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Social Media: What The *&%$ Is It, and Why Should You Care?

January 16, 2009
by Gwen Darling
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Can it help you find and recruit the very best Healthcare IT professionals out there?

To be completely honest with you, although I’ve always been a geek (and I wear that badge with honor) at heart, I wandered into the Healthcare IT space quite by accident. The Reader’s Digest version is that I honed my “writing about techy things in terms that even my very intelligent but technology challenged mother can understand” skills as’s Internet for Beginners Guide in the late 90’s. I then followed a very interesting, sometimes winding, sometimes zigzag, career path as an Internet marketing professional to end up here with you. (If you find yourself wondering about the juicy details of this journey, a Cape Cod or two at HIMSS will probably get you there). At any rate, although I understand and appreciate the general principles of what you do in your role as CIO, and am confident I can hold my civilian own in an intelligent conversation, I know I’m in waaaaay over my head when I read a comment like this one on HIStalk today:

“HIMSS Analytics shows that 95.7% of hospitals haven’t yet made it to Stage 4, which requires all ancillaries to be installed, CDR, controlled medical vocabulary, CDSS for both error checking and clinical protocols, clinical documentation, PACS in all areas, and CPOE (even though you only need one live floor to claim victory).” Huh? It got me to thinking. If a geek like me gets a knot in her stomach after reading a passage that most likely doesn’t send you, a hospital CIO-type, scrambling for the HIT acronym cheat sheet, then quite possibly a geek like you might feel the same way when you’re asked for your Twitter name, or your LinkedIn profile address, or when - God forbid - someone wants to “friend you up” on Facebook. “Huh?” In your line of work, there's no doubt that you encounter continual online references to that vague and mystical creature known as "Social Media," but seriously, what the *&%$ is it? Here I can help, for this is my space (pun intended, if you didn't get it, we've got work to do). So here’s the deal: I’ll show you mine if you show me yours!

Social Media: Is it here to stay? Should you care? Can it help you find and recruit the very best Healthcare IT professionals out there? Yes, Yes, Yes!

Stay tuned…for the next few weeks we’ll explore the ins and outs of Social Media, and discover how you can best leverage its power to reach out and grab the Healthcare IT teammates you are seeking. Next week, I will demystify the phenomenon known as “Twitter,” reveal who in your industry is already using it to his/her advantage (and who is completely missing the boat), and lay out a Twitter recruiting game plan that will quickly give you a competitive edge.



Gwen, I am following you on Twitter. Should I also be trying to friend you too?

I look forward to your further blogs on the social media subject. I probably will need a few private lessons from my girls on the the tips, tricks and gotchas on Facebook.

I'm 'staying tuned' and looking forward to your coverage.

Paradoxically, I'm seeing two trends:
People are feeling threatened by Social Media:

1) "I dont have time for it, I'm already too busy."
2) "It's professionally risky to expose myself."
3) and, what Dr Jeff Rose has coined as Infobia - the combined fear that, first, "I'm not capable of learning to use the technology," followed by "the technology will change the power structures in a way that will move me to a disadvantage." An example of the later: I don't want to be available (or potentially twit visible) 24x7.

The other side of the paradox? I go to a few parties each month and I'm hearing that people are reading my blog. Go figure!

People are rapidly adopting Skype video conferencing. At a party last night, the couple throwing the party walked around with a wireless laptop, so that their son, in Asia, could virtually attend the party. Some attendees, in Maryland, got a tour of his apartment, while he got a tour of the party.  The quality of service was phenomenally good.

Increasingly, and I guess this is consumerism, people are starting to ask, "Why shouldn't I be doing video conferencing at work, instead of some of the phone contact?  I'm doing it at home - it's fast, easy, free, and more effective than the alternatives"

Again, I'm thrilled and looking forward to your coverage!

Gwen. I am looking forward to your posts as well. HCI has an extremely robust LinkedIn group, but our Facebook and Twitter groups have a lighter uptake. I'd love your advice on how to maximize the usefulness of those groups, and also your thoughts on which social networks are NOT appropriate for business. perhaps Facebook and Twitter.

Hi Tom,

Your comments regarding your sons made me smile, and relate! My daughters, 16 and 18, were both HORRIFIED when I casually mentioned I was setting up a Facebook page. Fortunately for them (and for me, I'm guessing), I can be a Facebook member but cannot view their profiles unless they "Friend" me. Which will apparently be on a cold day in hell, as my younger, tell-it-like-it-is daughter informed me, "Don't think you're EVER going to be my Facebook friend!" Naturally I replied as a mature adult telling her, "Well fine then, I didn't want to be your friend anyway."

I'm working on a series of blog posts that I hope will help you, Anthony, Joe, and others to see the value of these very valuable but very easily misused social media tools. Stay tuned, and thanks for your comments!


Gwen: For those of us with sons and daughters in their 20's (in or recently out of college) there is an invisible line regarding Facebook. While most professionals have adopted Facebook as a valid social networking tool, for this cohort Facebook represented a somewhat uncensored chronicle of their college years that may not have been carefully firewalled from their public profiles. A parental unit suddenly making the scene could be almost as awkward as showing up at the same Radiohead Concert or Homecoming Dance.

It seems funny but I have had to approach my sons and let them know I was thinking of establishing a Facebook presence. Kind of like give a few hours notice that "I need to go into your dorm room to get something".

As far at Twitter, while it certainly could be an alternate way to communicate quickly, I am still trying to figure out how it is best used. Could use some pointers there. I do not think a broad group of people want to be party to some of my random thoughts (but then again I am blogging here...) or need to know what I am doing at every moment. What type of information is best shared with this approach?