Social media – just for fun?

As modern life gathers pace, so do the ways in which we can communicate. Long gone are the days of waiting for letters to arrive and the sound of ‘Physiotherapy’ dropping on your door mat. Nowadays more and more of our lives are online – and whether we like it or not, we need to embrace change. Some is thrust upon us – much as I like digital media I still miss flicking through Physiotherapy to see what might catch my eye – the ping on my inbox isn’t quite the same. We all have to deal with an increasing amount of Emails in our working lives, eHealth is gathering pace (or not – depending on where you work…) but surely social media is just for fun and kids!

In this blog I’m going to try to persuade you that even those of us of a more mature age can embrace social media – and use it positively to enhance our working lives, CPD and awareness. Just over a year ago I had never been on Twitter and Facebook was a no go area – why on earth would I want to spend my spare time on social media websites when I had better things to do? Then at an AGILE committee meeting in 2012 we decided to trial Twitter and Facebook – and somehow I ended up being the one to start the AGILE Twitter account and get it up and running. Now – I couldn’t be without Twitter and I’m even starting to embrace Facebook. Why?

It all started slowly – it was easy enough to set up the @AGILEChair twitter account – a few clicks on and you are away – so far so good. I then started to ‘follow’ people – the Twitter search function is easy to use and a few searches for Physiotherapy, Older People and some terms such as PD or Dementia soon got me following like minded organisations who tweeted quite regularly. Often, when you ‘follow’ someone, (in order to get their tweets appearing in your home page), they respond by following you – so you can build up your own followers as well.  Then – to start tweeting! A tweet (for the uninitiated) is a short 140 character message sent to your ‘followers’ – you can put in web links and photos if you want to as well. You can tweet about anything and everything, but of course as @AGILEChair I restricted my tweets to things that would be of interest to AGILE members and like minded health professionals. The other main thing you can do is reply to tweets and ‘retweet’. So for example if @AgeUK sent a tweet that I thought would be interesting for the @AGILEChair followers to see – I would click the ‘retweet’ button. Of course it works both ways – @theCSP do quite often retweet the AGILE tweets to their 6000+ followers, getting the AGILE message out to a wider audience.

So – up and running – and all the tweets are appearing on the AGILE Facebook page as well. What next? I could see that tweets were a fantastic way of getting bang up to the minute information – many organisations use twitter as a way of launching new projects, papers and news, so you couldn’t be more up to date with your knowledge. But Twitter is also a conversation – a way of discussing and debating issues in an open forum. I dipped my toe into the world of a hash tag conversation one evening when I just happened to notice that a tweet was highlighting a 1 hour session later that evening using a hash tag #fallschat. If you use a hash tag then it is a way of grouping together everyone talking about a particular theme in one place – you can follow a hash tag and see tagged tweets from people that you don’t follow. I found myself following this ‘conversation’ and replying to several tweets in the debate – fun and stimulating thought at the same time! AGILE then took this one step further for this year’s conference – we registered a conference hash tag #AGILEconf2013 and encouraged everyone tweeting at conference to use the same hash tag. All the relevant tweets could all then be collated – you can see them at! Over the course of the conference there were: 181 tweets from 28 participants creating over 71,000 impressions (for the uninitiated that is tweets times followers, so the number of times each tweet may have been seen). We set the trend, as the following weekend PhysioUK used the #physio13 hash tag and promoted the use of Twitter to engage in the CSP conference – whether you were there in person or not! Following their hash tag from the comfort of my armchair on the Saturday afternoon meant that I could follow their debate on Professionalism and contribute as well.

Where next? I’m no longer tweeting as @AGILEChair – Vicky our new Chair has taken over that responsibility, but I found using Twitter so useful that I have set my own personal Twitter account up. A little bit more freedom in what I can tweet – but I’m not going to start tweeting about what I had for my dinner like my children seem to do! A group of Physiotherapists on Twitter are busy setting up a regular hash tag debate for physios – there is already #wenurses and #OTchat debates happening regularly – we want something for Physiotherapists as well!

Of course – there are some Dos and Don’ts when using Twitter – I would advise anyone thinking of using Twitter and Facebook to read the social media guidance that the CSP has published. Any social media has the possibility of being seen by others – whatever your privacy settings, so you have to maintain your professionalism at all times.  The CSP guidance is comprehensive but I would highlight the following:

  • Set any social media personal account privacy settings high to ensure you have protected yourself against inappropriate advances from patients/clients;
  • Don’t respond to requests from patients to befriend you via your personal account; click the decline option giving no reason;
  • Don’t send ‘friend’ requests to current or former patients/clients;
  • If using social media as part of your service (for example – a live ‘chat’ consultation with a patient), ensure your communication is professional and maintains appropriate boundaries;
  • Report any obscene correspondence (to your manager or supervisor) rather than replying to it.

As well as their ‘Stop and think’ social media checklist:

  • Does your contribution positively promote your role as a physiotherapist, support worker or student?
  • Does your contribution reflect positively on your co-workers/colleagues?
  • Does your contribution conflict with your employer’s mission, culture, values and/or policies?
  • Does your contribution reveal confidential patient or proprietary business information?
  • Does your contribution include any information that could directly or indirectly identify a patient under your care?
  • Do you understand how the social media you are using works, including the privacy settings?

So – I would encourage all CSP members to think about embracing change and joining the Social media revolution! You can lurk at the edges – reading but not posting or join in fully and start posting tweets and joining in twitter led conversations – it is up to you. But whichever you choose to do – remember you can use it as part of your ongoing CPD – you will never have been quite so up to date with your knowledge and information!

Janet Thomas @JanetThomas47 – adapted from an ‘in press’ Agility article to be published in December.

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