On Target: Focus Your Social Media Strategy to Keep Others Engaged

Have you heard this before? “We have to start a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest account!”? I have. All the social media venues weren’t crammed into one sentence, but I’ve had the “We have to start” conversation more than once (last week it was Vimeo). My standard response is, “Why?” The standard response to my standard response is, “Everyone else is and we don’t want to be left behind.”

“But what is the goal?” I ask. The response to this is usually a sigh and a head shake that, without words tells me, “You poor, out-of-touch soul. You nurses really do hate technology.”

I don’t ask these questions to be difficult or because I am afraid of technology. I ask them because, as a registered nurse, I have spent much time creating patient care plans. Care plans have helped me to identify and implement interventions to help patients reach their health goals. I can tell you that the more specific you can get with a patient, the better. Finding out what motivates them and creating a plan that is practical and can be incorporated into their day-to-day lives is going to be more successful than just telling someone with diabetes that an ideal fasting blood sugar is less than 100mg/dl, so they should try to eat right.

When it comes to social media, much like caring for patients, I want a plan with goals and measurable outcomes. But often companies have a scattershot approach to social media. If asked you what your organization’s social media plan is and what you want it to achieve, how would you answer? Think that over and please share them in the comments section of this post. I’m willing to say that many of you want your products and services to be used to improve patient care, support clinicians, or market your product. If I’m wrong, also share that in the comments section of this post. (My well-defined goal is to get people talking in the comments section. Hint, hint.)

As many of you have probably experienced, social media can be a great tool or an incredible waste of time. Think about your own use of it. Personally, I use Facebook to keep up with my friends and family since many of them live all around the country. My sister and I can share photos of our kids and I can hear about my friends’ latest vacations.

Unfortunately, there are times when my Facebook feeds fail me. This happens when long lost friends get into the habit of excessive posting. I don’t care if you bought a burrito, are halfway through the burrito, finished the burrito and are now throwing the aluminum foil the burrito was wrapped in into the trash can. I also am not interested in political, religious or social bickering. All the posts on things I don’t care about clog my news feed and make me miss my friend’s post about what’s blooming in her garden, which I love to see.

Now, some people are interested in these types of interactions on social media. Which is fine. To each their own. But when you are trying to reach a target group of patients or care providers, think about how they will use the platform and information you are providing. Do they want to meet other patients with similar conditions to form a virtual support group? Or are they looking for straightforward information they can share with their physicians?

Lately, I have joined two “closed” Facebook groups. One is made up of mothers from the yoga studio I attend and the other is a book discussion group I was invited to join through a friend. I know most of the members in the yoga group but I only know two in the book group. I participate in both and look forward to reading what the members say.

I find the concept of closed groups on Facebook interesting and I think it’s something that could work for those in Health IT who are looking to target a specific audience. Perhaps limiting membership to care providers or to patients would work for you. It seems that the closed groups have an understanding that they will only post what is important to the group (ie, potty training advice or book suggestions), the participants value the information shared there and are respectful of each other.

What types of closed groups do you think would work best for those in the Health IT? A group of professionals discussing the latest developments in Meaningful Use? A group targeted towards e-patients? Maybe a nursing informatics group?

Give it some thought and give it a try and tell us about how it works for you.

Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ

Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ, is a registered nurse and journalist who has covered healthcare issues and how they relate to the nursing profession. She began her nursing career as a neuroscience nurse at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and then transitioned to journalism after receiving a degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She has edited and written numerous articles on a wide range of nursing and healthcare topics like Accountable Care Organizations, evidence-based practice and telehealth.

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