Social media session at IHA Health Literacy Conference 2
It was very heartening to hear several participants say that the presentation encouraged them to think about using social media tools in ways they had not considered before. Rosetta came up to me during the reception and said that she had learned a lot of useful ideas. She was very enthusiastic about David Armano’s “listen, learn and adapt” cycle and was considering FaceBook for engaging teens in an upcoming theatre for HIV prevention project. To the extent that the session stimulated interest in social media tools and got participants thinking about new ways of reaching their audience, I consider the session highly successful. The participants expressed appreciation for the handout and I continue to receive positive feedback. I am in the process of moving the handout to Google Docs so that it can be collaboratively edited.
- Polling the participants ahead of time was a good idea. Pro: I was able to get a sense of the audience, learn about their needs and invite some advanced users to contribute their experiences. Con: There was no way to respond to all the fantastic issues in a 90 minute session.
- I knew from the poll that participants were at different levels of experience but I was still thrown off by the challenge of engaging such a mixed crowd. Happily, they were all a model audience – enthusiastic and eager to learn. With the focus of the session on examples and strategies, there wasn’t enough time to address questions such as: what’s a Twitter hashtag in satisfactory detail as I worried about boring the advanced participants stiff with indepth explanations of basic concepts. Clearly, I was expecting too much when I asked the busy participants to review my social media 101 post as many beginners needed to learn what the tools are and how they work. There are many barriers to learning – for example, one participant explained that she couldn’t review the post because her workplace blocks *all* blogs!! Beth Kanter, who is a social media training guru may have valuable input on how to address the challenge of mixed level groups and I wish to acknowledge her wisdom which she generously shares on her blog and social media lab wiki. The ideal scenario would be separate sessions for beginners and more advanced learners.
- It may be helpful to divide the participants into loose groups based on their target audience. It was clear that those targeting patient groups face different challenges from those reaching health literacy practitioner communities.
- I may have tried to cover too much content too quickly and with hindsight, it was overly ambitious to expect the participants to work on the activity that I had planned for them – an exercise to brainstorm their audience, objectives, strategies and technologies [based on Forrester’s POST methodology]. There was not enough time to absorb the basic concepts and envision implementation particularly for the beginners.
- Helen Osborne, who I respect a great deal, had valuable feedback for me. She was very interested in my analysis of my pre-session survey findings and would have liked us to spend more time on this.
The participants had lots of questions and we ran out of time while there was a clear appetite for animated discussion. Predictably, a common concern was how to address privacy and HIPAA regulations and my basic response was a) HIPAA applies to health care providers not patients b) get informed consent when interviewing patients for blogs c) use social media for general education not specific patient advice. Other concerns: What do you do with negative comments? How do you track all the FaceBook comments about your organization? How often should you post updates? Sara Browne, a physician made the valid observation that it’s challenging to keep up with all this information without experiencing an information overload.
To address these and other issues raised in the pre-survey, I offered to start a forum where we would continue this conversation. I am considering creating a FaceBook page where participants can hone their skills with this platform as they share their experiences with and learn from like-minded colleagues. I wish to acknowledge the wonderful contributions of all those who I have consulted on my journey to IHA where I gained rich insights. I am particularly grateful to Erin Macartney of Palo Alto Medical Foundation for diligently compiling excellent content which I am working into a blog post. And of course, a big thank you to my wonderful audience many of whom spoke to me afterwards and planned on staying in touch.
I welcome thoughts from all: the session participants and those who have facilitated similar sessions on how to sustain these great conversations.
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