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Social Media 101: Blogging, Part Two

March 20, 2009
by Gwen Darling
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Do you have what it takes?

Last week I introduced the concept of “blogging,” and suggested that, upon closer examination, a business blog’s value and complexity could far exceed that of a simple online diary. The fact that you are taking time to read this blog entry shows that you understand the intrinsic worth of learning from the opinions and experience of others (and that you have incredibly good taste!). But think about it. What is it about one blogger’s words over another’s that makes you want to come back for more? Are there characteristics that all successful (measured by return visitors, IMO) bloggers intuitively share? Yes!

If the idea of becoming a blogging CIO intrigues you, stop and ask yourself the following five questions before you waste your time (and others’):

1. Do you like to write? This should be a given if you’re thinking about starting a blog, and therefore may seem to be a ridiculous question. But from my professional experience, many newbie bloggers soon lose interest in maintaining their blogs because they view writing as a chore, rather than an enjoyable creative outlet.

2. Do you have the time and the discipline to post on a regular basis? Blogs are much like Boston ferns – beautiful to look at when tended to, but without constant upkeep will slowly shrivel up and die a sad, lonely, “who forgot to water the plants?” death. With so much material online to choose from (even if you do give Hemingway a run for his money), readers are fickle, impatient, and quick to forget you if you turn into a slacker blogger and only post intermittently.

3. Do you have the backing of your hospital’s marketing department? Although a blog’s platform is IT-based, a blog is a social media, marketing, advertising, and PR tool all rolled up into one. If the plan is to blog in your official capacity as a hospital CIO, it’s a smart idea to partner with your marketing person or department from the beginning, so you don’t end up competing with another department’s social media plan.

4. Overall, are you happy in your job? If you’re still stinging over the Clark Griswold-like Christmas bonus you received, frustrated that your pleas for more resources have fallen on deaf ears, or spending your lunch hour polishing your resume’, it’s probably not the best time to launch a blog that is designed to further your hospital’s brand (in a positive way). The best corporate bloggers are those who present a realistic, but optimistic and enthusiastic picture of their work environment. If that’s not you, it's probably best to wait until it is.

5. Do you have something meaningful to say? Of course you do. But, blogging (well) is harder than it appears, for not only do you need to be prolific on command, you also need to be meaningful and relevant to your audience each time you post. If you’re one of those people who keeps a pad and pen on your bedside table for those 3am revelations, then not to worry. However, if you’re hard-pressed to compose a list of 10 things you’d like to blog about, you may want to reconsider this particular investment of your time.

Okay! If you’ve answered “Yes!” to most of the questions above, and are ready to get started, great! Come back next week, same blog time, same blog channel, and we’ll get you started! To whet your appetite in the meantime, take a look at what some of your colleagues who are already part of the blogosphere have to say (thanks to Twitter followers @wpfleischmann, @tjanthony, @SOS_Software, and @kstewpr for these great recommendations).

 

Candid CIO – Will Weider, CIO, Ministry Health Care and Affinity Health System

CIO Unplugged – Ed Marx, CIO, Texas Health Resources

Crossover Health – Scott Shreeve, MD

Healthcare and Technology – Deborah Leyva, RN

Healthcare Informatics Blogging Team

Healthcare IT Blog – Neil Versel

Healthcare IT Guy -- Shahid N. Shah, CEO of Netspective Communications

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Comments

I absolutely agree with the idea that a successful blogger needs to be passionate about the subject. That's because the level of expertise and knowledge required to tell a group of professionals anything new or insightful means you have to live, eat and breathe the subject matter. It is impossible to make such a commitment unless one in genuinely interested in what they are blogging about. For example, I did an interview with two lawyers about the HITECH act and was so excited I KNEW I was in the right line of work.

Joe,

As usual, so very well said!

Yes, blogging (well) requires an investment of time that goes far beyond the actual task of putting the words on paper, or in this case on the screen. It's difficult to put a quantifiable number on the hours per week required to be a successful blogger. From the moment I hit "Submit" on my latest blog post, I'm thinking about the next one, and I suspect you are the same way.

Actually, Joe, I think you exquisitely nailed the most important characteristic of a successful blogger - passion. If you're passionate about your life, and what you've chosen to do with it, then the intellectual curiosity that you mention, the discipline required, and the content ideas will all naturally fall into place.

Your comments add so much dimension to this topic, thanks.

G.

Gwen, 

Thanks. Another great treatment of a topic that I wish I had a year ago!

In the spirit of conversation, I'd like to offer a few, closely related thoughts:

a. time spent blogging
     - Gwen, I'd like to get some numbers from you on what to expect as a blogger

     - Before I started, I read another blogger, author Suzette Haden Elgin, author of 'Mastering the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense' (the audio book is extremely valuable 'uncommon' common sense.)  She suggested (at least for her) that a blogger should plan on 10-12 hours a week.  This is not simply authoring time.  It's research time, review-and-reply to comments to your own blog, reading and commenting on the blogs of others, and blog-related adjunct communication, including email and twitter. She also advocates turning the computer off after two hours, and doing something else.  Ideally, playing with the grandchildren.


     - as an average, that's about right.  That said, it's not net-new time.  It's time you're already spending without blogging.  Adding blogging adds to your own contemplation, as well as getting feedback you would not get otherwise.  Most of the feedback does not come in comments attached to your blog posts.  It comes along with the human moment, face-to-face with others.  Or the feedback comes when you read another blogger's perspective on a topic you've been really trying to formulate.  There's a competitive advantage to blogging that comes in many non-obvious ways.

     - this time is overlapping with time you're already spending reading your email and newspapers.  If you don't have time to scan the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal on most weekdays, you probably shouldn't consider blogging.  Spend the time learning more about delegation and work-life balance.  Same with exercise.  If you haven't been able to integrate 30 minutes of exercise into most work days, getting your heart rate at least into the 120-130 range, you shouldn't start blogging.  Start exercising first.  See my post and comments here for more.

     - if you're reading less than popular 10 books (like Gladwell's Outliers) a year and not listening to podcasts to learn, or books on tape, don't start blogging.  You'll just embarrass yourself repeatedly.

b. economic value

     - talk to your marketing VP about this.  You wont believe me.  For many companies, it's well worth your time to blog.  Ask about 'editorial equivalency analysis.'

     - economic value is distinct from personal value.  Per the above, personal value may make economic value moot.

c. to blog or not to blog?

     - is there a difference between companies where the senior executives blog versus those that don't?  Do you want to work for an organization where none of the senior executives write blogs, articles, or books, and show an apparent comparable stance toward reading?

     - blogging is very much a work-life balance issue.  If it overlaps with things that you're already doing in life, it's a powerful adjunct and energizer.  You mentioned various bloggers, including "Life As A Healthcare CIO -- John D. Halamka, MD, MS, CIO, CareGroup Health System, CIO and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School" above.  My blog post yesterday addressed a serious topic, but used John's Japanese Flute to establish a point about how technology impacts our personal work-life balance.  John has previously blogged (yesterday) about adjusting the musical aspect of his work-life balance to reflect the 5 year sprint to national EMRs.  He's blogged previously about the Flute!  This is a powerful example of smart blogging.

Effective bloggers are exquisitely in touch with all of their passions; that drives them to blog.  If that's you, and one of your passions is being a HCIT CIO, you should figure out how to work blogging into your day.  You'll be happier and a more effective learner.

Thanks for reading this.  And thanks again, Gwen for driving and facilitating the discussion.

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Gwen Darling

CEO, HealthcareITCentral.com

Gwen Darling

@HealthcareITJob

www.HealthcareITCentral.com

Gwen Darling serves as an online HIT matchmaker, bringing together qualified Healthcare IT...