For many of us, living in a world of social media can be an integral component to our success. Our ability to navigate the complexities of a post or a tweet can be both gratifying and frustrating. I’ve seen any eyes look away and shoulders shrug on the mere mention of Twitter. But the reality is that these channels are ways to directly plug into a dialogue that was once reserved for the entitles or elite. You can listen to thought leaders and innovators and you can even jump right into the conversation. That’s an option that elevates the utility of these platforms to something special in the role of communications. Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other platforms are tools of transformation. They offer the opportunity to connect and engage to find common ground or push ideas along a path of acceptance or rejection. And while they can also drive contention and divide us,
it’s imperative that we see that emerging value of technology is to bring humanity together. Technology will become the connective tissue of humanity to build the bonds that may otherwise never be made. It will help us navigate around the all-too-human issues of ignorance, bias, and prejudice and pave the path of understanding.
In particular, healthcare, medicine, and digital health are areas where social media and social media networks can play a valuable role. From insights derived from the often muted and subtle voices of patients and caregivers to the robust debate on scientific issues, social media platforms offer a crucible of discussion and debate that can drive important changes. We all know the power of medical congresses, patient advocacy groups, and journals.
I thought it would be interesting to give you a sense of my perspective on social media with a focus on one of my favorites, Twitter. And remember, we all start off in that lonely place with zero followers.
Relationships and engagement matter. From my perspective, social media isn’t a simple broadcast channel, like a TV spot. It’s a two-way street when you have direct access to both lanes. Some “influencers” use social media as a tool to simple broadcast something without any real engagement. That’s really more of a myopic advertising strategy than leveraging the robust potential of social media where two-way engagement is optimal
It’s the follow…and the follow back! It’s important to take some time and follow people that interest you and are active in your field. It’s a bit of a hunting expedition and leveraging what you see and learn from other media channels is the perfect fodder to grow your list. And remember, it’s good form to follow back, especially those with whom you share interests. Personally, I find it a bit off-putting that some “influencers” follow very few people. Their lopsided numbers don’t really reflect a level of engagement that I find most valuable.
It’s the power of your idea. For better or worse, your word or images can catalyze a discussion. When a post goes viral, it’s the power of the idea and not the source that can often ignite this dynamic. Twitter provides a surprising flat playing field and that’s a significant advantage for you.
Twitter is a powerful and top search engine. If you use Google, you should use Twitter to get a sense of what’s going on now! One of the unique aspects of this channel is that it can give you a strong sense of what’s going on at this very moment. From a breaking clinical paper to a convention, Twitter provides a temporal aspect to search that is often overlooked.
Remember those hashtags. Hashtags anchor your posts in a context and drive search engine optimization. This will help define you and your brand. I use #digitalhealth a lot and that’s were much of my discussions live. But sometimes I’ll include #AI, #technology, #healthtech, #IoT, #HIT, etc. This can help focus your tweet and even begin to trend in some of the hashtag lists. My suggestion is to use #digitalhealth as it’s a smaller cluster of total tweets (than things like #health or #medicine).
Humorous and friendly posts get lots of eyeballs. Sometimes, I get more traffic with a silly cartoon or friendly comment. People like this. And as long as you use hashtags to define and focus your message, it’s fine. These “fun diversions” will help drive your stats and mindshare. But it also will help to define your brand. So, be careful and remember, you are what you tweet!
Post can include people. You can simply tag people or add their name to the body of the tweet. This will drive the post directly to their timeline and foster some level of engagement. This is a powerful way to drive a conversation with your followers or other content experts. Sometimes, you can get a reaction from very prominent voices. But remember, don’t wear out your welcome.
Read it. Post it. This is one of my best secrets! I read articles all day from various sources. If I like it—even a little—I’ll simply post it. Read the article, check the date (sometimes they are years old!), and post it. For twitter, the article headline usually works, but think about making it more interesting by putting it in your own words or reframing the topic closer to your key topics and areas. Remember to include those hashtags! This process helps you “read” and educate yourself on current topics.
The retweet or the repost. Our inclination is often to just retweet something interesting. But often, there’s a link to a paper or story. It’s important that you follow up and check out the link, even if you just read the abstract or first paragraph. Go to the story and tweet it for yourself as a new tweet. For LinkedIn, you always get the “text box” to add your comments to the story. A good trick is to cut and paste a few sentences from the actual story. This adds direct content and makes it look like you’re doing more work than you really are.
Brilliant tweets can go unnoticed. This is sad but true and can be a source of frustration. But keep doing it because it’s a reflection of your brand and can sometimes punch into the mainstream conversation. Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. And that’s something you can’t accurately predict
Visuals add a punch! Cut and paste images to your tweets to give them more punch! Visuals always increase likes and retweets. There are lots of free stock art sites that can be searched by topic.
Use direct messaging to build relationships. These can be amazing “behind the scenes” conversations that build relationships. From a simple “thank you” to a serious question / comment, a DM is a power tool.
Analytics always help. Go to your analytics page on twitter or LinkedIn and see how well your posts are doing. I retweet my posts all the time—even the ones that aren’t getting any traction. It’s good to see what work and which ones get little or no attention. This provides an iterative process to help make your posts more resonant with your audience.
Customize and find your voice! Develop some key words and language that can help evolve your typographic and linguistic style. CAP, “My POV” or other stylistic components can be helpful and memorable and make your posts resonate.
Social media is a very powerful tool that helps you listen, learn, and become a part of today’s digital world. Traditional media will have a role, but social media adds another layer that gives the individual an empowered and democratized voice. I’ve worked hard to craft smart and interesting content, and this has developed into powerful business connections and also close personal friends. It’s your network, and in many ways, it’s your net worth too!