30 / 6 / 2014 3.33pm
by Victoria Betton
Within an NHS Trust, the social media nucleus tends to be located within a corporate communications team. There may be some professional accounts too and even some service accounts - if they are allowed to have one – practice seems to vary wildly from the permissive through to the extremely cautious.
And whilst being active on Twitter and Facebook, having your own LinkedIn profile and YouTube channel, are increasingly an essential part of the corporate communications mix, if we only think of them as broadcast tools then we are missing a trick.
If we approach social media through a lens of relationships then it becomes much more obvious that being social is about people and connections and the benefits we derive from them.
We expect our communications team to craft corporate messages but we don’t expect them to do all of our everyday communicating and relationship building for the whole organisation. Not only would that be impossible but it would be undesirable too.
We have many brilliantly passionate, clever and specialist people in our organisations - why wouldn’t we want them to make their professional lives more open and public? As well as sharing something of themselves they will also gather the benefits of feedback, conversations and connections themselves. Mark Brown, @MarkOneInFour, editor of One in Four magazine spoke about the notion of the ‘public professional’ on the stage at Expo alongside Teresa Chinn of @WeNurses fame and myself at the Health and Care Innovation Expo earlier in the year – you can find a transcript of his talk here – well worth a read.
My own sociable journey
Twitter is the most ubiquitous platform for networking – mixing the personal, professional and organisational in a big frenzied melee of tweets. When I first joined Twitter around four years ago I remember being 'weirded out' by the notion of 140 character micro-blogs being continually posted by random people all over the world. I went from weirded out to nervous and very cautious; and from cautious to phenomenally enthusiastic (to the point where the divorce papers were very nearly served in my direction) and I’ve since plateaued at a relatively respectable ratio of online/offline activity. I now use Twitter daily to source information; make new connections; maintain existing ones; share what I am doing; find others who are doing similar things; to have my some of my assumptions challenged; and more often to have my views and ideas validated.
In the way that I can’t remember how I ever survived before email, I now can’t imagine how I ever survived before tweets. Twitter is more routinely my search engine of choice ahead of Google.
But building a reciprocal ecosystem around you on Twitter, or other social media platforms of your choice, does take time and attention. Just as relationships do offline in fact. But in my view that effort pays off and is well worthwhile.
Extending or constraining the social?
There are now professional guidelines and toolkits and strategies around for managing your social media presence which are a testimony to the increasingly mainstream reach of many platforms. My only niggling worry is about the extent to which institutions are professionalising practices in social media spaces, and if in doing so, whether they may be compromising the very thing that makes them often more interesting and dynamic spaces than the meeting room or the boardroom.
Is taking professional practices, such as CPD activities, into social networking spaces a sign of more open and accountable practice or is it professionalism dominating and constraining spaces that work best when they are serendipitous and incidental? As one of my PhD research interviewees recently remarked, having a Twitter account or a blog used to be perceived as a risky activity but now any chief exec worth their salt has their own blog.
What do you think?
With Masters Degrees in Women’s Studies and Social Work, Victoria is currently undertaking ethnographic PhD research in the field of social media and mental health. She directs a programme of mHealth for the NHS in Leeds, with a focus on mental health and long term conditions. She is a member of Mind’s External Relations Committee and is an Improvement Fellow at the Y&H Improvement Academy. Victoria founded the Arts and Minds network and the award winning Love Arts Leeds – the first of its kind in England, exploring the relationship between arts, mental health and wellbeing. Victoria also sits on the steering group of the NHS Confederation E-Mental Health Framework project. Her writing includes various published journal articles, an e-book Social Media in Mental Health Practice and her blog. You can find her on Twitter @VictoriaBetton and other social media profiles can be found here.