Jan 10, 2010

The Secret Social Media Skill

If you’ve designs on making an impact on the web for your work, do yourself (and your business) a favor.
Improve your writing skills.
Just because Twitter is only 140 characters doesn’t mean that spelling, grammar, and clarity don’t matter. In fact, I’d argue they matter more because you’re communicating in such a compact package, and you’ve only a moment to make an impression (or break it). You can still make your Facebook updates coherent and well-composed. And by all means, if you’re blogging, you’d better be working on the fundamental skill that helps you articulate your thoughts.
And please note: I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to be a Paulo Coelho and write staggeringly beautiful prose like he does (oh, how I wish). But you can and should be paying attention to fundamental writing and communication skills. Spell things correctly. Use clear vocabulary. Understand grammar rules. Stop using adolescent abbreviations as you would in a text message. If you can’t spare the characters to spell out the word “you” in your updates, you’re using too many words, and it looks lazy.
Whether you like it or not, your participation in social media – whatever your ultimate goal – makes you a communicator by practice, if not by profession. It is to your benefit to constantly hone your written communication skills.
A few ways to do that:
  • Get a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. It’s a classic, and gives you the fundamentals you need.
  • Read. Read lots. The more you read good writing, the more your writing will reflect what you absorb. Not sure what good writing is? The more you read, the more you’ll learn.
  • Subscribe to Copyblogger and Men With Pens. Heed their writing guidance.
  • If you’re often confused by some English usage (things like their vs. there, lie vs. lay, or its vs. it’s),I love Paul Brians’ Common Errors in English Usage.
  • When in doubt, look it up.
Writing is a skill that can be taught, refined, and improved. And the written word is still a powerful tool. Learn to wield it well.