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7 tips from HIMSS Social Media Ambassadors

Pros offer advice and insights about succeeding at social media
By Scott Tharler
07:04 AM
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Leading up to HIMSS16 the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society is once again credentialing individuals to cover the conference as Social Media Ambassadors.

Chosen for their influence on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or other networks, this prestigious group has contributed, if not shaped, the social conversation on a range of health IT topics throughout the year and that will invariably hit fever pitch at HIMSS16 as it has in previous years.

Compiled through interviews with past HIMSS Social Media Ambassadors, here are their tips for engaging in the dialogue via social networks. 

1. Begin by determining your purpose. If you're only getting into Twitter for sales and branding, that's fine. But stay out of the communities. These are passionate thought leaders and advocates for change. "If you don't attach yourself to a larger initiative or a more collaborative effort, then you'll be quickly discounted on Twitter," said Linda Stotsky, known on Twitter as @EMRAnswers, and a healthcare business development director at LogicNets. After you’ve determined a purpose, get to know relevant communities, even if that means lurking at first to better understand whether it's a good fit and how to present yourself. And then once you've found where you want to be part of the conversation, step up and contribute valuable content.

2. Be sure your tweets, and links wherein, deliver value to readers. Although she'll occasionally post press releases of interest, Janice McCallum, managing director of Health Content Advisors, who tweets as @janicemccallum, maintains her integrity by being authentic and tweeting what she believes has value — and that she may want to refer back to later. That includes keeping an eye out for clever headlines that link to articles of less value that the headline suggests. Be descriptive, offer facts and pack a lot of depth into a little space. "Those are the folks who do well on Twitter," McCallum said.

3. Tap into software tools. "I'm always looking at tools to help me amplify my brain and be in more places and moments in time," said Chuck Webster, MD, aka @wareflo. As part of his social media workflow, he schedules Google Alerts and uses applications such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck to automatically post messages at certain times.

4. Understand the power of immediacy. "The absolute best time to reply to someone is immediately after they've just sent a tweet," Webster said. It makes for a more personal experience, especially on weekends and off-hours. And along similar lines, he's been known to conduct quick video interviews at conferences, post them online and see folks watching them just minutes later. Brian Ahier (@ahier), director of government affairs at Medicity, added that when using social media, don't let the urgency of what you want to share come at the cost of grammar, sensibility or correct information. It's also important to walk the line when blending your personal and professional lives on Facebook.

5. Consider customer service opportunities and act as they arise. Patients are definitely out there talking about their hospital experiences. So hospitals should respectfully monitor and engage in those conversations. It's an opportunity to amplify the positive and — not to delete the negative, but try to turn it into a better patient satisfaction score. Ahier shared this tip: Balance responsiveness and privacy by writing back promptly with a dedicated social media complaint number to resolve the issue offline. And be careful what you post because "once you publish something on the Internet, it's pretty much there forever."

6. Strategically unfollow. "I only follow five or six hundred folks. But I try to read every tweet of the people I follow,” Webster explained. “So every once in a while, I have to unfollow folks. It's like balancing a stock portfolio." It's true. He follows only as many people as he feels it takes to cover topics of interest without too much overlap.

7. Don't tweet too much! It's a good idea to keep your social media habit in check by setting your own limits. Mandi Bishop, who tweets as @MandiBPro and works as Dell's Health Plan Analytics Innovation and Consulting Practice Lead, for instance, spends 20-30 minutes each day after breakfast reading her news feeds and maybe another hour or so over the course of the day to read and respond on Twitter and LinkedIn. But she tries to put the phone away nights and weekends. And keep her total social media expenditures within the 20 percent of the working time she devotes to learning, development and engagement.

What’s missing? What other insights can you share? Comment below.