How Writers Can Benefit from Social Software

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  • Great, thanks for joining my conversation about tips for how you as a writer, or anybody, really, can benefit from enterprise social networks. I plan to spend about 30 to 40 minutes presenting tips, and the second half of the conversation answering questions. Please reserve your questions for the end, and I hope to answer all of them.
  • But before I begin, here’s a page from’s lawyers that lets us let you know that anything you see or hear in this presentation is subject to change and may not appear in future versions of the product… We are a publicly traded company…
  • I’m going to get right to the point. You or your company paid a lot of money to be here, and I want to make sure you get the main points of this discussion to take back to your places of employment and be rock stars. So here are the takeaways, which I’ll mention again at the end. But the takeaways make up the agenda, too.
  • So, what is an enterprise social network? Well, my good colleague Sabine Bennett, wrote a fantastic white paper, where she defines it as “An application that is specifically built for internal networking purposes.” Let’s read that again—it’s an application built FOR internal networking purposes. In other words, it’s function is to connect people, to collaborate. The three words “enterprise social network” sound complex and scary, but they just mean a type of social media for a company. Think of an enterprise social network like a Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for internal use only. It’s part of what is referred to as “social media.”

    Now, I rolled my eyes when I heard about a Facebook for businesses. Personally, I’m not that involved with many social media channels, and I some times think this whole social media thing has gone way too far. But if you’re a skeptic like I was, I hope by the end of this conversation that you won’t be. You’ll see the benefits of how these applications can benefit your career as a writer, and your role throughout your company.
  • These applications look, well, kind of like Facebook. In fact, they were developed with social media in mind. They are tools with easy-to-use interfaces that promote collaboration and communication. Internally, they can give visibility to the right stakeholders. To connect employees who might not necessarily be connected to accomplish similar tasks. It’s a communication channel that leverages the types of communication technologies that have been developed by social media.

    Unlike email, it’s a conversation that doesn’t have to get pushed to you. Plus, it has pictures of the people in the conversation in case you don’t know who they are. You can click on each person’s profile to learn more about what they work on or what they specialize at. And, it includes groups that might collaborate on a specific thing so that you don’t duplicate other peoples’ efforts; and you can click around like a website to discover useful information that you might not have known about. You can also track topic and trends with simple metrics by adding hashtags or clicking on hashtags. These hashtags help keep track of information for retrieval and to see how often or how many times a topic, trend, or them might be surfacing.

    At, we developed Chatter, so that’s the enterprise social networking application we use. We like to eat our own dog food.
  • Enterprise social networks are not email. Why is that? Well, email is good for some things. But it’s not good for collaboration. It doesn’t give you visibility into what others might be working on. It’s not a group collaboration platform. You can lose and delete email. You can hit a memory limit and have to delete a bunch of things. Searching email or keeping tack of items can be complex and disorganized. You get so much email and spam and CC’ed on things that it doesn’t necessarily help you collaborate.

    Email is really intended for task-management. Recently, I learned that Microsoft, when developing Outlook, partnered with FranklinCovey to make email task-based. You receive an email and associate it with a task, prioritize it– a la “first things first,” then complete it by a specific date. This is not the same purpose as a social network, which is to provide visibility and collaboration. You can’t look into someone else’s email or see what they’re communicating with others.
  • In summary, companies are moving to enterprise networks for these five reasons.

    There’s just too darn much email -- When was the last time you heard someone saying, “boy, I sure wish I was CC’ed on more email.”

    These networks promote collaboration – You can easily see who is working on what and jump in if necessary, or add to an issue.

    It’s easier to find info with a network – Instead of trying to find an email or wonder if it’s been deleted, you can search the network like its Google, or you can click on a person to see when they posted a specific piece of information.

    Unlike email, these networks provide visibility and metrics – executives, managers, and you can see who’s collaborating on what, at any time, and if you add hash tags you can track topics or items that are similar. More robust networks will automatically display reputation metrics so you can see how often people collaborate and which topics they use most.

    Unlike email, which targets specific people, these networks let employees go beyond their departments – Anyone can read a post or click on an individual to see what they’re working on. Often, at Salesforce, a sales person might post a question to a large group, and somebody I’ve never heard of in IT might post the answer. That shows that you have the talent of all your employees to solve problems together, not just by department.
  • And now I’m going to provide you with some tips for using and working in these networks. As I was looking at all the wonderful things writers can do with these networks, I noticed some common themes in which to group the tips. These themes have to do with

    1) Visibility – or providing awareness to others of what writers can do.

    2) Influence – or showing how the writer can influence stakeholders or business decisions

    3) Networking – or how writers can use the networks to meet other people in an organization and align with others for mutual benefits.

    4) Career development – or how to use the networks to expand your role or lead to the next step in your career.
  • Visibility – or providing awareness to others of what writers can do.
  • Not only does this show your knowledge in an area, but it shows everyone who’s watching that your documentation is valuable—it helps solve questions for employees, and most likely customers, too. It also helps habituate that people look to your documentation for answers instead of looking towards a resource that’s easy to search.

    In this example, I…
  • Networks are incredibly useful to let people across an organization know that there is a new resource. Often, people don’t know that there’s a document available. They either don’t know where to look or didn’t know it existed. When you advertise it on a network, it gives the deliverable the visibility it deserves and it often spreads the word to the point where people send the doc to customers.

    In this example, Gautam reposted…
  • Social networks require participation and collaboration. If there’s post regarding a document that you wrote, or that your team is responsible for, join the conversation. If you don’t join the conversation, it might look like you’re not part of the organization or that you don’t care. On the flip side, know when not to be visible. For example, if a VP or executive posts about an issue you know little about, that’s probably an area in which not to voice your opinion.

    In this example, I…
  • Some people post anything and everything on these networks. You’d be surprised how many people post pictures of their kids or dogs or add a voice to something that has nothing to do with a work environment. Don’t be one of these people. If you overuse the social network, it looks like you don’t have a real job to do. People start to wonder what you do for a living if you’re spending all of your time collaborating on things that don’t require collaboration. Unlike email, with these networks, you do have to realize that EVERYONE can see you. Be visible, but not too visible. Be careful with your humor, tone, and what you post, because just like the Web, a post can last forever.

    In this example, this person isn’t doing anything wrong, per se, it’s just that the CEO of a company probably doesn’t have time to reply to things other than work, and the visibility of such non-work related questions might not help.

  • Influence – or showing how the writer can influence stakeholders or business decisions
  • Now we move into the tips on how to influence. The first tip is asking the right questions. With email, the questions you asked only went to specific people. With a network, your question is open for all to see. Now, you obviously don’t want to ask something that might make you look dumb, but if there’s a particular project or task you want to help influence, it doesn’t hurt to ask your question about it. For example, one simple question could persuade your team to move into a particular direction. In Chatter, we can create polls on posts, so you can ask people to vote for particular outcomes on subjects.

    In this example, I…
  • Nothing helps influence a decision or strategy like metrics. If you have a solid piece of data that shows executives or managers that a reoccurring issue is harming productivity, you have influence. If you have data as to when a specific topic was discussed, chatted about, or presented, you can show your manager how diligent you have been at tackling an issue. By adding or clicking a simple hashtag, you can bring up metrics that can influence various stakeholders in your organization.

    In this example, Sue is using…
  • Networking – or how writers can use the networks to meet other people in an organization and align with others for mutual benefits.
  • Praising or congratulating people might sound like an obvious networking skill, but you’d be surprised how few people do it. For a minimal amount of effort, you can use a social network to recognize someone’s hard work or congratulate them on a promotion or personal accomplishment. The visibility across the network lets others recognize someone too, which helps build a sense of teamwork in an organization, and it establishes your character in that you’re not doing things just for you.

    In this example, Caroline is building trust, showing other peoples’ accomplishments and generally building a sense of good will on the team. She’s also giving visibility to how great the documentation team is, and how we win awards for our documentation.
  • One of the benefits of using a social network is that you can show your personality. You can choose your words wisely to show that you’re a human being and not just some cog in the machine. Displaying personality makes reading posts more enjoyable and fosters a sense of enjoyment at work. But watch the humor. Humor is great, but the wrong word in the wrong location, or a word that has different connotations for different people can have disastrous consequences.

    In this example, I…
  • Participation is similar to being visible, but it’s not the same. I’ve noticed that some people at Salesforce don’t participate on Chatter. I’ve also noticed that they don’t meet others outside of their department and don’t seem to belong. Heck, as mentioned earlier, I was one of those people who thought these networks were a waste of time, so I didn’t participate as frequently as I should have. The problem was everyone else was plugged in and participating, so because I wasn’t, it probably looked like I was an outsider or not adding value. By participating more frequently, I noticed that more opportunities came my way and I sensed an increase of worth from the organization. Fair or not, that’s just how it was. I like to think of the Woody Allen quote that “80% of life is just showing up.”

    In this example, I’m not only participating, but showing how I’ve spoken with a couple of folks in marketing to help set up a webinar with one of the product managers I work with.

  • Now, hosting a contest or inter-department challenge might sound silly, but it brings different people with different roles in an organization together. It also fosters team work by showing that we’re all human beings and enjoy some good old fashioned entertainment once in a while. By hosting, or participating in a contest or challenge, you not only add visibility to yourself and others, but you get to know a little bit more about people, and that can lead to better working relationships.

    In this example, Ally…
  • Career development – or how to use the networks to expand your role or lead to the next step in your career.
  • As a writer, you are a subject matter expert. You probably know more about the technologies you work on than a lot of other people on your team. To boost your career, or find new career opportunities, show off your unique knowledge. Answer questions that other people can’t. Help people in the organization that have nothing to do with your department or division. Show that you can add value beyond just writing documentation.

    In this example, I…
  • Now, this might sound basic, but you’d be surprised how many people miss out on the opportunity to help other people get to know them. By listing some work accomplishments, or detailing your job role on your profile, you can let people know how you can help them or what it is you’re responsible for. Also, by adding a picture of yourself, instead of a picture of your dog or favorite TV star, people passing by you in the hall at work can place a face to the content you post on the network. Based on the picture on my profile, I’ve had people I didn’t know and thank me for posting something on the network. I even had someone tell me I should work in marketing—a career development opportunity.

    In these examples, there are various pictures from peoples’ profiles. Which pictures do you think would help you identify your coworkers in the hallway or online? These examples of “About Me” text help people who might not know these individuals better understand their roles and what they can help others with. I can’t tell you how many blank “About Me” descriptions I’ve seen or supposedly funny descriptions I’ve seen that tell me absolutely nothing about what the person does or if I’d want to ask them if they could help me on a project.
  • Just like email, you can spend waste a lot of time reading and replying to things that have no real value to your career. The same is true with these networks. To keep you from continual context switching, and to help you focus on your tasks at hand, I recommend you only check the networks a few times a day—the same is true for email. If you get too distracted by the network, you won’t be able to focus on the larger tasks that are more impactful to your career.

    In this example, this person has added almost 10,000 posts on Chatter. Now that’s admirable and shows that this person contributes a tremendous amount on the network, but based on my participation on the network, I find all the context-switching I have to do in between posts and writing documentation is cause for distraction.
  • Another boost to your career can be how you organize people and information and target it towards specific people. If your network allows you to create groups, you can always round up a bunch of people to tackle a specific project, and host all the info related to that project in the group. This means less email for everyone, a reliable location to track developments, and an easy way to provide leadership. For added visibility, make the group public so that everyone in your organization can see the great work that you and your group are doing.

    These are some examples of targeted groups in Chatter. They help us organize info and collaborate on specific issues.
  • I’ve heard of and seen disastrous social software implementations at companies, and it’s sad because they could be so much more productive, have more insights, be more creative, and solve more problems quicker. All they really had to do was ask three questions.
  • So, you’re saying, Gavin, all of these tips sound great. I’m ready to turbo-charge my career and my documentation team’s visibility with a social network. Well, before you begin, I want to share with you some issues related to implementation. First, you might be ready. But ask yourself if your team or your organization is ready. Has your company set standards or expectations about how to use an enterprise social network? Ours didn’t. Therefore, there was a lot of confusion about when to use email versus when to use Chatter.

    And that’s really the main question to have your team ask itself: “When to use email vs. the social network?” Obviously, you don’t want to post anything too personal on the network. And you probably don’t want to post anything financial. But it’s best to work with your team and company to know when to use which channel so that efforts aren’t duplicated and people know where to find specific information. We recommend that you start a conversation with your team about how the functions of email and the functions of social networks are different. Then, start a conversation about how they want to communicate with each tool.

    After you have the email versus social network functions conversation with your team, then clarify those expectations of use in an agreement or communications charter for all to see. And post that charter on a wiki or other area that’s accessible for all to see, such as a wiki or intranet page.

  • Our team has had several lively conversations about how they like to use email versus the network, and these some of the key takeaways from our communications charter. Our management team has clearly stated that this charter is not top-down, and that its purpose isn’t to create any laws about how or what we choose to communicate about—it’s to provide us with consistent guidelines, as determined by the team, to help was communicate better and more efficiently.

    Let me clarify these points.
  • Once again, the business value of this presentation. What you can take back to your companies and be a rock star.
  • And now is my favorite part of the discussion. I get to hear all of your great questions and learn about how you work. Please type your questions in the comment box, and I’ll try to answer them in the order I receive them. Also, if I’m not able to answer your question during this webinar, feel free to send me an email at


  • 1. How Writers Can Benefit from Social Software Gavin Austin Lead Technical Writer
  • 2. Safe Harbor “Safe harbor” statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: This presentation and the oral remarks that accompany it contain forward-looking statements the achievement of which involves risks, uncertainties and assumptions. If any such risks or uncertainties materialize or if any of the assumptions proves incorrect, our results could differ materially from the results expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements we make. All statements other than statements of historical fact could be deemed forward-looking, including any statements concerning new, planned or upgraded services or technology developments, any projections of subscriber growth, earnings, revenues or other financial items and any statements regarding strategies or plans of management for future operations, statements of belief and statements about future customer contracts or future customer use of our services. The risks and uncertainties referred to above include - but are not limited to - interruptions or delays in our service or our Web hosting; our ability to complete and successfully release new and improved versions of our on-demand platform and development environment; our new business model; problems integrating, launching or operating services based on newly acquired businesses or technologies, breach of our security measures; possible fluctuations in our operating results and rate of growth; the emerging market in which we operate; our relatively limited operating history; our ability to hire, retain and motivate our employees and manage our growth; competition; our ability to continue to release and gain customer acceptance of new and improved versions of our CRM service; unanticipated changes in our effective tax rate; fluctuations in the number of shares outstanding; the price of such shares; foreign currency exchange rates and interest rates. Further information on these and other factors that could affect our financial results is included in the reports on Forms 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K and in other filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission from time to time, including our Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2014 and our Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended April 30, 2014. These documents are available on the SEC Filings section of the Investor Information section of our website at Any unreleased services or features referenced in this or other press releases or public statements are not currently available and may not be delivered on time or at all. Customers who purchase our services should make purchase decisions based upon features that are currently available., inc. assumes no obligation and does not intend to update these forward-looking statements, except as required by law.
  • 3. About me 1. I write everything. 2. I thought social software was stupid.
  • 4. Takeaways Social software: 1. Is not email. 2. Can increase your business value. 3. Is useless without a communications charter.
  • 5. What is social software? “Facebook for businesses.” Christina Warren Salesforce Rolls Out a Facebook for Business Mashable
  • 6. What these apps look like
  • 7. It’s not email
  • 8. Why companies are using social software 1. Too much email 2. Promote collaboration 3. Easier to find information 4. More visibility and metrics 5. Reach outside of departments
  • 9. Benefits for writers 1. Visibility 2. Influence 3. Networking 4. Career development
  • 10. Tips for Visibility
  • 11. Tips (visibility) Answer questions by attaching or referencing your documentation.
  • 12. Tips (visibility) Advertise new documents, blog posts, or videos.
  • 13. Tips (visibility) Know when to be visible.
  • 14. Tips (visibility) Don’t be too visible.
  • 15. Tips for Influence
  • 16. Tips (influence) Ask questions that could help influence decisions.
  • 17. Tips (influence) Add hashtags to track specific issues that could influence decisions.
  • 18. Tips for Networking
  • 19. Tips (networking) Praise and congratulate people.
  • 20. Tips (networking) Show your personality, but watch your humor.
  • 21. Tips (networking) Participate.
  • 22. Tips (networking) Host contests, challenges, or polls.
  • 23. Tips for Career Development
  • 24. Tips (career development) Answer questions that show your unique knowledge.
  • 25. Tips (career development) Create a professional profile that includes your picture.
  • 26. Tips (career development) Don’t spend too much time on the network: it can be distracting.
  • 27. Tips (career development) Create groups that target specific projects or people.
  • 28. Tips for Implementing Social Software
  • 29. Implementation (it’s simple) Ask 3 questions…
  • 30. Implementation (questions) 1. “Are you ready?” 2. “When to use email versus social software?” 3. “Do you have a communications charter?”
  • 31. Implementation (example) Our communications charter: Chatter Email Chatter is replacing email Email is for urgent issues Quick responses aren’t expected Quick responses are expected Belong to doc and dev groups Avoid distribution lists Use #AR and #RR Write clear subject lines Read daily digests Use one subject per email Share files and links Avoid attachments if possible Add working hours to profiles Avoid biographies and novellas Have fun Get down to business
  • 32. Takeaways Social software: 1. Is not email. 2. Can increase your business value. 3. Is useless without a communications charter.
  • 33.