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Impressions and sharing #tags

February 18, 2013

Learning Session 2

Last week I attended two events that led me to reflect on progress and engagement with social media within some areas of healthcare, in Scotland. When I say engagement with, in some respect,  more accurately I mean lack of engagement with social media.SPSP logo - updated

The Scottish Patient Safety Programme Mental Health Learning Session 2 took place on Valentine’s Day, there were over two  hundred and fifty delegates from each of the territorial Scottish Health Boards (x14), as well as service users organisations and the Scottish Government:  Healthcare Improvement Scotland were hosting the event.

Healthcare Hashtag Project

I was surprised to note that there were so very few delegates tweeting from the event, especially when compared with what happens at the ‘generic’ SPSP events.  However in fairness the generic events cover more workstreams are are larger, realistically therefore the potential ‘tweeps’ in the audience would increase.

Using the Healthcare Hashtag Project I analysed a few of the stats from the event.  On the basis that there were so few people tweeting, the potential messages from the conference still had a reasonably impressive reach, and certainly greater than any single conference report would have.  Admittedly the depth of analysis in 140 characters cannot be compared with an actual conference report.  The answer is of course one of balance – balance between key, simple messages reaching a wider audience, who can later on access the conference report, versus relatively few people knowing where a conference report is published and when it is published.

The main tweeters from the conference are listed below.


On the day of the conference and the following day the conference made 64,453 twitter impressions, reaching over 32,ooo Twitter accounts (NB since downloading the above information the total number of ‘impressions’ has risen to 74,576).  If, like me you initially don’t know what ‘impressions’ means I’ll try and explain my understanding, having looked into it a little.  Firstly let me say that this is my understanding, it might not be right and you would do well to check this out with people who know for more about this than me.


I think of impressions like having having a billboard (tweet) in a street, or in this case several billboards (tweets).  We know (via Twitter) the number of people who walk past the billboard and we know how many times they walked past it, therefore we know the number of times the may have seen the billboards (tweets).  We don’t know if they actually saw them, or if they actually read them.

Realistically however we are no worse off than printing a flyer or conference programme/report and leave it lying around – we don’t know if anyone has/will every read it.  However we now know the potential audience of our tweets, and therefore the potential to engage with them or direct them to where they may get more information e.g. SPSPMH website.  This itself is considered to be a positive thing for us as the key messages we want to engage people in are being spread far and wide.  Additionally the breadth and the speed of communication is substantially greater than can be achieved by traditional means.

Here is an overview of the conference, the input/outputs from participant tweeters.

SPSPMH Overview

Critically however I’m not suggesting (in fact I don’t know anyone who is suggesting) that we only use social media to share and engage, I am suggesting however that where we don’t use it we miss an opportunity to engage with people in a way that they chose to engage, in a way that gives them power and control over the communication.

Engagement strategy

This takes me to the second meeting of the week where the topic of social media was ‘briefly’ discussed.  Another member of the advisory board I am am member of, suggested that social media needed to be used more effectively.  While having the greatest respect for the organisation I was left considering why they did not engage with social media as a way to engage with a much wider audience than they could by face to face methods or even by issuing learning bulletins or through their website.  Is it possible than the inherent conservatism is disadvantaging people who may chose or have greater access to this form of communication?  In a #nursechat (a Twitter chat) a few months ago the point was made that in social media, traditional hierarchies need to be given up and that people take control of their own communication. Is it possible that this scares us a little?

Social media doesn’t need embraced by everyone at conferences, it doesn’t need adopted by everyone within organisations, but it does need adopted by a few in each setting – the more the greater the impact.  It does need to be used to engage, to share to enthuse others in the messages of improvement and development, but critically it also needs to be used to listen.

Final Thought

Susan Went, at SPSP MH conference presented evidence that organisations (NHS Boards) that spend 25% of their time focused on quality outperform in ever area those that don’t.  This made me wonder how much time my team and I spend on quality – how much time do you and your team spend focused on quality?


6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 18, 2013 4:30 pm

    I think this is a really good account of using social media, and I especially like where you say that “critically it (social media) also needs to be used to listen”. I think that’s the crux of the matter, and applies to both online and offline engagement. Too many exercises pay lip service to engagement, but if people can see their feedback making a difference and put into action, or at least hear why not and that their views are valued, they’re much more likely to play a part in future exercises.

    Really interesting hearing how social media is being used in the Scottish NHS!

    • February 18, 2013 4:57 pm

      Thanks for commenting – I think we’re early in the journey with SoMe and we need to ensure ‘listening’ is an embedded attribute in sharing and engaging. Thanks Derek

  2. March 7, 2013 10:21 pm

    Great post Derek, really enjoyed reading this one. I’m a bit late reading it… I’ve been trying to find balance (between social media and getting active)!


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