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Social Media 101: Facebook

March 5, 2009
by Gwen Darling
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CIO friend or foe?
If you’ve followed from the beginning of our Healthcare Informatics Social Media 101 series, you’ve heard me wholeheartedly recommend Twitter as a must-have recruiting tool to add to your bag of tricks, and practically gush over the unmatched networking power of LinkedIn. If you hang with me for a little while longer, next week you’ll get to hear me wax poetic about how blogs like this one can do wonders for both your personal and professional brand. But when it comes to the Social Media phenomenon known as Facebook:

Run! It is a total and absolute waste of your valuable time in your capacity as a hospital CIO.

But wait! Facebook is the darling of the Social Media world, the one application that most people think about when they ponder social networking. Facebook is…FACEBOOK! So what is it that makes Facebook so uselessly different from the other Web 2.0 resources we’ve covered? Simply put, if LinkedIn is the Dell Precision M6400 Covet Mobile Workstation of the Social Media world, then Facebook is its Hello Kitty Bejeweled Warm and Fuzzy Aren’t I Cute? counterpart.

Don’t get me wrong – Facebook is an amazing, brilliantly designed application for friendly social networking. With over 175 million active users (more by the time you read this sentence), and the over-30 crowd the fastest-growing group, Facebook is a virtual force of nature, attracting nearly every possible demographic you can imagine. For personal social networking, there is no rival. Where else can you post candid photos will silly captions, ask people to be your “Friends,” send a virtual drink, write on other people’s walls, send birthday greetings, list “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me,” and basically act like a 2nd grader and get away with it?

For illustration purposes, I’ve included a screen shot of my Facebook page. Facebook (much like Twitter with many more bells and whistles) allows you to post videos, photos, comments, links, etc. I use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends, upload photos of my kids, organize get-togethers – personal, social, fun stuff.

Need another visual?

Okay, so Facebook is casual, fun, and a super way to stay in touch with your friends. But what about its business applications? And specifically, how does it rate as a corporate hiring tool? That depends on who is doing the hiring. There are specific instances when Facebook’s free and easy vibe provides a great recruitment vehicle. For instance, I’ve seen fantastic Facebook profiles for the University of Arkansas Admissions Office, Starbucks, Harley-Davidson, and even the Rolling Stones! What these businesses share is the desire and bottom-line need to build and recruit community around their products, programs, and brands, in a friendly, casual, hey how ya doin'? kind of way.

Am I saying that there is no room for Facebook as a hospital recruitment and/or marketing tool? No. For the right target market a Facebook profile makes perfect sense. Although I haven’t run across one, I can imagine Facebook would be a fun and creative way to market a hospital’s maternity ward or volunteer programs, for instance. It's also an excellent hospital fundraising tool -- St. Jude has a terrific presence on Facebook, with over 32,000 fans.

So what about your needs as a hospital CIO? Could you leverage a Facebook account to recruit qualified, professional, experienced Healthcare IT candidates? My professional opinion would be no. As an upper level executive who is expected to represent his/her organization with professionalism, credibility, and decorum, I would advise you against it. Facebook’s reputation as social networking’s Animal House precedes it, and, at least for now, you are better off sticking to its upscale, employed, “no more jello shooters for me” cousin, LinkedIn.

One last note: Although I am holding a wine glass in my Facebook profile photo, and am much more casual and familiar in my Facebook correspondence, I am still careful and a bit measured when choosing words, photos, and details to share online. You just never know where your next client or colleague may find you, or vice-versa. Although this reminder is most likely unnecessary for the readers of this blog, it’s always a good lesson to remind your teenagers that prospective employers and college admission boards are very becoming very Facebook savvy.

Next week: Social Media 101 continues, as you learn how to build your brand and attract top Healthcare IT talent by becoming a blogging CIO!


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