Let’s be honest, health care has always attracted innovation. Since long before the dawn of the blood transfusion (a rather gross history in my opinion) and vaccines all the way to six-sigma catheter lists and electronic medical records – health care professionals and professional innovators have had a long and fruitful relationship. Meaning it is no surprise that social media and health have great opportunity to collaborate…and boy are they collaborating. Social impact games for health, social networking sites for health, crowd sourcing for health, mHealth, and much more are all converging to bring about large changes in how the world gives, receives, and talks about health care.
However, rather than extolling all of the virtues of social media with relation to health, which would be the longest blog EVER, I thought I’d focus in on social networking. Specifically Twitter. Now we probably all know of the non-health-related side of Twitter that includes starlet’s selfies and the public frenemy declarations of so many of our favorite celebs. And for a long time, that was all I knew about Twitter and I was content to let that be the extent of my knowledge about this vast platform. After all, why sign up for one more social networking site when I can read my celeb gossip anonymously in the checkout line at Target?
Suffice it to say that when it came to adopting innovations, I was slower than my 90-year-old Grandma when it came to Twitter. Sorry Grandma Peggy, but it’s true. I tried an account in 2008, gave up after a few posts. Tried again in 2011, couldn’t do it. So now that I’m trying it in earnest, I thought I should call in the help of a professional. And since there isn’t really a Weight Watchers style program for keeping you accountable to your social media goals, I sat down with a colleague and friend of mine, Emily Bosworth Murphy, to get the skinny on where I should get started in a world that is now immensely saturated with tweets. I left with two big takeaways. First, wow is health care innovating with the help of social media – in the U.S. and (maybe even more so) internationally. Second, Twitter is truly a fabulously multi-faceted tool. To that end, I thought Emily did a really nice job of boiling down what Twitter brings to health by these three main categories:
- Journalistic – This would include advocacy and calls to action as well as general news of the day.
- Academic – Such as the newest and latest research and/or journal articles.
- Industry Specific – Think of those key individuals that you would turn to in order to keep up on the pulse of your all things health – as broadly or specifically as you prefer.
I should say that even as I typed those, it was obvious to me that the lines often blur, but I thought that these three categories provided a helpful framework for thinking about how emerging health professionals and health care consumers can engage with Twitter.
So now you know what Twitter has to offer, but what do you do once you get your profile all set up and you’re actually ON Twitter? For that I have a quick little list of Do’s and Don’ts.
- Post substantive information
- Develop standards within your workplace if you’re tweeting for business
- Tweet often
- Be intentional about who you follow
- Log in every day at least
- Engage with others by sharing information
- Respond calmly to feedback, particularly if this is for work
- Have Fun
- Acknowledge positive tweets and re-tweets with a thank you
- Share original content
- Ask questions to engage your audience
- Leave your bio or photo blank
- Only post for one purpose (fundraising, self-promotion, etc…how monotonous)
- Overuse hashtags #overusinghashtags #hashtaghound #hashtastic
- Spam people on Twitter
- Be too private or bland
- Be afraid to have a point of view
- Forget basic grammar and spelling
- The last don’t deserves extra attention. In health work it is important that we definitely DON’T become relaxed about HIPAA standards when sharing on social media. It seems obvious, but I feel I should share this recent article that serves as a warning for how not to use Facebook. It is a good reminder to have a social media policy for your workplace and make sure every employee understands what is expected of them.
Still unconvinced as to whether you should be engaging with health generally through social media? Well I’m hardly in the place advocate, so I’ll defer to my conversation with Emily again. In her opinion here are three distinct advantages:
- The opportunity for patients and doctors to find a community of support.
- A vast trove of medical information, much of which is true (if you know where to look).
- Consumer driven transparency through crowdsourcing.
Speaking of transparency, I’ll admit that I was overwhelmed with trying to figure out who I should follow on Twitter in order to get the best use out of this awesome resource. If you’re sharing my late starter’s remorse, try scanning through this recent (totally awesome) blog by Adam Rapp, Top 100 Twitter Accounts For Healthcare Professionals To Follow. If you don’t leave with at least a few folks to add to your feed, I’ll be surprised. I should preface that Dr. Oz is on the list, so I’m not sure that it is 100% foolproof. Perhaps you love the good doctor, but I personally have always found it hard to take seriously a man who asks his guests to pop a giant pimple on television. Grandma Peggy always said: keep your dirty pores to yourself.
Featured image by Ambro via http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/