How Not to Teach Social Media

The early days of Twitter and Facebook were all about early adopters giving ‘social media talks.’ For many of us these amounted to cheerleading over shiny new objects – fast moving talks that subtly oversold social media. Conversions from non-believers to believers were rare. We told ourselves that folks ‘just didn’t get it.’

Speaking for myself, I didn’t know how to teach social media in 2008.

Learning what health professionals need from social media

As I figured out, the approach was probably wrong. The emphasis was on the tool rather than what the tool can do to empower us. Very different things.

Social media is like electricity. It allows us to do the cool things. Problem is, no one wants to hear about electricity. Or social media (the exception is health communication professionals who geek out on the granular elements of social tools). Instead, people are interested in the things we do with electricity. Or social media.

So when our message starts with the things that social brings us, folks get interested.

Sell the power of public presence – the rest takes care of itself

Since then, my workshops center on the power of public presence and the new responsibilities of the public physician (my personal designation for doctors in the virtual world). And I think I’ve found the secret sauce.

When I first started teaching this stuff to medical students I learned quickly that 21st century audiences have tight attention spans. So I surrendered ‘social media talks’ and podium lectures for on-the-floor, problem-based learning around the issues doctors face online – our virtual existence is not limited to social media. And a little bit of sage-on-the-stage is okay; getting learners to solve problems in real-time is the game changer.

For the past few years I’ve been doing an interactive Public Physician Workshop for physicians — It helps docs understand how to manage their network presence and digital footprint. I also work with marketing/communication professionals to help leverage physicians as brand ambassadors. If you’re interested in my thinking on this issue, click through and poke around on The Public Physician – a guide for professional life in a connected, always on world. I think you’ll find it to be a great resource for doctors, health care communication professionals and trainees. 

Let’s work this out at the Mayo Clinic this fall

If you want to learn how I teach this stuff to doctors, the best thing you can do is come to the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network Meeting this fall in Rochester, MN. You’ll hear my workshop and then (this is going to be the fun part – I’ve never done this part before) as marketing/communication professionals you can dissect the session and we’ll talk about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to doctors, social media and your hospital. The process will be super interesting: I learn from you, you learn from me and we have a buncha interactive fun along the way. What could be better?

Register for the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network Annual Meeting here.

In full disclosure, I don’t get steak knives or brownie points for getting you to come, but I would love to see you. It’s going to be great.

Image via the National Library of Medicine.