Disease Educators: Planning Your Social Networking Startegy

Social networking is a proven, powerful communication tool. However, by developing a comprehensive strategy, social networking can be transformed into an efficient learning resource for many disease educators. Below are the key areas where your social networking strategy must focus before it can become an effective learning tool.

1) Survey Your Patients
Before you can develop a sound social networking strategy, it is a good idea to determine what percentage of your patient population is actively using social networks vs. those who are not using any social media. It is important to note that many people will respond that they are only using social networks to follow family and friends. Make sure to count these people in the affirmative. Even if they hesitate about extending their social networking beyond family and friends, it is important to count them. We will discuss how you leverage the power of social networking in future blog posts. Knowing what percentage of your patients are actively using and/or thinking of using social networks is important as it allows you to better understand how to focus time and resources. This will lead to developing better social-based learning tools for chronic disease patients.

2) Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter, Bebo…Where do you start?
The social media landscape at first glance is daunting. However, it is important to note that you can accomplish most of your education goals on a few well-known sites. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and MySpace offer the simplest and largest potential population of individuals within their networks. Furthermore, Twitter widgets can easily be inserted into your Facebook and MySpace page allowing you to effectively and efficiently manage your posts and learning materials across multiple platforms. Facebook was the first social network that allowed users to insert third party applications into their page and has a clear advantage in the choice of functionality. Facebook apps may well be the most appealing section of the web site as disease educators can add quizzes, disease information news feeds, support tags and more. Providing information rich and interactive resources to chronic patients with minimal effort is simply too good an opportunity to pass up. Facebook maintains a complete list of all apps at http://www.facebook.com/apps/directory.php.

As you begin to bring more and more social networks into your domain there are great resources to help you manage all your accounts seamlessly. You may want to consider signing up on all the major social networking properties from the start even if you don’t plan on using them for a while. This allows you to protect your name or brand and reserves it once you are ready to begin