Social media is one of the biggest disruptions to communications in decades, but how can you make it work for your change effort?  When social media outlets like Facebook and LinkedIn first launched more than 10 years ago, no one really understood how social media would influence the spread of ideas. Soon after, the rise of smartphones and tablets put social media into everyone's hands. In many ways, connecting with influencers in your field has never been easier. But here are a few guidelines that will help you take advantage of all that social media has to offer.

Create a Digital Strategy

A lot of people dive into social media without a plan. And why not, it is fun and you can learn a lot! But when it comes to your brand or your message, it helps to a have a digital strategy in place. Just as you do with a conventional media strategy, you will want to establish measurable objectives that consider your audience, the best ways to reach them, and the action that you want them to take.   

Review the digital media you are already using (blogs, websites, e-news, social media sites). If you are already tracking metrics, use them to help prioritze your efforts. For example, if your metrics tell you that no one is linking to your website from your current e-newsletter, you should consider another strategy that can better drive traffic. Your digital strategy should set your priorities, determine who is responsible, and ensure that metrics are in place to measure your work -- and help you shift it as needed. 

Content Matters

Once you know what you plan to do, make sure your messages follow suit! Good content is important everywhere, but especially in social media. If followers soon decide you have nothing to say, you will lose them. Content should be timely, straightforward, and meaningful to your key audiences.

Each platform provides a different opportunity to showcase content, so post appropriately. Facebook is heavy on visuals, while Twitter is good for emerging news. LinkedIn is the place for your most buttoned-up, professional content, while Instagram is all about the image!

Social Media is a Two Way Street

The blessing -- and challenge -- of social media is that it allows for a two way conversation with everyone. While it is great to find ways to impress reporters or thought leaders (retweeting their brilliance, commenting on their thread) it also means that you have to pay attention and respond to people who engage with you. Beyond one-to-one listening, your metrics provide a great way to listen to your audience. Every action you take can be tracked, analyzed and adjusted as needed. Google Analytics will help you track activity on your website and understand where your click are coming from, while tools built into sites like Facebook (Insights) and Twitter (TweetReach) provide site-specific performance metrics.

Additional Resources

Whether you are a social media rookie who just Tweeted for the first time, or you are searching for tips to help you improve your outreach, definitely check out Digital S.M.A.R.T.S.: A Guide for Non-Profits from Spitfire Media. This free resource can help you divide your time across the most important digital platforms and create a comprehensive and integrated digital strategy.  

Top Five Ways Social Media is Used by Healthcare Professionals This helpful guide from the University of Scranton offers insight unique to the field of health care. 

The Healthcare Hashtag Project is a great place to learn about trending hashtags, or search for hashtags that could enhance views of your social media.