Upon signing up for Electronic Communications over winter break, I was not sure what to expect: were we going to talk strictly about social media, focus on web design or more on how technologies are shaping the way the “real world” is run? It turns out that the class has been somewhat of a combination of all these things, and the texts we have used have been a very nice supplement to the class work. We learned about online communications in the first part of the semester and applied what we had learned to develop strategies for our nonprofit groups in the second half. The latter was accompanied by the texts, Content Strategy for the Web (CSW) by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach and The Networked Non-Profit (NNP) by Allison Fine and Beth Kanter. Both of these books fit in with our non-profit project and supplemented our knowledge base created at the start of the course
When considering what these books have in common, I would say that overall they both were most concerned with developing skills for the individual, business or non-profit that would help them reach a larger audience out on the web. The titles of each text make it pretty plain how each sought out to do this: Content Strategy focused on content and Networked Non-profit focused on using personal networks to expand reader’s outreach. Both texts committed a lot of writing to understanding and committing to an audience; either by sharing content or showing appreciation to followers (NNP) or developing quality and easy to use web materials to reach followers on a personal level (CSW). The books also put their readers at ease with the underlying message that nothing extreme had to be done right away, challenging them but also keeping things at a comfortable level. In addition to content, the authors of these texts also shared similar writing styles. They wrote in a way that kept things simple, easy to read and to the point (bulleted lists: 1 point, lengthy paragraphs: 0). Further, the chapters of each book built upon themselves which, I could imagine was an appreciated characteristic to readers as it does not overwhelm with too much information, making it seem impossible to make changes to an individual’s social media or current website.
As I stated above, the titles of each of the texts we used in the second half of the semester reveal how each chose to assist their readers with their online strategy. Here too, the books’ differences can be considered. Although they shared the same common goal (broadening audience awareness and website/social media quality) their differences lie in the details of how this overall goal was achieved. For example, Content Strategy for the Web focused on content (you don’t say), discussing how to organize and design but also how to develop a strategy in the first place; the starting block if you will, to begin the changes to achieve better online material. Halvorson and Rach write that this begins with the development of a core strategy, something that should be in the back of every content designer’s mind, guiding all of their goals and keeping them on the same track. Chapter 7 of CSW was dedicated to core strategy and was my favorite of the book as much of what was written her could be applied to everyday life (I even dedicated a blog post to this topic). Even though it came somewhat late in the book, I felt that this chapter could be considered the basement foundation for developing and organizing quality online content.
On the other hand, The Networked Non Profit focused on utilizing personal social networks (both on the web and in everyday life) to help grow a non-profit’s audience base. In chapter 3 of the text, Fine and Kanter refer to this as “social capital” and state that this is what non-profits should be focusing on and valuing in order to give their organization(s) meaning (NNP, 33). This book differed from CSW in its focus on personal relationships and the ability of one positive experience at a non-profit to spread rapidly among volunteer networks.