September 20, 2012 1 Comment
I was delighted to attend a social media event in Leeds today, designed for people interested in mental health. I was asked to deliver a workshop for people interested in using social media for professional development. I was hoping to Live-Stream the workshop, but wasn’t able to connect to the internet from the room I was in, so I promised to blog about it so that you could share in the conversation and add any comments you might have.
What is professional development?
The group kicked off the session explaining a little bit about who they were, what their level of experience in social media was, and what they felt were important elements of professional development. We were able to identify universal elements of what contributed t professional development, in order to look at how we could apply this knowledge to the online media we chose to use. We picked out the main elements we identified as important and listed them- here’s a picture of the jolly selection we made.
Searching for keywords related to fields of interest
After listing the elements of professional development, we were able to identify key words associated with each element, this gave us an idea of some keywords to search for using search engines or social networks. Some of the group were surprised to learn that social networks could be searched for information in this way, and hadn’t considered doing this before. It was pointed out by a group member that Facebook ha just overtaken Google as the pre-eminent search engine (thanks, @northernlightspr!).
We discussed how finding appropriate hashtags could be a useful tool- not just for Twitter, but in using the same principle to locate search terms for any website we wanted to use to find out things we found interesting. We looked at the example of building a network related to occupational therapy.
Searching for individuals to add to our networks.
Another group member (@philjewitt) was able to contribute that by searching in this way, we could find the individuals who were regularly using these searched-for terms, and hence discover new people to add to our networks. Thanks Phil- this was an important point. So, by searching using a tool like Twitter, we could find not only what people were saying about something, but also find out who said lots of things about a topic- this indicates to us they could be interesting to follow, friend, or connect with, as we are likely to be able to talk with them about our shared interest.
Let’s look at searching Twitter for information about using social media in local government, which was an area of interest to several #smsmhealth group members. We identified search terms that we could use:
- #Leeds (or whatever town we’re interested in)
We can then run a search using Twitter:
We can see that conversations are happening around this hashtag, so we know it was an effective search term. We can see current popular discussions taking place, and we can also see some people who are having conversations about the topic that interests us.
Separating and connecting
The best use of social media for professional development comes from having conversations about things that interest us, professionally. To do this, we need conversational partners. We know of a couple of ways we could search in social media to find both topics that interest us, and the people talking about those topics. So, how do we identify if it is a “useful” conversation to have? How do we know that this connection, this conversation, will add value to our experience?
We don’t. But we can make a good guess based on what the other person is saying, and whether they are willing to connect with other people and have conversations. And, we don’t need to make a “forever” decision we can choose to separate and connect with people according to our own rules, interests, time constraints- it’s really up to you.
At a party, you might decide the person that happens to be in the kitchen with you is a total hoot, and spend the rest of the evening having a great time chatting together, whether you disagree about everything or if you find you have lots in common. Or you may locate the person at the party that you find you have uncomfortable silences with. That’s okay. We are always civil with each other, but we employ the same social skills we use everyday at work or at a party to continue some conversations, and politely separate from others. We’ve got finite attention and time, and we get to choose how we spend it. It’s not a judgement on anybody else.
Building a network
The purpose of all this connecting and having conversations is to build our network. By developing the links we share with people we “meet” in social media, we can gain insights, share experiences, discuss issues that matter to us, and develop in a professional sense. We are developing a network based on shared interests, or a professional practice-based network (or both!)
To develop professionally, it is important to have access to high quality information, access to research, and membership of professional groups (as we discussed earlier). We’re using social media to achieve these aims. If you’re trying out Twitter for professional development (and I recommend you do), then aim to gather about 100 people to “follow” before you decide whether or not the network works for you.
Becoming a “network node”
Building a network and becoming more influential within it is the process of becoming “network nodes“. This means we are becoming a person or link in the network where information (stories, opinions, facts, fallacies) is efficiently passed further on through the network. The better the network, the better the information contained within it. As we become “network nodes”, we’re adding value to the overall development of the networks, by virtue of our curation both of the network and of the information within it.
Curating your network
Growing a network is great fun and very rewarding, but how do we avoid becoming overloaded with all this information, and all the conversations we would like to join in with but don’t have time? The answer lies in curating the network, and via this, curating the information flow. This can be done in several ways.
- Trim your follows
As you follow or friend lots of people, you might find it becoming difficult to keep up with everything that’s going on. This is a clue that it’s time to curate, cull, or trim your follows. This can be done in several ways, including by putting people in lists, by using various tools to clear out people who aren’t active members of the network, or just by redefining your own rules about what you talk about or how much time you have to spend on a network.
- Think about time in the network
Are you being strategic about the scare time resource you have in this network? Do you have expectations of doing professional development within a 9-5 framework? Are you able to committ to times when people are having the best conversations? Early morning is my favourite time, but most people Tweet from 7-9pm, that’s why so many Tweetchats are on at this time.
- Its okay to be non-linear!
Social network chatting is great when you are online at the same time as the person you’re chatting with, but people don’t expect instant responses. We are all busy, and that’s okay. It’s great to send a quick message saying you’d like to pick up a subject with someone another time, but lots of people find it better to write a blog-post to expand an opinion and share it widely by linking to it in social media- commenting on people’s posts and writing your own is a great way to have deeper conversations with other people in your network. So if you find yourself worrying about “keeping up” with what’s being said, please relax. As your network grows and you curate a network that is bespoke to your professional interests, your network will start to filter information. Things that you find interesting will probably be shared several times, from different directions. Trust that the information you need will get to you. It will.
I hope you’ve found the information I’ve shared useful, and I hope you can take away a couple of strategies to apply to your own practice. Social media can enhance our professional development in new ways- and I find Twitter particularly useful. Go on, give it a try!
I’m interested to know what you think- what tips would you share for people who are just starting to think about using social media in this way?
Thanks to all the participants in the workshop at #smsmhealth in Leeds today, and to Leeds and York Partnerships Foundation Trust and Leeds Mind for co-hosting the event.
If you would like to talk to me about delivering training and mentoring in using social media professionally within your organisation or practice, do get in touch.
Other blogs about #smsmhealth:
Resources for Social Media for Professional Development
@claireot on demonstrating clinical leadership through using social media http://theclnnetwork.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/social-media-not-just-peter-andres.html
@wenurses Twitterversity guide to Twitter http://www.wenurses.co.uk/Resources/twitterversity.php
The Not So Big Society blog with great example of how NOT to do it http://notsobigsociety.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/how-not-to-debate-with-health-professionals-on-twitter/
@claireot on Littlefeet- a case study of the consequences of poor staff digital literacy in a mental health inpatients unit http://claireot.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/censorship-or-duty-of-care-little-feet-blogging-on-an-acute-mental-health-inpatients-ward/
and the Littlefeet case study develops the Streisand Effect http://claireot.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/little-feet-pursues-pals-an-update-in-the-mental-health-inpatients-blogging-debate/
OTalk and Occhat Blog
OTalk and Occhat Twitter
OTalk and Occhat Facebook Page
OT4OT Facebook Group
OT24Vx- the 24hr Virtual Exchange- on Facebook