web 2.0 and social media | November 13, 2012

Alexandra Samuel: Spontaneity Trumps Spell Check On Social Media

"Learning to live with erratic spelling, incorrect grammar and even the occasional profanity," Alexandra Samuel writes, "is an extension of the trust principle you have to adopt in order to generate a lively, engaging and reflective social media presence." That's right, grammar police—content published across social media channels does not, nor does it need to, exercise perfect use of the English language. Even though reading an online post with misplaced punctuation marks and repeated use of the wrong homophone may make you shudder, Samuel explains that you shouldn't toss out contributions simply because they're written by "people who’d end a blog post with a dangling preposition."

Social media is about having a conversation, she explains in a new blog post. "And like any conversation worth listening to, it’s spontaneous, authentic and messy," she writes. "Any social media pro worth her salt will tell you that the foundational principles of a successful social media presence are authenticity, spontaneity and a willingness to relinquish some degree of control." Does this mean that she's suggesting throwing caution to the wind by replacing 'you' with 'u' and showing reckless abandon for any level of grammatical correctness? Not exactly. She's just saying the content itself, and the dialogue it sparks, is the most important part of the equation. As both a social media expert and a self-proclaimed "grammar nazi," Samuel sees the argument from both angles. While she admits that adherence to proper syntax is important to her, she also says that authenticity and spontaneity in online conversation is ultimately more important.

Samuel formerly held a position at the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University before recently moving to Vision Critical, where she helps companies integrate the use of social media into customer intelligence. She is also the founder of Social Signal (a social media agency), blogs for The Atlantic and The Harvard Business Review, and gives informative keynotes on effectively navigating and profiting from an increasingly digitized, Internet-reliant world.