Friday, March 5, 2010

Social Media: I Don't Have Time for That

A Post I wrote for the AAMSE Hotline - Advancing Professionalism in Medical Society Management

How to Dip Your Toe into the Social Media Sea without Drowning in the Surf

Given: Most medical societies’ resources are stretched thin now. Given: Most medical society execs can’t find enough hours in the day already.

So why would we want to spend money we don’t have and time we can’t spare messing around with frivolities like Twitter and Facebook? They’re just the latest passing fads. And they’re notorious time robbers. I have other things to do.

But do you? Sure, Facebook only has 400 million active users (as of March 1), but it may fall soon to the next best thing. I remember when CompuServe was the biggest Internet network. CompuServe may be gone, but Internet networks are everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like may all vanish, but social media are here to stay. They allow the Internet to fill that basic human need of congregating in groups of people with like interests.

“Groups of people with like interests?” Sounds like a medical society. That’s right. Like it or not, our associations and social media occupy the same space these days. That makes them our direct competitors. We ought to at least take the blinders off and see what’s out there.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Start by just listening. Set aside five minutes twice a day to monitor what Twitter and the blogosphere are saying about your organization. Set up a search on Google Feed Reader and HootSuite.
  2. Talk to your members. It won’t take you long to find members who are using social media. Ask them why they do it. How does it affect the stream of information they wade in every day? How would they like to see their society get involved?
  3. Experiment. Pick just one of these tools to try out. Spend an extra 10 minutes a day. Get a good feel of the culture before you dive in. See if you can use it to engage in constructive dialogue with your members, prospective members, elected officials, or patient groups. Give it a few months. If it doesn’t work, drop it and try something else. No harm done.
  4. Remember your media relations strategy. Mainstream reporters say they use social media for story ideas, to pick up tips, or to check facts. Good media relations today involve more than sending out the occasional news release.
  5. Don’t forget the bloggers. They occupy niches. You’ll be surprised at how many occupy your niche. And with proper care and feeding, they’ll share your stories with their readers, who are also interested in your corner of the world. That makes them more than just the average news consumer.

Some useful resources:

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