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Using Social Media for Professional Development

Social media isn’t just for fun

Facebook is mostly for keeping up with friends and family, right? And people use Twitter to talk about politics or sports. LinkedIn is the only real social medium that’s sort of professional.

That’s why some workplaces block access to social media. We all know that staff would just waste their employers’ time, goofing around online.

But it turns out this isn’t true.

The article “Advocating plain language in the media,” published in the plain language journal Clarity, says that the dominant users of social media are between 35 and 50 years old. They’re employed and highly educated.

So what are these people doing on social media? They’re sharing information.

Learn to edit better

I find many excellent articles on writing and editing on Facebook. I read them and I also share some of them on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

I also follow about 80 blogs and I share the really good blog posts on social media.

By reading so many articles about my profession, I learn how to write and edit better. It’s a form of research that I do every day.

Participate in the editing community worldwide

By receiving and sharing that information on social media, I can help start conversations about the content.

And I get to do this with colleagues in my communities of practice around the world. I learn a lot from listening to other people’s views. And it’s intriguing to talk about it with people all over the world because writing and editing styles and rules do vary, even among English-speaking countries.

What can you learn?

There are different kinds of posts related to editing, so there is variety in what you can learn.

  • Some cover the basics of writing and editing, such as grammar, punctuation, and style.

  • There are articles about managing projects, dealing with difficult clients, and being diplomatic.

  • There are a lot of articles for freelancers, on things like fee levels, billing practices, and marketing. Even as an in-house writer and editor, I find those articles useful. They help me improve my own estimating and they help me market to my colleagues (to convince them that it’s valuable to let me edit their work).

Increase your network

The other benefit of social media is that it’s increased my network. I know writers and editors across Canada, as well as in Australia, Brazil, England, Ireland, India, New Zealand, Scotland, the United States, and Wales. And I’m meeting even more in the Editors' Association of Earth group on Facebook.

These connections help me when I need information about writing and editing but also, when I need it, information about people or organizations. A few times I’ve been able to get information that I wouldn’t normally be able to get, because of my friendly relationship with a colleague in another country.

My network also means that I can find experts easily when I need one. When people at work have a question that I don’t know the answer to, I have hundreds of people I can ask (and one of them invariably knows the answer, or knows someone who does).

How to start

It can be daunting to start posting and participating in the fast-paced world of social media.

If you’re hesitant, try what worked for me: I learned in a volunteer environment. As the co-chair of the Editors’ Association of Canada 2012 conference, I was thrown into social media. I was responsible, along with my co-chair, for a year’s worth of marketing in arenas that were new to me.

I learned a lot from my co-chair and from other communications volunteers on our team. I watched, participated, asked questions, approved messages, posted, monitored, and asked more questions. There’s nothing like on-the-job training (and volunteering is effective training).

Now I feel quite confident participating and sharing on social media. In fact, I can’t imagine being without it.

Gael Spivak is an English editor for the Government of Canada. She is also vice-president of the Editors' Association of Canada.

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