Whether you like it or not social influence now matters in your professional life. You can stay stuck in the past and ignore Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and ResearchGate, but you do at the risk of becoming obsolete. I recently saw a post by a philosopher who thought it was better when all of the intellectual discussion stayed within academia and peer-reviewed journals. What he didn’t realize is that elitism is no longer acceptable and is a view largely held by the privileged who never had to fight to be heard. The days of predominately white men controlling what is discussed, studied, taught, and identified as important are over.
While there are politicians that think social media has too much influence I would argue that what they may be objecting to is that we can now be heard by the masses and politician, clergy, and the famous no longer are the sole owners of the bully pulpit. The average person on the street can reach as many people as the pastor of the church. The elementary school teacher can use social media to let the entire community know there isn’t enough money to buy all of the school supplies. The healthcare community can spread the word about healthy lifestyles and policy that may adversely impact your access to care unless you act. Who of us doesn’t get posts in our neighborhoods about break-ins and crimes so we know to be on the lookout? Each of us can call out politicians for their lies. We are able to form a community with people we would rarely if ever see and we are stronger and more equal as a result.
Social media also matters in your research influence. It is impossible to attend every conference and network with all the people you would like to meet, but almost every conference now has a #hashtag. If you look it up you can follow the tweets of the conference and network with people even when you can’t be present. It grows your network of people with whom you share a research, policy, or practice interest. When you do meet people in person they will know your name. In emergency management, we always say you don’t want people to hear your name for the first time in the middle of a disaster. As a researcher, you don’t want people to hear your name for the first time when you need their help.
The various platforms have their limitation but they each have their strengths and purposes. For example, I only used LinkedIn for professional contacts. I will accept any professional request. I use Facebook mostly for friends and people I want to stay in touch with from previous jobs and neighborhoods. I only accept a friend request from friends, colleagues, and people I know or have met at conferences, events, or interacted with in other ways. ResearchGate is only about my academic work. Twitter is like a huge town hall or community meeting. I can connect with people that share interest across nursing, disaster research, health policy, public health, politics, faith and all manner of social activism. Each platform has a purpose and I use each in a different way. I now regularly run into people at conferences that I know through social media. That connection has improved my networking at conferences and the attendance when I’m presenting.
Understanding and maximizing tools are important. Almost all of the social media tools have limits. The limits on Twitter make management important and it also makes etiquette important. Twitter only allows individuals to follow 5000 accounts unless you have more than 5000 followers. Once you reach that number there is a metric that essentially allows one to follow 10% more people than follow them. The result is that some people reach the 5000 and then can’t follow anyone else even if it is their research partner unless they first unfollow someone. Here are some quick tips to maintain your numbers
- People that will follow back – the truth is if they aren’t following you back they probably think the relationship is less important than you do. A less kind view is that they only care about their own success and not about the success of anyone else.
- Those that share an interest and will interact.
- Those who have influence in your profession or provide information you may not otherwise see.
- Those you may want to connect with related to work, research, and social issues.
- The people that are trying to make the world better even if they may never follow back. Some days you need to be inspired and know there are people out there that try hard.
- Key influencers in your area of interest.
- Large accounts and news media. Those accounts will most likely show up in your timeline anyway. It is the Donald Trump phenomena. Unless you block him he will show up in your feed so why follow. He certainly doesn’t need the followers to be able to follow anyone he wants and unless you are famous he probably never sees your replies.
- People who have mistaken Twitter for Tender or another dating app. If a man or woman has to tell you the are honest, or God-fearing, or loyal they probably aren’t.
- Don’t be afraid to unfollow or block people that are rude, believe conspiracy theory over science, or generally make your blood pressure rise. I should want to convince anti-vaxxers of the error of their ways, but God either didn’t give me that level of patience or I have failed to develop it.
- Don’t follow people or companies that follow/unfollow/follow/unfollow… It is an effort to get you to follow back or they are using it as advertising. That is different from people that follow you and accidentally hit unfollow and refollow within minutes or people that are unfollowing non-followers because of the limits.
- Don’t feed the trolls. Block them.
- I also block people that keep getting recommended to me by Twitter, but who clearly have no interest in collaborating or interacting. It is the only way I’ve figured out to get their names to stop popping up.
- The accounts you don’t want to follow but want to check on a regular basis.
- People you NEVER want to interact with because of their behavior online.
- The hashtags that are of interest to you.
- Researchers or leaders in your area.
My Favorite Nursing Hashtags
Nurses to Follow
I wanted to add nurses to follow, but there are so many amazing nurses involved in policy, research, practice, and social justice that I didn’t want to leave anyone out. If there is a downside to nurses on twitter is that many are not good about following back. If they don’t it is fine to unfollow and then check their pages from time to time.
I wish we were as good about making lists of people to follow as some other groups are because there is power in numbers and we are the largest healthcare profession. If we all joined together we would make nursing issues trend on a daily basis and bring our special talents to issues that matter to us. Imagine 100,000 or 500,000 nurses tweeting about immigration health in the detention facilities, or full practice authority, or NINR funding or the unacceptable infant mortality rate in the US. Imagine.