AN ARMY OF AMATEURS
With all that said, an army of amateurs has taken over the media realm as a result of the social media revolution.
In this particular sense, the “amateurs” are all those billions of users who don’t know how to handle the written word. They simply aren’t used to using it, yet all of them are on social media, which for the most part remains a textual environment.
A virtually unlimited number of people who had never communicated by the means of the written word before have emerged everywhere, and this is a great source of stress for professional communicators as well as for the amateurs themselves.
An amateur in written communication who has been let into the social media realm is like a person who drives a car but doesn’t have a driving license. They get in the car, and in the best-case scenario, they might barely stay on the road without hitting anybody. In the worst-case scenario, they might cause an accident, they could hit and kill somebody, they could kill themselves, etc.
In exactly the same way, a person who has never dealt with the written word for communication all of a sudden logs into Facebook and starts engaging with others. If their writing skills are poor, their posts will be filled with typos, poor grammar, and odd word choices. Other social media users who view these posts will be skeptical of the poster’s intelligence and competence—and if this amateur is writing content for an organization, this will all reflect poorly on their employer as the audience questions their credibility and professionalism. All of this erodes public opinion of the poster and/or the company they represent.
Another obvious sign of an amateur is poor social etiquette. Many behaviors are unacceptable in face-to-face interactions, yet so many people fail to observe basic manners online, often resulting in badmouthing, slurring, even harassing their fellow social media users. The amateurs on social media don’t have the tactfulness, desire, habit, or instinct to hear the opinions of others and to debate and discuss them. This situation often leads to conflicts, even personal or professional disasters.
The upside is that, nonetheless, a growing number of people from all around the world are learning how to communicate thanks to social media. The emergence of social media is a powerful, enormous educational process.
Billions of people are now learning how to write—not just in terms of actual writing, but in terms of communicating, discussing, debating, and presenting their arguments in writing.
The amateurs are all those social media users who aren’t professional writers or professional communicators.
Those who fail to learn how to write and communicate properly in the new environment will fall behind on social media.
Excerpt from Maxim Behar's New book The Global PR Revolution, published by Allworth Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster.
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