Graduate Research Findings about Technical Communication and Blogs in the Workplace

Results of survey on technical communication and bloggingThe following is a guest post by Michelle Tompkins. Earlier this year she asked me to post a survey about technical communication and blogging. I posted it here, and then asked if she would follow up to share her findings. This guest post shares her findings.

Earlier in December, Tom Johnson was nice enough to help me with my graduate research on how blogs are used with the workplace of a technical communicator. I received great feedback from all of the respondents on my survey, and I would like to thank everyone who participated.

Not only did my study look at blog use, but also how social media tools are changing the nature of work for technical communicators. As social media continues to change the way we write and communicate with audiences, it is important to understand the functions, uses, and impacts of these technologies on our work as technical communicators. My short survey helped determine if and how blogs are being used as a professional tool within our field.

After collecting and analyzing the data from my survey, I found that approximately 88 percent of respondents use social media tools at work. When respondents were asked specifically about the type of social media tools used, wikis, social networking sites, and micro-blogging technologies such as Twitter were the most popular.

However, only 69 percent reported using blogs as part of their work. The most common uses of blogs within the workplace were sharing internal company news, communicating with external stakeholders, reviewing products and services, and knowledge management and sharing.

Another common use of blogs by technical communicators was professional development. Many respondents reported blogs as a replacement for the company newsletter, which has created a more dynamic forum for internal information dissemination.

While the focus of my research was specifically on the use of blogs, I was also interested in learning more about how social media tools have affected the nature of our daily work. Surprisingly, only 55 percent of respondents felt that social media tools have had a significant impact their daily work.

Some technical communicators felt that social media tools have opened a new channel of communication, which allows instant feedback from internal and external stakeholders. Another impact of social media tools reported was a more efficient way to store, organize, and share information.

Through my survey and other research endeavors, I believe the most significant impact of social media tools on our field as a whole has been the ability to have a direct connection or conversation with our users, customers, and document audiences. This direct connection with the end user will enable technical communicators to develop deliverables that are more accessible and usable for their specificied audiences.

With all of this said, I believe that social media tools have had a significant impact on the field of technical communication. However, I do not believe that it is inevitable that all technical communicators will embrace these technologies. Not all of technical communication jobs will change, but as evident from my research, a large portion of job descriptions may change as a result of the daily emergence of new technologies.

The most important aspect that I have taken from my research is that blogs and social media cannot be ignored. Even if technical communicators are not using the tools themselves, their users, audiences, and customers are, which forces us as technical communicators to at least be cognizant of these new tools of communication.

Once again, thank you to all who participated in my survey. If you have any further questions about my research, you can reach me at MET7189@gmail.com.

Michelle is a graduate student  studying technical communication at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. You can follow her blog at http://mshelltompkins.wordpress.com.

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication, API documentation, information architecture, web publishing, DITA, and more. If you're trying to keep up to date about the field of technical communication, subscribe to my blog. Email

4 thoughts on “Graduate Research Findings about Technical Communication and Blogs in the Workplace

  1. Bridgette Begle

    First off, I have to say that only 55% of people using social media tools in their everyday work has go to be skewed. Pretty much every profession I can think of (even those not specifically in a communications job) deals, in some degree, with media tools. I am new into the communications major at my university so I am just getting my feets wetw with certian areas, such as blogs, but it is very interesting to see what media tools are out there and how they are being used.

    I actually have a friend who literall got a job offer in communications because of the significant amount of twitter followers he has. This blew my mind! He started as a youth minister at a chuch, and not because of his followings, he is making bank for some company.

    I think your point is valid and the research was good. It is so interesing to see how communucations is shaping our lives today.

    Reply
    1. Michelle Tompkins

      I agree that 55% sounds like a low number when asking about social media use within the workplace. However, for my study I was looking specifically at social media (and blog) use within the work day of a technical communicator. I believe if I had asked a broader question about accessing social media tools whether it was for work, personal research, or even fun during the work day, the percentage would have been higher.

      Also, your comment about your friend gaining a job because of his Twitter account and followers is exactly why I did this study. Job descriptions all over the world are changing due to these new technologies, and I think it is important understand where your field of study is heading. Not only are job descriptions changing, but new positions dealing specifically with blogging or other social media tools are popping up all over.

      Reply
    2. Tom Johnson

      I think 55% actually sounds reasonable, if not a bit high. Tech writers may be on Twitter at work or read blogs, but the number who have access to publish and interact on social media channels as part of their role and responsibility as a technical writer seems a lot less likely. I’m lucky that I have authority to publish “corporate” tweets without going through 7 levels of approval.

      Reply
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