I’m hoping this happy little post might help anyone who is on the fence about blogging or using other forms of internet 2.0 (meaning “interactive websites”) to communicate about healthcare. This article is part of an Advisory Board essay that I contributed to the Mayo Clinic Center for Social media to be used in a handbook for members of the Social Media Health Network. By the way, as you read this, I’m at their largest annual meeting in Minnesota right now. Yes, I got a new coat. And I can’t wait to tell you all everything!! Meanwhile, enjoy my pre-Halloween boogie man post! I’m printing it out for my doc who loves Google, but is still skittish about Social Media.
The Boogie Man Is Not on Social Media!
One reason many give for avoiding social media is fear. There are several risks or negative possibilities that people imagine will befall them. While the possibility of negative consequences is real, it’s usually rare. Still there is a perception that a Boogie Man exists. He’s not under the bed like he was when we were six, but somewhere in Social Media Land.
Like the one under a child’s bed, the Social Media Boogie Man is actually an image that emerges based on a collection of indistinct fears. Fears can often be dispelled with more information. While a six year old won’t get up, turn on the light, and look under the bed, there are many ways that we can do that. We can examine social media and prepare ourselves to use it to improve healthcare, driving away the Boogie Man.
One suggestion I’ve given healthcare professionals who are anxious is to observe a new platform or community for a brief time before fully participating. As you ease into it, people in online communities usually like giving advice and will gladly explain the lingo that’s being used or update you about scheduled events. Here are some other specific ways you can prepare to use social media successfully.
Please do try to…
- Be knowledgeable: Post useful, reliable information. Clever is cute, but you want to do more than attract attention; you want to build others’ confidence in your posts.
- Be good: Generous. Kind. Honest.
- Be yourself: Use social media the same way you’d use the telephone, an email, or a walk in the park.
Some surprising principles:
- Get off topic! People also love to talk about food, sports, or the weather. It’s okay to get off your healthcare topic so people can get to know you a little.
- Get mad! It’s all right to show some passion or emotion. It helps others know you’re being sincere.
- Mess up! Everyone makes mistakes anyway, so don’t think you have to wait until you can do this perfectly before you try.
Notice I did not say:
- Be Mr. or Ms. Wonderful! Just be part of the conversation.
- Be ever –present. You don’t have to reveal everything or be online all the time.
- Practice medicine online. Most do not have that expectation of you anyway.
I hope this eases some pressure or lessens some fears about using social media. The Boogie Man may be around somewhere, but I haven’t spotted him on Social Media lately. Mostly, I’ve met a lot of real people who are passionate about learning from others and improving healthcare.
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