationWhen it comes to written communications, words are all that we have. Nobody can see the writer’s subtle facial expressions, a sympathetic shrug, or even extravagant hand gesticulations when a person is reading. A well placed comma, alluring word choice, and other grammatical cues are all we have to further communicate with our readers. So, how do you connect? How do you write that one meaningful phrase that will resonate strongly with your insert target audience (employees, industry experts, new customers, old acquaintances, guy you randomly cold-called, etc.)? Unfortunately, when it comes to building your business through writing, you either have it or you don’t. And if you don’t, the safe bet is to hire a writer.

Now, I don’t want want you to think that this is one of those “sales articles,” which makes a strong pitch under the thinly guise vein of “helpful marketing advice.” In fact, I’ll come out and say it: this is not a sales pitch. The following is a cautionary (and hopefully amusing) account of what can happen when ordinary folks are taken out of their element and placed in the writer’s chair.

The Justine Sacco Fiasco

We’ve all heard about it. “The tweet heard ’round the world.” Thank you Justine Sacco for single-handedly rebuilding the “rude American” stereotype in 120 characters or less. When it comes to the importance of written communications, there are several lessons that can be learned from Justin Sacco.

  1. In the 21st Century, you are no longer what you eat… you are what you tweet. Whether you are a small business or a large Fortune 500 company, it is a good idea to hire a writer or a social media expert to handle all social media interactions. Thanks to the age-old screen shot, the minute you publish something online it can come back to haunt you or worse destroy your company’s image.
  2. Don’t become caught-up in the numbers game. As great as social media is, every single network immediately transports us back to the days of high school where popularity was everything. Success on social media is often measured by the number of Likes, Shares, Re-Tweets, or Comments that your post receives. Unfortunately for Justine Sacco, she copied the Miley Cyrus recipe, i.e. the more outlandish the post the bigger the response. Which leads us to the third lesson…
  3. Bigger is not always better and context is everything. The bigger you or your company becomes on social media networks, the more likely you are to run into opposition. As Justine Sacco quickly discovered, “the bigger you are, the harder you fall.” Maybe there was a targeted audience for her tweet? Or maybe she was catering to her inner Conan O’Brien? Whatever the case, if you are going to write anything outlandish, you must provide context or expect serious (and potentially) negative backlash. Twitter isn’t Saturday Night Live where anything goes.

Impressing in Person but Failing to Deliver via Written Communications

Imagine the following scenario. A small business owner attends a networking event. He is an animated figure who makes a lasting impression with potential constituents. He exchanges business cards with a number of interested executives. After the event, the he follows-up via email. Enter the dreaded moment when he hits send but never hears back. Why? It could have been any number of reasons. From simple grammatical mistakes to an inability to connect with his audience. The latter scenario perfectly exemplifies how some people can be great in-person, but the minute you take away their visual cues, they fail to connect with their audience. Emoticons only go so far and should be avoided in business communications.

Written communications in business can’t be avoided. At some point you will have to conduct a social media campaign, send an important email, or release marketing materials. For all of the times that writing is not a do-it-yourself task, hire a writer. And if you’re still determined to put pen to paper, sometimes it helps to quote from the best (or at least the most memorable), “Writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind through the eye, is the great invention of the world…enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space,” Abraham Lincoln.

Laura P is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.

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