#physiotalk pre-chat information: Strategic influencing using Twitter

So far during #physiotalk chats we have been focusing on how the physiotherapy community uses Twitter and other social media for networking and continuing professional development (CPD). Now it’s time to get serious and look into how we could use Twitter to get things done and raise the profile of the role of physiotherapy and other allied health professions (AHPs)!


Increasingly people are using Twitter to contact organisations – to pose questions, find out information or to complain. Companies in the private sector are using Twitter to engage with customers and develop their business, and the public sector is using it to engage with the public and professionals. As a result more health and social care organisations are waking up to the fact that they also need to utilise Twitter in a way that works for them – and you can tap into this potential.

As @ClaireHelm2 from NHS England says in her recent blog ‘Where else can you connect with nurses, midwives, doctors, ambulance crews, CCGs, CEOs, Chairs, senior managers and most importantly patients and the public all in one week, or even one day!?’ I’m sure we could add AHPs to this list as well…

Did you know that:

There are  hundreds, if not thousands, of leaders, influencers and decision-makers in health and social care on Twitter, including over 4oo Members of Parliament in the UK (which includes Jeremy Hunt), over 120 NHS organisations and leading think tanks such as The Kings Fund and Nuffield Trust, Charities, and patient groups and leaders – you could follow the list at https://twitter.com/GdnHealthcare/nhs-organisations for starters…


Six months ago I (Naomi) was sent a list of over 100 digital influencers on Twitter that had been compiled by the Department of Health to inform the way they communicated with, and listened to, healthcare professionals and managers, patients and the public. Physiotherapists and AHPs were few and far between on this list (there were 2!).  In many ways Twitter can reflect what happens the real world, with AHPs often left out of the conversation (see David Oliver’s blog from last Summer), but I think Twitter offers us real opportunities to step up, engage and influence – but only if we do it right. We need to be clear about what we want to achieve and confident to do it. We need to use Twitter to engage rather broadcast and think carefully how we do that as individuals and as a profession.

How can you use Twitter positively for strategic influencing

First you need your own strategy of who to follow to be in the loop about policy and decision making at a national and local level. The key stakeholders you follow and who you contact on Twitter will be affected by your role and interests but a quick search should identify the key decision makers who matter to you – this could be local, national, international, NHS only, education, third sector, patient and professional organisations – the list could be endless. Good practice may be to think about the key influencers in your field and who it is important for you to work in partnership with. Some ideas are in this posting from the Quality in Care Programme and also the #physiotalk post on who to follow in 2014.

As an example I, Janet, work in Older Peoples rehabilitation in Scotland– so I follow a broad spread of organisations such as @gerisoc and @AGILEchair, third sector organisations such as @age-uk as well as my own Health board and of course the health minister for Scotland!  Project Ghandi has meant that a lot of the Scottish AHP directors are on Twitter to follow.

You then need to think carefully about why you are using Twitter – it could be to inform you as you go about your work in a non-Social Media way – using Twitter acquired knowledge to inform your thinking and influencing or it could be directly – sending Tweets to specific organisations about matters that are important to you. The reply can be almost instant in an engaged organisation!

Information about NHS tweeting can be found in places like the Guardian Healthcare network  – try these articles about NHS twitter or Top tips for NHS tweeters! Or for those working in education (or students of course!) you can look at the impact your university is having in the Twitter rankings or how you can use twitter as an academic.

How do I do that?

To make sure an organisation sees your tweet the best way to do this is to include their Twitter address in your Tweet as an @reply or as a mention (see Twitter help here for more information).

So to send a tweet that should get read by physiotalk you would include @physiotalk in the main body of the tweet. In that way it will appear in their ‘Connect’ feed under ‘mentions’ – even if you don’t follow them and they don’t follow you.

It is important to be aware or remember that other people will only see your @replies in their home timeline if they are following both you and the recipient of the @reply (mutual followers). If you want all your followers to see it pop a full stop before the @ (so .@physiotalk).

And in 140 characters?

Of course you can’t get over a whole policy in 140 characters – so you need to get canny! Use your twitter post to spark a discussion and they may well end up contacting you in other ways for a more detailed conversation. Include a web address for a link to more information – or even a picture to get your message across. Use already established ideas – but promote these to specific people via Twitter – how about some Physioworks links to your NHS Clinical Commissioning Group?

This is just the tip of the iceberg – so in the next #physiotalk chat on 20th January at 8pm we are going to be posing some questions to learn more about what has worked for others. For this chat we are going to be joined by @Prof_IeuanEllis to add his expertise to the subject.

Pre-chat preparation

Here are some questions for you to think about before the chat on Monday as these will help to inform the discussions:

  • How do you currently use Twitter for strategic influencing?
  • How confident do you feel about being able to promote the role and benefits of physiotherapy or other professions to managers, other healthcare professionals and to the general public?
  • Who might want to influence us on Twitter and how?
  • What strategic messages should we be communicating on Twitter?
  • Who are the key stakeholders or policymakers should we be influencing via Twitter, and are you confident you understand who the most influential decision makers are in your local area and in your area of practice?
  • Do you feel able to articulate what physiotherapy is, particularly the breadth of the profession?
  • What successes have you had so far using Twitter in this way?
  • What has the impact been around using Twitter to influence policy makers?
  • Should we get involved in Twitter campaigns? And do they work? See the #Wenurses engagement in flufighter campaign, #stopthepressure, #timetotalk and also the forthcoming #NHSchangeday for examples.
  • How can we measure the impact and influence of our activity on social media?
  • What support and resources do you think you need to be more effective at using Twitter to influence and engage more strategically?

We are looking forwards to your responses to some of these questions on Monday 20th January at 8-9pm!

@janetthomas47 and @Naomiphysio

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