Chapter 1


Image: Lightbulb.

1. Think carefully about whether social media is appropriate for your organisation

2. Remember that the more you put in, the more you’ll get back

3. Delve into the toolkit and share with your colleagues!



Social media is increasingly becoming part of how we live our lives, and as healthcare providers we must consider the opportunities it opens up to us.

Why should your organisation see the value of social media? Well, it brings many opportunities to the healthcare workforce as a whole:

“From clinical healthcare to public health campaigns, the health industry is increasingly turning to social media to support, promote and increase the spread of information and data in order to improve both personal and community health practices.”

From ‘How Social Media Is Shaking Up Public Health and Healthcare’ by Shannon Dosemagen and Lee Aase.


*If you work in or with the healthcare sector, and have questions about how social media will impact your work; this toolkit is for you. In five chapters, it covers guidance on how to use the various platforms, tips for best practice, rules for engagement and advice on policy and management.

Here are five things to consider when starting out on social media:

1. Why do you want to use social media?

What are your motives for using social media? Here are a few to consider:

  • Are you looking to learn, share and connect with like-minded people?
  • Are you thinking of new ways to connect with people and tell your story?
  • Do you want to talk with people that matter to you in a place that they have chosen?

These are all good reasons for wanting to join conversations online.

However, if your reason to get online is simply because everyone else is doing it, then you may need to rethink your decision. Being curious is great, but you need to know why you want to use social media and how it can add value and get value back for it to work.

twitter link “You need to know why you want to be on social media and how you can add value, and get value back” via @SkillsForHealth #HealthSocialTools


2. Are you prepared to listen?

It’s called social media for a reason because it’s not about broadcasting; it’s all about having a two-way conversation online.

Think of all the benefits you can get from listening; new connections, more opportunities to learn and many new ideas.

When communicating face-to-face we don’t just talk at people, and how you behave on social media should be no different.

If you’re not listening on social media, you won’t be seeing the full benefits it can bring.


3. Are you talking to the right people in the right places?

Social media platforms attract huge audiences – there are over 15 million Twitter users in the UK alone. This means people are talking about a variety of things all over the world, so how do you know if you’re going to be relevant on the platforms you have chosen?

Do you cast your net wide or do you build it and hope that they will come? If you’re online as your organisation, are you talking to your patients, your staff or both?

Our toolkit details more on how you define your audience and where you can find them online.

You have to be willing to listen and adapt to what your audience want.

Start simple, make connections, build audiences, ask questions and adapt.

twitter link “Start simple, make connections, build audiences, ask questions and adapt” via @SkillsForHealth #HealthSocialTools

4. Are you willing to experiment?

Social media is fast-paced and constantly changing – however it shouldn’t be daunting. It looked a lot different two years ago and no doubt it will look different again in two years’ time.

You can’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. If something doesn’t work, think about how it can. Keeping records and reporting findings will help you find what works for you and your audience. This information can help guide you in the future.

Think that blogging might be a good way to make your organisation more transparent and explain complex issues? Try it. It’s not ground-breaking, but it might open up new doors and new conversations.

5. Don’t let it slip

While it’s true that social media is by no means the be all and end all of communicating with people, it’s important you’re giving it the attention it deserves. The more you put in, the more you will get out.



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Facebook is mainly used by people who want to connect with family and friends. It is a place to talk about people they know and interests that relate to their life.

Health affects everybody’s life but you will need to be clever to make your work interesting to people, in amongst pictures of cats, grandkids and politics.

Remember to make your content fun, inspiring or concerning - nobody goes to Facebook to read corporate materials.

Everything you need to use Facebook is here in this comprehensive beginners guide:

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Twitter is used to get up-to-date, short bursts of information.

Information travels quickly here and people use it for many reasons - to hear what celebrities say, to learn about their industry, to network, and a lot more.

You may have all sorts of followers: patients, partner agencies, employees, or journalists for instance.

Remember to say as much as you can succinctly. There is so much information on Twitter that people will not have time or energy to guess what you’re driving at and they don’t want to be teased.

Here’s a really good guide to getting started on twitter:

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Most people join Linkedin to have a publically accessible CV. But this platform also offers professionals a good way to endorse and recommend each other and also join groups to discuss specific industry topics.

Remember when recruiting or trying to reach people with specific skills and interests that a simple search on Linkedin could bring you to exactly the relevant audience you’re looking for.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to using Linkedin:

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Blogging is a simple way to publish information. You can share news and information by typing text, adding video or sharing photos to what is essentially a website that you update regularly.

People tend to publish a blog in order to communicate their ideas on a subject. People can public text and upload photos, audio/video content. Also, readers can respond by publishing comments on your blog.

Recommended reading:

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Youtube and video

Most people go to video platforms to see good footage that educates, entertains or inspires. And big social media sites like Facebook and Twitter let you post videos directly.

You can say so much more with sound, imagery and action as you could in a text webpage or document.

It’s possible to create handy ‘how to’ videos or tell the story of your organisation for free using a cheap smartphone.

Remember to add text subtitles! Many people view videos in their feeds without the sound playing so this helps them understand and engage with your video.

Here’s a beginners guide to making video content:

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Other channels

Of course there are many other channels that are hot right now, like Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest. There will be channels that gain popularity in the future.

Remember to understand who is there, and how and why they communicate there. Listen and experiment personally before you venture onto any channel professionally.

Everything you need to use Facebook is here in this comprehensive beginners guide:


Social media takes investment – mainly in time and resource, and perhaps a small investment of budget. If you properly invest and resource your social media activity, you will, in turn, build a consistent and meaningful presence online and add value to your communities.

twitter link Five reasons social media is important to your organisation via @SkillsForHealth #HealthSocialTools

Image: Effective Conversations.

1. Effective social media conversations build trust, engage with service users and encourage patient feedback. Active social media profiles with engaging and useful content will help your audiences see you as credible, authentic and relevant to their lives.

2. People are talking on social media about the work you do, whether you’re there or not. Joining in allows you to have a voice in these discussions and the chance to influence and put the story straight.

Image: People are talking.
Image: Social media requires you to listen.

3. Social media requires you to listen, as well as push messages out. As healthcare providers, we need to get better at listening and acting on what we hear. This is a cheap and easy way to improve and learn about the people we work for and with.

4. We can reach new audiences with social media. On social media, our messages are more succinct and less formal and as our content is shared and travels across networks, it will be found by new people.

Image: Reach new audiences.
Image: Mainstream and easy.

5. Social media is mainstream, and an easy, convenient and cheap way for people to communicate. Your audiences expect to be able to talk to you in this way. You’re empowering your audiences by giving them quick and simple access to your organisation.

Image: Tracey Cooper.

“More and more people look online and across social media for their information, so it is important we look to use these channels if our messages are going to reach the broadest range of people at the right time.”

Tracey Cooper, Chief Executive, Public Health Wales


Image: Infographic.

twitter link Social media in healthcare – the facts by numbers via @SkillsForHealth #HealthSocialTools

This infographic from Brighton and Hove’s Annual Report of the Director of Public Health 2015/16 shows the kind of uses healthcare providers can get from social media:

Image: Brighton Hove Infographic.

twitter link Great social media in health infographic from @BrightonHoveCC via @SkillsForHealth #HealthSocialTools

Many healthcare organisations use social media to enhance their organisational values, operations and patient experience, but the real question to ask is: what benefits can it offer me and my organisation?


NHS Change Day

In short: NHS Change Day started with a single tweet in 2013 and has grown into the biggest day of collective action for improvement in NHS history. The idea is simple: think of a positive change you could make to the NHS and its patients, make your pledge on social media, then do it. Pledges have included a GP spending a day in a wheelchair to understand how disabled patients felt, and patients pledging to tell their doctor if they could not keep their appointment. In 2014 over 700,000 online pledges were made, with 86 million Twitter impressions and a reach of 95,000 on Facebook.