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Becoming a Master at Social Media


So, one of the things I am noticing in my journey of leadership in digital and face to face spaces is how conversationally my skills are much different than when I engage online.

It’s the difference between oral communication and written communication.

I see skilled leaders who try to engage online in social media spaces, and a skill they struggle with is how to write text and post in a manner that is more relational. Often times leaders (especially in higher education) tend to be more academic in their writing, which creates walls sometimes to engage relationally. Many of us who engage in social media on a regular basis see this and cringe.

But what if I told you there was something we could glean from an academic writing perspective? Something many of us have picked up through experience, but could actually be taught as we engage in social media?

My wife was an English major in college. One of the most valuable lessons I gleaned from her education (as a math and communications major) was the concept of rhetoric.

For those unfamiliar, here’s a quick synopsis. I am sure others could provide more In depth analysis but this is what I’ve gleaned;

Rhetoric is defined as “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.”

(As an aside, some great definitions related to rhetoric can be found here)

Given much of social media tends to center around the persuasion of others, you would think folx would focus more on rhetoric. You would think rhetoric would be something we should collectively study as an Internet society. Unfortunately we stumble along, ineffective in our goals.

What I have discovered around rhetoric in social media spaces comes down to various tactics people subconsciously employ in trying to persuade others. There are three basic styles of rhetoric to consider when starting down the path of the study of writing (there are in fact many more, but to start, let’s focus on the main three):

  • Logos - the use of logic to convince people

  • Pathos - the use of emotion to convince people

  • Ethos - the use of ethics to convince people