Recently I’ve been getting involved in the @nhssm Twitter chats every Wednesday between 8-9pm on the hashtag #nhssm. I’ve been tweeting a long and I’ve even hosted a couple –each time that hour has brought a huge amount of learning about what people are doing with social media within the NHS – I’ve put together a Storify for each Twitter chat this year and you can see them here. While there is some great stuff being done on social media, not everyone is there and online yet, so it got me thinking about some of the most important things to think about when getting online.
Here are 5 things that I think are important to consider when you’re using social media in the NHS, whether that’s personally or as an organisation.
1. Why do you want to be on there?
Firstly, and possibly most importantly, what are your motives for being on social media? Are you looking to learn, share and connect with like-minded people? Are you thinking of news ways to connect with people that matter to your organisation and tell your story? Are you looking to talk to the people that matter to you in a place that they have chosen? Great, these are good reasons for wanting to join conversations online. If it’s just because everyone else is doing it, that’s not a good place to start. Being curious is great, but you need to know why you want to be on social media and how you or your organisation can contribute to conversations in relevant ways.
2. Are you willing to listen?
An easy one. It’s called social media for a reason, it’s not about broadcasting, you’re in a two-way conversation online. Just think of the benefits you can get from listening; new connections, more opportunities to learn and loads of ideas, to name a few. You are talking to people on social media, just like in everyday life and just because the platform on which you’re communicating changes changes, how you act shouldn’t. If you’re not listening on social media, you won’t be seeing the full benefits it can bring. Here’s a great example of an NHS trust listening to patient feedback they have received and using social media to share it more widely.
3. Are you talking to the right people in the right places?
Social media platforms attract huge audiences – there are over 15 million twitter users in the UK alone. This figure means there are people talking about a variety of things all over the world, so how do you know if you’re going to be relevant on the platforms you have chosen? Do you cast your net wide or do you build it and hope that they will come? If you’re online as your organisation, are you talking to your patients, your staff or both? Guess what? You have to be willing to listen and adapt to what your audience want. A good place to start is with what’s probably familiar to you and to most of the people using social media, both personally and as organisations, you guessed it: Facebook and Twitter. Start simple, make connections, build audiences, ask questions and adapt. If you use a lot of photos, Instagram or Flickr might be the best place to tell your story, if you love video, then perhaps it’s YouTube or Vimeo, which leads onto the next point…
4. Are you willing to experiment?
Social media is fast-paced and constantly changing. It looked a lot different two years ago and no doubt it will look different again in two years time. You can’t be afraid to experiment and try new things – they don’t have to be completely new ideas, they can just be new for you. Think that blogging might be a good way to make your organisation more transparent and explain complex issues? Why not give it a go? It’s not ground-breaking, but it might open up new doors and new conversations. If you aren’t willing to try new things (and fail) then you’re likely to get left behind. Take a look at what people are trying out on social media in 2015 in this Storify I did for the #nhssm chat and see how one public sector organisation has experimented with using social media for internal communications.
5. Don’t let it slip
Once you’ve established your presence online and worked on your tone of voice, your areas of interest and started making connections with communities that value your input, don’t let your activity and passion for social media slip. We’ve already explored that social media is constantly adapting, and while it’s true that social media is by no means the be all and end all of communicating with people, it’s important you’re giving it the attention it deserves. The more you put in, the more you will get out.
What would you add to the list? Do you have things to consider when getting online? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me @willdotbarker.