As I’ve started to use social media a bit more, it’s been an interesting experiment. Those who know me know that before blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, I did just a little bit of writing (insert sarcastic laugh here). I resisted Twitter for awhile and am still a bit iffy about it to be dead honest. I’m warming up to it.

Using Twitter has been informative on a few levels. Twitter has a basic limitation of 140 characters for a tweet, so if you exceed that (natively, not using another tool which allows more), you need multiple lines. The #sqlhelp hash tag is a great example where you may need multiple tweets to get an answer out.

This really begs the question: what is the best format for what you want to say? A single tweet? A post on a message board looking for responses that are more detailed? A blog post which will be more informative and detailed but not a tome? A whitepaper which can have more content than a blog post? Or do you just write a whole damn book?

Since I’ve done all of the above (in spades!), here’s some advice:

If you’re going to use the #sqlhelp hash tag with a complex question (for example, don’t ask for advice on a high availability architecture and expect a 140 character response that is definitive), put a link to a message board or somewhere similar (even a blog post) that people can respond in more detail.

As a responder – and I’m just as guilty on Twitter sometimes – having multiple answers is sometimes necessary, but if it gets too much, you may want to have the person contact you directly or blog about it. For me, Twitter is hard to follow versus a message board because of the lack of built-in, easy-to-use threading. As I know people do like to see resolutions on #sqlhelp because it may help them, it’s tough.

Having said that, I find #sqlhelp almost more immediate than, say, the MSDN or TechNet forums. There’s something very cool about that.

A tweet shouldn’t necessarily lead to a blog post or something bigger, but it may spark ideas.

If you like to blog (and who isn’t blogging these days?), the next logical step is something like a whitepaper. I find many people have short attention spans, so I try to keep my blog posts reasonable short (relatively speaking of course) and focused. Some people may do a series of related blog posts to break a topic up. That series may equate to a whitepaper. Personally, when I know I want to do a bigger topic.

Writing a whitepaper is easier than you think. Some tips:

1. Get it tech reviewed. Even the best of us have some things which are wrong or makes sense to us the way we word it but not to others.
2. If possible, get it edited by someone who does it for a living. It really does help.

That said, like a tweet or a blog post, sometimes you have a lot to say. I find most people’s tolerance for a whitepaper under 40 or 50 pages of text. If you’re writing a 181 page whitepaper, that’s pretty much a book.

Clearly a book is a big commitment. These days you can self publish if you really want. I’ve talked about it, Brent Ozar (blog | Twitter) has blogged about it, but don’t write a book if you expect to get rich. Do it because you want to and are passionate about the subject you are presenting. You employ all the techniques you would at the smaller levels, just on a much grander scale.

The problem I find with more instant media such as Twitter and blogging is that while it’s often right and good, there’s just as much out there that is bad and incorrect and can cause harm. Even if what is said is technically correct, it could be the wrong advice for some. You need to always put things in proper context. Before I say anything else, let me say I am far from perfect. I do get things wrong at times and if I do, I post corrections or note it in a way that people can see what the right answer is. The last thing I need is someone saying, “Well, Allan said this and it caused my <insert thing here> to fail.” Ugh.

The other mediums such as whitepapers and books tend to have reviewers who will ensure that things are right and the messaging is on point. Even that is a tricky process because if you get multiple opinions about something, it’s up to the author to make “the call”.

It’s great that we have all of this content out there and the ability to do our own – we just need to choose the right one for our messages!