Friday, October 16, 2009

How to use social media as a healthcare consultant

Over the last few weeks I have spoken to a number of nurses, midwives and occupational therapists setting up healthcare consultancy businesses. One of the questions I have been asked is how to use the Internet and social media to get their name known. One person asked:

I have been thinking for too long about the need to have a basic website but am now wondering whether a wikispace (which I am able to develop/change myself) is an alternative.

I am not an expert on this by a long chalk, but here’s a few thoughts from my own experience and observations.

Setting up your web page
You can spend lots of money and get someone to set up a flash web page but I think you're better off using one of the many free online applications around. Personally, I would start off with a blog and make that the hub of your online presence, in the same way I have used it to be the centre of my personal learning environment. A blog is totally under your control, and you can use it to interact with people as well as disseminate information.

An excellent example of this is the blog of Jo Kay who is an education consultant - she uses "Wordpress" for her website. I think "Blogger" is an easier blogging platform to work with but it is a little trickier to get the tabbed portfolio effect of Wordpress although Leigh Blackall has achieved the effect with his blog.

What about a wiki?
You can also choose a wiki as your personal web page - I have used Wikispaces for my ePortfolio. I do think it is worth paying to have the adverts removed that many of the wiki have in their basic format - it looks a lot more professional without them. Here's another example of a very professional looking wiki set up by Jo Kay. Just be mindful that a wiki could be altered by other people so make sure you set it up so that doesn't happen, unless you want to use it as a collaborative tool.

Getting out and about
I wouldn't restrict yourself to one form of communication - I suggest you get out and about and network as much as you can, using as many communication tools as possible including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Slideshare. It takes time and effort to network in this way, but in the long run I feel it is worth it because you'll make contact with all sorts of people who will support and mentor you. And you may get business from this...who knows.

Online identity
This then brings up the questions of online identity and brand. A brand isn't just about name, it is also about who you are online - what your online identity is. If you want to be known as a professional person, then you have to act professionally online and be consistent in your behaviour. Having a professional looking blog and then acting like an idiot on Facebook gives out conflicting messages that may not go down well with potential clients.

Taking time
I don't think that having a blog or Facebook account is going to make your name or instantly find you a job. Yes, I've heard the stories about people finding incredible jobs through their LinkedIn account or Twitter post. But let's get real - in the health industry the majority of potential employers or clients have barely got used to email, let alone Twitter etc.

I would say that it is how you use these tools that makes your name, rather than the tools themselves - it's the online networking, sharing, collaborating, helping and mentoring that you do that will get you known.

What do the experts say?
There is reams and reams of information about the use of social media and developing a business and personal brand on the Internet. So what I would do is have a thorough search and find out what the experts say about this. Here are a couple of examples of people or web sites that address this issue.
What advice or tips would you give people about using social media to network and spread their name?

Image: '50mm HBW'


AliG said...

Thanks Sarah - As you know following our skype I set up a project-based wiki and I am now trying to entice the project's advisory circle members to jump on board. I am trying to email 'incentives' so far 3/7 of the members (all health professionals/managers) have joined. So we shall see how successful this proves in our collaboration. So wiki's I find are great, very easy to learn and very adaptable. Blogging - still a mystery - sorry! Warm wishes & aloha - Alison Gerlach, Maui

Sarah Stewart said...

Let me know how you go with your wiki - I'm very interested to see how it shapes up compared to a blog

Sarah Stewart said...

Via email:

Thanks Sarah, this is exactly what I needed. Thanks for thinking of me. Will keep you posted on my adventures.