When describing Wikipedia in his book Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky says, “It’s a process, not a product.” Maybe it’s because I was listening to an audiobook version instead of reading print (another innovation in traditional communication!), or maybe it was the exposure to so many blogs and social media tools over the past two weeks that it finally hit me: social media in its entirety is a process, not a product. Okay, seems silly and simple, and a little stupid, but for some reason this made the whole thing a little less scary. As a type-A individual who loves a polished, finished product, that feeling of accomplishment when something is done and sent off, those little moments of instant gratification, my initial view of social media was that every post on every site had to be extremely refined and calculated, and that brought in a bit too much stress. How can you keep up with all those different sites and keep everything up to par?
Blogs, and especially health blogs, should be well-written and factual, and in some cases well-researched. Professional organizations need to spend a considerable time investing in their organization’s social media presence. However, using social media to simply start a conversation, start a process doesn’t need to be a huge endeavor, nor does every post need to be New York Times ready. In fact, I think a mix ultimately keeps readers attracted and engaged. Just bringing someone’s attention to an idea or fact can still have great purpose, even if you aren’t providing all the answers. Posing a question can bring a lot of new voices to the table and attract people to an organization’s greater purpose or mission. To many, using blogs to pique people’s interests and invite people to also be a part of the process can be just as, if not more, valuable than publishing a research paper in JAMA.