How I got into Twitter
In college I started a Twitter account and used it for all of 5 days before forgetting about it. At the time, Twitter was new, and I really didn't see a purpose for it. Four years latter, I started a new account, and in that space of time, much had changed. Twitter and other social media profiles had expanded beyond simply taking pictures of food and talking about what you were doing, into a real-time stream of conscious thought and ideas that could be shared with those that were in your field.
I choose to get back on Twitter while doing mobile medical app reviews and writing about mobile/digital health at iMedicalApps. I think one of the editors had actually recommended it, so that I could brand myself as a writer. So I did, and I found that it led to several amazing outcomes. Foremost was that I could follow individuals paving the way in mHealth field, and get to write about it prior to other news agencies, and had the opportunity to informally ask questions without relying on email and associated common forms of communication. Secondly, individuals started coming to me and giving me ideas or information to use. Social media immediately transitioned from being a platform of sharing into that of informal communication that could expand beyond email, and allowed others to jump into the conversation.
Other areas that Twitter opened the door for me included the sheer amount of communities available. There are many health professionals available, patient groups, and tweetchats (yes, its a period of time dedicated to chatting on twitter with hashtags on a topic - look into #HCSM or #MEDED), and the prospect of Free Online Meducation (#FOAMEd) which if you haven't heard of it, you really need to look into it. The emergency medicine crowd has really demonstrated the prowess of Twitter in sharing information quickly between one another and I wonder what it has done for patient care. So for anyone wondering what Twitter can do for you, it can expand your knowledge, serve as a means to keep up on the literature, find colleagues, and develop yourself professionally.
One individual that stands out to me who has just done social media right is Joel Topf, MD. Joel (@Kidney_Boy) is a great example of a physician who has used social media to communicate with colleagues, challenge ideas, and keep abreast on pertinent research. As a nephrologist he is a standout member in the social media field related to his passion. He has also gone on to create NephMadness (Just look into it, I swear it's brilliant) that has been running for several years, and social media has allowed word of it to spread. Joel also helps leads a nephrology journal club (NephJC) via Twitter, which I enjoy participating in every now and then. And that is the key thing, I don't have to participate if I don't want to, only when it interests me. As a pharmacist, if the topic is about drugs I'm in. Surgical interventions? Meh. But thats the brilliance of the medium of social media, you aren't constrained in one spot and can move on.
The key part that my initial forays into Twitter taught me was that you have two options: be a passive observer, or a participant. The former allows you to learn and watch in the background, and you can relay and retweet content you find beneficial, but overall its a passive affair. The later is what I wanted to be, an individual offering content that others would share and discuss with me.
How I Began to Brand Myself
After my initial success of using Twitter, and choosing to be a content maker, I felt the need to 'brand' myself in a sense. I asked myself what did I want to be known as, and what did I want to talk about? I decided I wanted to be known for pharmacy, technology, and mobile/digital health. So what did I do? Recreated my Twitter presence, purchased a webspace, and made logo/headers to stand apart. I started to actively write on my interests, identified those sharing my interests and following them on Twitter and LinkedIn, and really tried to develop relevant content.
What I quickly found out was that this is not an easy endeavor. I had to teach myself several things that aren't native to my field, such as website design, using graphic design software, learning to push out media content on platforms, and just taking the time to market myself. If anything else, I have learned that social media can be awesome, but to make a significant presence takes work, and I am still doing my best (I don't have a lot of followers, and I still have yet to get more than a thousand visitors a month, but I am trying). But what I have found, if you want to take that time, is there is a tremendous amount of tools and software available (and free) for you to use to take the leap, and that there are many people willing to help you along the way.
There are several individuals that stand out in my profession who have done a good job of this, and in face are as a by product bringing increased awareness to the practice of pharmacy which I am thankful for.
- Eric Christianson, PharmD (@Mededucation101) has been pushing the way pharmacists can put out pharmacy knowledge through social media. His website MedEd101 provides a lot of information related to his clinical experience and medication knowledge for health professionals to read. I love his easy approach and personal take on matters, and feel that this has greatly helped platform the awareness of pharmacists knowledge to the public.
- Nadia Awad, PharmD (@Nadia_EMPharmD) is another great example of a pharmacist pushing #FOAMed and has made a name for herself in emergency medicine based on her presence on social media. She has also published on the topic and given talks to pharmacists on how they can get involved in social media.
- Jerry Farhni, PharmD (@JFahrni) is a pharmacist with a large knowledge on automaton and pharmacy technology, and is another great example of a pharmacist that blogs on how hospital pharmacy is changing and using tech.
The Pay Off of Social Media
So what has my foray into social media done for me? I would say a lot, and argue it has helped me grow professionally and given me opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise had.
- Making Colleagues - I have met so many people on social media, and these connections have helped foster new ideas and concepts I previously lacked. They have helped me discover new areas of my interests and determine what is of relevance. The best part for me has always been making these connections, and eventually running into them in the future and grabbing a beer while we Tweet out our discussions.
- Writing and Research - I cannot even begin to emphasize all of the collaborator and projects I have been invited to participate with due to people finding me online. I feel that this has been the biggest factor in my job growth and opportunity to expand myself professionally.
- Recognition - Being interviewed or approached by individuals looking for knowledge on digital health in pharmacy has probably been my biggest asset with social media, as others discover my writing and thoughts, and want to use them for their own material.
- It's Fun - Social media is fun. I love meeting new people and chatting it up with others. If it wasn't fun I wouldn't do it.
What I want to close off in summary is that if you choose to participate in social media, do so for more than keeping up pretenses or for sole job opportunities. Social media is another avenue for professional growth and personal development, and it only has yet to be tapped. Will you take that leap?