I was a hold out. I didn’t see the point. Thought it was another thing I would be distracted by when I should be doing other things. Then two things happened: the Coalition for Health Funding’s Social Media 101 briefing, and the Boston Marathon bombings.
The CHF’s effort to educate its members on social media was solid and our Coalition experts, Whitney Zatzkin (@MsWZ) and Ben Corb (@bwcorb) gave the group a crash course on how to use it and why it’s helpful. Ben got me when he said, “This is self-branding.” And I was close to sold. I’m always looking for ways to expand my horizons and talk about the things that I find interesting – like health policy or running or Darius Rucker (seriously anything by Darius – his Hootie days, R&B and his amazing country career. But that’s a blog topic for another day – and probably another website). So while the CHF’s event had my brain percolating, the quest for the Boston Marathon Bombers officially hooked me.
As a New Englander and a runner, I felt particularly drawn to the story of the Boston Marathon bombings. It was horrific, and I couldn’t stop reading about it. And let me tell you - being woken up at 3am by a phone call (yes, really a 3am phone call!) alerting us to the police chase fed my need for information. CNN and NBC weren’t giving it to me fast enough. . . so I checked Twitter. Lo and behold, I was receiving information quickly and in real time. By 5am I made the decision to officially join Twitter.
I am by no means a social media expert – I use Facebook for pictures of my family mostly (hi, Mom!), and LinkedIn for professional connections – but Twitter has opened up a new world – and I know I’m late to the party on this one. I’ve outlined some tips below for anyone thinking about joining, or who has recently joined:
1. Don’t be afraid. This was my first hurdle – I’ve seen too many people do too many stupid things via Twitter or other social media tools to make me think it was worth it. However, the pros outweigh the cons, so long as you are responsible (see number 3).
2. Start slow. “Follow” others that are in fields you are interested in, both professionally and personally. For instance, my Twitter feed shows that I follow lots of health policy folks, but also some pop culture and parenting folks. See what they’re talking about, and “re-tweet” or join their conversation!
3. Be responsible. Use common sense. Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. This is public – and this is your “personal brand,” so use it wisely. Do you want to post about how many glasses of wine you’ve had that evening or how someone at work gets on your nerves? Probably not a good idea if you don’t want someone finding it. A key rule is that if it’s not something you would say in person, then don’t say it on Twitter. Also, many organizations these days have social media guidelines, so it is important to be familiar with those.
4. Twitter is key for advocates. Most importantly, Twitter has opened up a whole new venue for advocacy organizations and individuals. There is public access to policy makers, Members of Congress, and even the President. You can recruit followers, get your message out, and amplify it beyond your traditional sources. Everyone receives communication differently – this is just one tool in your box to use. Between Twitterstorms, Thunderclaps and trending hashtags there is so much you can do to make sure that others see what it is that you care about, and that they can easily become involved in the cause themselves.
5. It’s not “free.” To do it right requires time and resources. You want to be relevant, timely and to the point. I know that in Washington we like to use 50 words to say something that could take 10 – but really with Twitter you HAVE to say it in 140 characters. It’s challenging. So while joining Twitter itself may be free, it does require manpower to keep up with it.
CRD has been moving into the social media realm – hey, welcome to our blog! Follow our clients on Twitter, including @AASLDNews, @ASH_hematology, @ASPNeph , @chemoparity,@cooleysanemia, @healthfunding, @info4PI, @MySMFM, @PanCAN, and @SocietyGIM, to name a few. We have staff on hand to assist and advise organizations on tweeting, organized Tweet Days and other modes of maximizing the tools available to get your advocacy and organizational messages across.
In the meantime, sign up for your own account at www.twitter.com (it’s easy!) and follow me on Twitter @k8eschubert.