Social media represents a global shift in how people from all walks of life connect with one another. This shift is clearly apparent in the health and care system: social media helps break down traditional hierarchies, meaning patients, carers, health and care professionals have unprecedented opportunities to build networks, learn and share with one another - and influence positive change.

Social media is now a huge part of our lives, and for many it's an integral part of our work. With the huge range of social media platforms available (that are changing and evolving all the time!) knowing where to start can feel challenging. 

The team at NHS Horizons asked our friends on Twitter for their top tips for social media success. We were overwhelmed by the response (an example of how generous the Twitter community can be!) - a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to respond. The 10 tips for social media success have digested as many of the ideas as possible. While many of the tips will be relevant to any social media platform, they focus on Twitter as it's currently the primary site for sharing and influencing.

There is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to use Twitter - these tips will, we hope, help you leverage it to achieve maximum influence and impact - and make action happen!

If you're not yet on Twitter and would like to get started, please see this guide.

1. Be authentic, genuine, human, kind.

Don't try to be someone you're not - be yourself. Don't be tempted to create an alternative persona that you think will be attractive to others. Stay true to your values. Treat others how you would like to be treated.

2. Be curious! Ask questions. Don't broadcast. Me, me, me is boring.

Social media offers so many opportunities to build friendships, and create communities with people all over the world. Building friendships on social media is no different to in real life - that is, by having conversations, showing curiosity, caring about other people's opinions.

Broadcasting means to only post things about yourself (or your organisation), without engaging in conversation. Being "me, me, me" is just as boring on social media as it is in real life!

3. Be a good partner. Share, don't just take!

Social media offers the opportunity to gain so much learning, from all over the world. Make positive contributions: try to contribute value by sharing your own learning - this could be linking to an article you think your followers may be interested in; answering a question someone has asked; or making introductions to others to help bridge communities and networks.

Take the time to respond to notifications. If you don't always have time to write a response, you can tick the 'like' (heart) button to show that you've read and acknowledged the tweet.

You get out what you put in.

4. What do you want to be known for? Whom do you want to influence, and why?

Social media is a brilliant place to put a flag in the metaphorical space you want to be known for. Build a reputation for yourself in your chosen field or sphere by sharing relevant posts; research relevant hashtags to find communities of like-minded people with whom to learn and share; join relevant tweet chats.

Think about whom you would like to influence. Perhaps you've got a campaign you would like to get off the ground - do some research and tag relevant people and organisations in your tweets, as well as appropriate hashtags. Don't be afraid to tweet people whom you admire to tell them you like their work, or to ask for advice. 

Be aspirational! Building a positive reputation, and creating networks on social media can open doors for you.

5. Be credible! Check your sources, and show humility if you are wrong. Remember, trust comes in like a tortoise, and goes out like a horse!

Before retweeting or sharing something, take a moment to check whether it's from a credible source. Beware fake news! Of course, with the best will in the world we can all get caught out - to err is human. We all make mistakes; if you're wrong, apologise. Remember, trust is hard to gain and easy to lose.

6. Add value to conversations - don't just RT!

There's nothing wrong with retweeting - though adding value to a conversation will help you to build your influence and impact. You could use 'retweet with comment' option to add your view, reflection or insight on why you're sharing the particular tweet. 

Think "so what, and who cares?".

7. Set aside a small amount of time each day to engage.

Similar to most new skills, getting comfortable with social media means regularly investing a bit of time and effort. It needn't require a lot of time - perhaps 15 minutes in the morning or evening to check your notifications, to see if there are any interesting conversations you might like to get involved with. If you're tweeting in the morning you might like to wish people a good day; if you're tweeting in the evening you could add a reflection about your day. It needn't be time-consuming or onerous.

Of course, Twitter can sometimes take up more time than you intended...especially when getting involved in a conversation, or finding lots of interesting links to other things. It's important to find a balance so that you can manage your time effectively.

8. Respect confidentiality, and other professional boundaries.

Health and care workers have the obvious rule about never posting anything that compromises patient confidentiality; other sectors, and individual organisations will have their own rules and regulations that you will need to abide by. 

My rule of thumb is to only post on social media something that you would post on a public noticeboard. And if you are ever in doubt whether something is appropriate to post...don't!

9. NEVER say on social media what you wouldn't say to someone's face. And NEVER tweet while angry!

Remember that debates on social media can be emotive, and can get heated. It should go without saying that bullying and trolling is completely unacceptable. Always be respectful and kind. 

Often arguments on Twitter happen because someone assumes their own views are right, and any divergent views are wrong. Remember point 2 - be curious, ask questions! We can all learn from other people if only we take the time to listen and respect other people's views. Ask why, check understanding. And building a spectrum of allies (see point 10 below) can help you make action happen.

Misunderstandings can often escalate quickly - if you find yourself feeling angry, take a breather before you tweet. And if someone sends you an angry tweet, you don't need to respond in the same way (or at all).

See also John Perry Barlow's 25 Principles of Adult Behaviour.

10. Use your social media networks to make action happen! 

There are many examples of social movements such as #MatExp, #endPJparalysis, #theatrecapchallenge that started on social media, mobilising groups of people to take action in the real world. 

You can start a social movement, too.

Power and influence on social media is different to in organisations because it transcends and breaks down traditional hierarchies: far more important than your grade or job title is the passion, commitment, and enthusiasm for making a difference.

Ensure that within your network you have a range of diverse voices. This will help you to build your spectrum of allies, including people who hold differing views to your own. Taking the time to understand where each other is coming from can be a huge investment especially in a situation where there is an impasse. A mutual appreciation can help remove resistance and move things along to achieve a common goal.

Your spectrum of allies should include connections with the superconnectors - individuals with proven social media influence, ability to bridge communities, and to amplify messages. And by building your influence and impact on Twitter you can become a superconnector, too.


What would you add to this list?