Seek or Go Hide

Seek and Go Hide“Hide and Seek” had screeched to a halt!

My 11 year-old son had outsmarted his younger sisters by hiding BEHIND the dryer! My poor daughters had looked every place they knew. They were now wailing that he’d run away from home. It was time for Dad to get involved. With a loud shout, I commanded him, like Lazarus, to come out.

To change the mood, I offered to be “IT!” I hid in the most obvious spot: The hall closet, behind the coats. They found me quickly. Peace and smiles returned.

Dad knew to hide WHERE they would LOOK.

Throughout history, logic demanded that anyone seeking a thing must FIND it wherever it IS. Recent developments have turned logic on it’s head. Today, those who desire a thing to be FOUND must PLACE it where the people LOOK.

Even a few years ago, if I wanted information, I would have to make a trip to a library, search the card catalogue and browse the stacks. Today, if an information provider wants me to find their data, they hire Search Engine Optimization consultants to make sure I find it where I look.

Growth Data Graph - via

It’s no longer enough to “put your data out there” for them to come find it. If you build it, they may not come: There’s just too much data out there.

Now, you have to deliver it to them where they are! And where they ARE is on social media. In fact, they are on Facebook. Facebook began 2010 with 350 million users. They now have over 600 million users. In fact, Facebook users share 1 BILLION pieces of content EVERY DAY! They share a MILLION links every 20 minutes! That’s not a misprint. Every day. Is your content from within Facebook, where your users are? If not, why not?

I have a friend Julia Wainwright who GETS this and is doing something about it. Julia believes that customers want content where they are. So she’s done something new: She’s set up a social media presence specifically for promoting and discussing her product’s Technical Communication. She’s established a social beachhead to discuss her product content on Twitter and Facebook.

Her team is going to engage with customers, meet them where they ARE and share crucial content as the need arises. Things are changing and no one knows for sure where we’ll all wind up. But I know customers appreciate courtesy. And that brands benefit from appreciative customers. I think this could work out VERY well.

I think this is AWESOME! I think it’s proactive, creative and intentional. If you’re interested in watching how it plays out, I invite you to follow or like the social techcomm hub.

What do you think?

  • Will you follow to watch what happens?
  • Do you like the idea of engaging your readers via social channels?
  • What do you think about moving from the supply lines to the front lines?

11 Responses to “Seek or Go Hide”

  1. Interesting post, Tristan. I suppose the post on my blog is tangentially related to what you’ve said here. The whole issue of how social media and traditional technical communications is garnering more attention to the point that during a planning meeting for the RTP/Boston DITA User’s Group, one of the topics suggested was “Analytics, Social Media, and Your Content”. Whenever we get to that one, it should be an interesting discussion just based on the high-level discussion about the topic.

    Again, you found an interesting angle on a direction we all need to consider.

    • Yes, as we’ve both been saying, customer behavior and expectations are changing faster than corporate processes. I think technical communicators have an opportunity to gain relevance, but it requires proactive engagement. Standing still will likely cause a decrease in relevance for the profession. Thanks for your thoughts, as always!


  2. Hi, Tristan — You’ve zeroed in on a critical and all-too-frustrating aspect of information delivery for our customers: being able to get what they need, how and when they need it. When customers have a question or have reached a roadblock when performing a task, the last thing they want to do is play hide and seek, or go on a scavenger hunt, to find what they need to answer their questions and get back to the task at hand. I applaud Julia for her work in using social media to help educate customers about her company’s technical communication content. And it is true that more content that can answer customer questions is appearing on Facebook and other social media outlets.

    This discussion also raises questions as to the effectiveness of online help and users’ success in finding the right content to answer their questions. Many help systems have eliminated TOCs and indexes and provide users with only a search field. If the search engine doesn’t do the job — if users must read through a long list of hits, few or none of which are relevant — we’ve wasted their time, lost their trust, left them to keep hunting.

    A couple of years ago at a conference presentation I gave, I commented that I’d like to think that as technical communicators, “we’re here to make it clear.” But all the clarity in the world won’t help if our users can’t find the information — and quickly!

    Thanks once again for providing great food for thought!


    • Thanks so much, Lori!

      I love the slogan, “We’re here to make it clear!” That’s fantastic. I’ve recently written about the “Clarifier” role. I see we’re of one mind on this.

      Provide clear information WHERE they want to read it. Do these two things and we WIN.

      We’re on our way!


  3. Putting a portal to the content where the users are makes tons of sense. It would be interesting to know what types of content and what types of applications Facebook works best for. I’m guessing info for cloud-based apps and SaaS would be a natural whereas machine operation info may not be a fit. It’s all about being where the users are.

  4. I think it’s great, although we should be wary of a one-size-fits-all approach. Many of Symantec’s customers are consumers, and Julia is smart to engage them through Twitter and FB. However, the same strategy might not be as effective in all cases. Plus, I’m sure Julia doesn’t plan to ignore other, more traditional channels.

    One question: Can you please explain the Growth Data Graph? I’m sure you included it to reinforce your point, but I’m afraid I don’t understand it. The curves are labeled “total info” and “total storage” — total info and total storage for what? Is it trying to imply a difference between transactions and interactions — or is it suggesting that we’re progressing to an age when transactions are supplanted by interactions?

    • Hi Larry,

      I should have made the photo a live link. Here’s the post that explains a bit:

      It says “Your ‘Digital Shadow’ – that is, all the digital information generated about the average person on a daily basis – now surpasses the amount of digital information individuals actively create themselves”

      My high-level point: Content is flooding the web, increasing the need for personalized, specific delivery mechanisms. Enter Facebook, for those customers who are there. Many other options are available, as you suggested.

      Should be interesting. 🙂


  5. Great post, so much of it is applicable to customer service in general, where companies with the best sense of anticipation are the most likely to deliver the best service. You may be amused to look at this short post which we wrote some times ago and illustrate the concept in a less scientific manner!

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