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Technical writers as content curators

Technical writers can't stop at subject expertise and content creation. They must also master content promotion to connect with audiences online.

Cheryl Lowry

on 7 November 2010

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Transcript of Technical writers as content curators

Estimated duration of the
human attention span: Estimated size of the
world wide web: "Humans have extremely limited brainpower. For example, short-term memory famously holds only about 7 chunks of information, and these fade from your brain in about 20 seconds.”

--Jakob Nielsen "Understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success."
Davenport & Beck, The Attention Economy "The best attention protectors have always been human." -Davenport and Beck Writers in the 20th century...
Build it and they will come Writers in the 21st century: Publishers want writers who:
Know their market
Have a built-in audience
Have an existing platform
Network Tone, style, voice.... not enough.
What gets attention? Marketing controls social media


People want to talk to people, not brands. What is seen as credible? Be a Content Curator.

Use social media to help others find relevant content while building your reputation as an expert.

But how? Case study: Margaret Atwood
Poet, novelist, essayist
Age: 71 Internet Mapping Project, Bell Labs/Lumeta Corporation Your content has great voice and tone. It's accurate. It's authoritative. Dammit Jim, I'm a techwriter, not a marketer Writers in the 21st century... "Traditional book publishers use techniques perfected a hundred years ago to help authors reach unknown readers, using a stable technology (books) and an antique and expensive distribution system." - Seth Godin A writer's platform:

An online audience-- before the book deal

Established credibility

Social media and communication skills

Blogger Social media Speaker and inventor

Creating content: it's not enough. Techwriters don't have conversations But customers can't find it. Why? If publishers aren't helping people filter for quality, how are they supposed to find it? Let's say you wrote this...
This is what it looks like to your audience Your focus area:
Content types Your real problem:
Is anyone paying attention? ...have to build a platform too Why can't people find your content?

Because the internet lacks a quality filter. 20 seconds 15 billion pages ...must build a platform as well Content curator:

A human expert in a particular field who locates, organizes, and distributes links to relevant, high-quality content online, voluntarily assuming a quality filtering role that traditional publishers once held Joshua Porter Offering professional opinions and advice
Initiating and responding to professional conversations
Locating and publicizing great links to content
Supporting and promoting others' work
Asking other people questions
Sharing personal thoughts and activities
Linking to his own posts / writing How does Josh curate content? Tips on content curation
Angela Dunn of Blogbrevity.com Be yourself. Avoid sounding like a faceless corporate entity. Show personality and enthusiasm Be a connector, shine a spotlight on your social network friends. Celebrate other people's achievements.
Ask people for advice and favors. People like to help. Helping others gives them a sense of autonomy and choice, which is a reward to the brain. Use video, audio, and images to deepen the connection with your audience Add value to discussions through your comments and replies.

Encourage other's thoughts with open-ended questions: who, what, when, where, how, why, etc. Express gratitude and reciprocate when somebody does something nice for you. But he is not a corporate entity. He's connecting with people. He is bringing relevant content to an interested audience much better than Google does. He is offering original professional observations But he is listening, helping, and talking to others He promotes others and celebrates their success And yes... he promotes his own content too He provides relevant content to others
He is a trusted expert
He invests in personal relationship building Author, usability expert Your writer commitments:

How can you use technology to lead customers to relevant content experiences?

Do you really want to leave this to Google?
Internet forums
Your own blog
Comments on tech blog posts
In person (at conferences) Facebook questions... Twitter searches...
Full transcript