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Social Media Success Linked To Basic Communications Skills

Social media isn’t new, but it’s probably a lot older than you’d imagine.

Think ancient drawings etched in rock and shared cave to cave. Think Flinterest.

The challenge for communications professionals who remember TV before 1,200 channels – to say nothing of rabbit ears and the grainy pre-color days – is learning to use the technology. For those who grew up with everything on demand and no-rules texting, the trick is to master some tried and true fundamentals.

That was one of the big takeaways last weekend at American University’s “Social Learning Summit” in Washington, D.C. In fact, it was a constant drumbeat during panels focused on everything from how to manage online communities to social media metrics.

If you’re thinking about a career in public relations, journalism, or anything related, the experts say you’d do well to learn and remember that:

– Spelling does indeed count.

– It pays to get to the point quickly.

– Readers appreciate plain language.

– Writing short means getting read.

– Understand your audience or you won’t have one for long.

Knowing the crowd is critical to Alex Priest of the Washington, D.C. driver service Uber, who says his job is more about resolving client complaints than tweeting hourly updates. “Honestly,” he says, “how much do you want to hear from your limo driver?”

Digital strategist Allen Gannett correctly notes that a key difference between social and traditional media is the ability to engage audiences. His advice about strategic messaging: “What is your dream vacation is better than check out our new hotel in Charlotte.”

In the end, though, it was Twitter lead designer Martin Ringlein who reminded a mostly student audience that while the technology has evolved beyond what most ever imagined, the basic principles of effective communication remain constant.

Ringlein reached all the way back to Plato in explaining that to be social is human, and that media is about communication. “Nothing’s really changed since the beginning of time,” he said, an interesting perspective considering that Twitter users now fire out 177 million tweets each day.

So while things actually have changed, in some cases dramatically, it’s also true that upcoming communications types who take a step back will find themselves a step ahead. Or as Confucius put it, “Study the past if you would divine the future.”

Read more posts by Steve Piacente, a former print journalist and correspondent. Steve is a blogger for JenningsWire.