Before you jump into social media, first define your goals and determine how much time you’re willing to devote to keeping up your presence on the Web. Although many different types of social media are available, the most commonly used social media networks are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Here is a brief introduction to them.
With more than 750 million users, Facebook (www.facebook.com) is the most popular of all the social networking sites. In fact, according to a recent report by the Nielsen Company, a global information and measurement company, U.S. Internet users now devote more time to Facebook than to any other website. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, post photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.
The two fundamental features of Facebook are your home page and your profile. Your Facebook home page includes News Feed, a personalized feed of updates from people and Pages that you follow on Facebook. Your Facebook profile displays personal information such as interests, education, work background, and contact information. Users can also connect and engage with friends through Facebook’s Photos, Events, Videos, Groups, and Pages applications. In addition, you can communicate with others through Chat, personal messages, Wall posts, Pokes, or Status updates.
Facebook provides tools that enable its members to control what information they share and with whom they share it. You can select a specific audience for everything you post, including your profile; your communications can be public or private; you can even block specific connections. You can also choose whether to allow others to search your information.
A social networking tool designed for professionals, LinkedIn enables its members to create business contacts, search for jobs, and find potential clients. More than 120 million professionals worldwide use LinkedIn to stay informed about what’s happening in their industry, find the people and knowledge needed to achieve their business goals, and keep in contact with colleagues.
LinkedIn enables you to control and manage your professional identity online. In addition to outlining your education, relevant work history, and the business services you provide, your profile page can also include your career achievements, referrals, and recommendations from past and present colleagues or clients.
With LinkedIn Groups, you can connect with professional groups, alumni organizations, and work groups within your industry to advance your business goals and make new contacts. Participation in groups can also increase your online visibility.
Twitter is a real-time information network used by individuals, organizations, and businesses to learn and share new information. Twitter enables you to post small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet can be no more than 140 characters long. You can tell your story within your Tweet, or you can use your Tweet as a headline and provide additional information, including embedded media, in the details pane connected to each Tweet. Users can tweet via the Twitter website, mobile devices, or by Short Message Service where available.
A Twitter account can be public or protected. Accounts with public Tweets have profile pages that are visible to everyone. Only approved followers can view Tweets made on accounts with protected Tweets. Twitter users can choose whom they wish to follow, based on common interests (for example, “arthroscopic surgery” or “pediatrics”).
The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. People use the hashtag symbol # before relevant keywords in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets so that they show up more easily in Twitter Search. When you click on a hashtagged word in any message, you see all other Tweets in that category. If you Tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Tweet.
With a Twitter account you can tweet as much or as little as you want. Some people never tweet, they simply use Twitter as a way to get the latest information on topics that interest them. Businesses can use Twitter to share information with people interested in their products and services, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners, and influential people.
The AAOS has both Facebook and Twitter channels (See “Social media can help you educate your patients,” page 32). Although these pages are primarily geared to the public, you may find them interesting as sources of information for your patients.
For example, a recent AAOS tweet focused on advances in joint replacement surgery. The 133-character Tweet—“Robots in the orthopaedic OR? A recent LA Times article looks at a new way to perform joint replacement surgery: http://t.co/sG25H9R0”—included a link to the article mentioned. A URL shortener was used to abbreviate the embedded link and save characters.