I recently attended the inaugral Mayo Clinic Social Media and Healthcare Summit, held in Brisbane, Australia. Billed to excite, educate, and demonstrate the power of social media to healthcare providers – no matter where they work or what they do – this promised to be a novel few days. In my capacity as the social media coordinator for the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP), and as an advocate for the use of social media for academics, I have previously written Why you should use Twitter during your PhD, I am stuck in a Twitter-desert, help!, and on Research communication.
I agree with the view that:
ACRISP takes the stance that our voice on social media is an entity, in and of itself. We predominantly use Twitter and Facebook to disseminate our research (and Altmetrics to track our social influence). In addition, the vast majority of our researchers also curate their own Twitter, Academia, ResearchGate, and LinkedIn accounts, and many of them have written for various blog platforms too. Whilst we have debated, and even tested, other social media platforms, for the moment we are very happy with these platforms as a means to reach our social media goals (although I was highly impressed by the power, and liberal use, of Periscope at this Summit – a new one to test?).
Our social media champion, without a doubt, has to be ACRISP director Professor Caroline Finch. She has long seen the benefits, and harnessed the potential, of social media to not only disseminate research but to cultivate relationships and influence. Without her innate understanding of the power of social media, I doubt that the ACRISP entity would have amplified a voice.
The overwhelming message that I was left with after the summit was: curate credible conversation. Here is why:
— sheree bekker (@shereebekker) August 31, 2015
Without a doubt, the word of the conference was CURATE. No longer are social media platforms a place for arbitrarily posting information – today they are a sea of white noise, and it is our job as experts to create a space in which people know that they can find content that is curated by those in the know.
One of the more innovative forms of content curation shared at the Summit was the Twitter-Storm: a 10-minute en masse blast of credible information to counteract a trend of dubious information on a current topic. This was done with much success for #MeaslesTruth (read more: Did #MeaslesTruth Create a New Form of Twitter Communication?)
Maybe communication is more important than technology ~ Dr Donald Berwick
Another important initiative shared at the Summit is the Healthcare Hashtag Project – in which experts are working to standardize hashtags used for common healthcare issues. It is fascinating, and an excellent way in which to curate credible information under a conversation linked to a hashtag.
Personally, I would love to see both these used for the sport injury prevention space – who is with me? Let’s make it happen!
These initiatives are excellent examples of simple ways in which to take what we are already doing, and to make it better. I sometimes think that the very nature of social media – the fact that it is still seen as new and innovative – has us perpetuating the expectation that we always need to be searching for and jumping onto ‘the next big thing’ in an effort to stay relevant. Social media is no longer new, and it is here to stay. This summit left me with the distinct impression that we already have what we need: a thriving community of passionate, engaged people on a few very effective platforms. Let’s stop the perpetual pursuit. Let’s get the late adopters on board. Let’s take what already exists and make it better. Great content, credible voices, a thriving conversation: we got this thing!
In what I personally deemed THE presentation of the Summit, Dr Wendy Sue Swanson (watch a previous Ted Talk of hers) placed the spotlight firmly on where people tend to find their healthcare information (hello Dr Google), and the ethical duty that those working in the healthcare space have to curate CREDIBLE content on social media. As academics, as healthcare workers, as professionals, credibility inherently underpins our voices on social media. For academics, I believe that this articulates with the open access movement too. We have the knowledge, we have the platforms, it remains ethically problematic not to engage. Dovetailing with this, is how information should be shared:
It is absolutely key to think of your audience. Whilst the vast majority of us in the sport injury prevention space seem to be using social media as a means to disseminate our research and message to other researchers – and, yes, this is perfectly good, and necessary – we need to remember that our research is, ultimately, not for other researchers – but rather for those people who will benefit from our findings. Choosing to disseminate our message solely as academics, for academics, fails to do justice to the ends of our life’s work. I must admit that this was a thinking point for me. In my personal capacity, I choose to attempt to reach a broader audience than just academics – however the ACRISP entity has had at it’s core (although not explicitly stated) a desire to reach academics. Is this something that needs to change? How can we do this better? This will be a conversation going forwards for ACRISP. We have had much success in curating a credible voice amongst the academic community on social media, but as a research centre that has historically had as one of its strengths dissemination and implementation research – should the aims thereof not be reflected in the sharing of our research?
As a further note here, I will be the first person to point out that dissemination does not equal effective implementation outcomes. However, as with the Twitter-Storm above, harnessing the power of social media to share credible information is an important step. I particularly think of initiatives such as the dissemination and implementation of the concussion guidelines, and believe that we are thinking too small. We have seen numerous small-scale research studies on using social media to disseminate credible information to study the impact thereof – but what if we use a large-scale social media blast to counteract all the incorrect information out there? The fact that local implementation still remains very much nuanced and setting-specific is acknowledged, but if we can start to get our message across to a much larger audience it may be an important start. This is not research – this is our responsibility to those we aim to impact with our research.
At its core, social media is not a broadcasting tool, but rather a CONVERSATION (and this is especially important to remember when using Twitter). Interestingly, more than a few people at the Summit stressed that, as people/organisations working in the healthcare space, authenticity is key. Authentic caring inherently underpins why we all chose to work in this space, whether it be as clinicians or researchers. There is a distinct feeling that approaching social media as a public relations-type platform was missing the point. Social media gives us the amplification to reach more people with the credible information that we have. Authentically sharing this through the conversation that is social media is key. Don’t look for credit, don’t focus on reach and impact and metrics – rather LISTEN. Social media is a two-way conversation.
I have often heard academics say that they now find more relevant information via their social media networks than they do via traditional academic platforms. This is a wonderfully authentic effect of the power of social media, and a testament to the sharing economy that is thriving on social media. This also brings us back to the curation aspect: remember to use social media not just to broadcast your own work, but to share the work of others too. Debate respectfully, champion great work, share tacit knowledge.
Social media is no longer innovative.
As academics we are incredibly risk averse when it comes to amplifying our voices via media and social media. The truth is that we are best placed to curate credible conversation. I firmly believe that there is no need to split professional and personal profiles: just be yourself and focus on being authentic and responsible with your voice.
For more information on the specifics of what was covered at the Summit: