Using Social Media: Strategic Considerations
Communication via social media Web sites (e.g., Facebook,
Twitter, LinkedIn) is rapidly expanding in both the personal
and professional realms. With careful planning, it can be a cost- and time-effective
way to help promote your public report.
Stay focused on why
you are using social media and have a plan for the types of information you
want to share. With your strategy in hand, it's easier to limit your time
commitment while maximizing the value you can get from using social media.
media is a part of mass communication: ignore it at your peril. From afar, social
media may seem like a tool for teenagers to socialize or workers to waste time.
But a closer examination reveals a wide array of companies and organizations
successfully incorporating social media into their marketing communication
activities. For example, in a list of 2009 media trends, the World Editors
Forum said it is "verging on inconceivable" that a reporter would not use
Twitter. And, while the advantages of Twitter are more clear-cut, a wider range
of people regularly use Facebook.
- There are
many forms of social media. From the popular Facebook to the leading-edge
program that we haven't heard of yet (but is destined to be the next hot item),
the multitude of ways to quickly communicate using online services can be
overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of social media Web sites,
applications or "apps," and tools at your disposal. The activity on social
media sites can seem random and voluminous, so it's easy to assume that it
would be too time consuming to pursue. Fortunately, like most strategic
activities, the best approach is to be clear about your goals and focus only on
the social media tools and activities that will help you achieve them.
your social media activities carefully. Think through your communication
goals and practical steps using social media to help you reach them. For example,
assuming that one of your goals is to increase awareness and use of your public
report, it is likely that one of your key audiences is consumers. Where do they
go for information? The answer likely includes newspapers (print or online) and
Facebook (the most popular social media Web site). If
this is the case, consider starting by using Twitter to connect with reporters
(see item #1 above for rationale) and Facebook to connect with local consumers.
- Start slowly
with social media. If this arena is new to you, pick one of the popular social
media sites and use it yourself for awhile to learn how it works in an informal,
less public way. You'll learn that the process is pretty straightforward and you
control how much time you spend on it. You will also learn that it's different
from "old school" media relations or communications in which the corporate or
organizational voice was acceptable. Today, such formality is often viewed as "spin."
Get ready to use a more conversational style when posting information or
comments using social media.
When you are ready to have your Collaborative or public report
represented on social media, consider these steps:
- Make sure
that you (or your report) is easy to find. What is
your report called? Does your communication activity focus more on promoting
that name or your Collaborative? Which is more important for people to know
about? This may seem like a side issue, but in the world of social media people
need to be able to easily find and connect with you by typing in a name or
related keywords. If you decide to use Twitter to communicate with reporters
and other opinion leaders, for example, will your Twitter account be named
after your Collaborative, your public report, or something else? The issue of
naming will be important for several types of social media Web sites and tools.
It will also improve consistency in your other communication activities.
the type of content you want to share. Consider posting progress in meeting
milestones for producing your public report, announcements from your
Collaborative, and local or national news articles that are related to the need
for or content of your public report. There is still a great need to help
people understand the gaps in quality and why public reporting is an important
part of the process of quality improvement in health care. Also, social media
is all about interaction, so be sure to scan what others are saying to learn
the perspectives and interests of reporters and other key audiences.
- Check in and
add an update or a comment twice per day. Post a comment on a topic of
interest (see previous bullet). Remember to add your comments to others' posts
to encourage discussion and learning about topics relevant to your
Collaborative's public report and other efforts to improve health care quality
and affordability. Being engaged means participating in the conversation,
rather than just pushing out information. If people comment on what you have
posted, consider the issue and comment back. Even a brief response lets them
know that your Collaborative is listening and interested in what people have to
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