The text below is taken from a weekly email to the Alumni of the UCLP NHS Staff College
LURK – the low risk way to take a first step into the world of social media
I have been asked how I decide on what links to put into the weekly email,I hope this explanation answers that question but also offers you an opportunity to get more involved.
I only include material in the weekly email that has had an impact on me. That response maybe agreement, disagreement, curiosity, surprise, frustration or interest, and I may not always declare which it is. I look through many articles each week and some don’t get past the first line before they are rejected, others I read and if they impacted in some way I then share. I do occasionally make some personal comments but I often just reflect the piece. I also make sure, as much as possible, that the piece is a web link that does not require subscription or membership from the reader and does not use much computer memory (no big downloads).
The next question is often, why email ? Email works very well for this type of communication, you can read it, delete it, save it and forward it to others with edits. All these functions exist within a common set of existing skills and access. It has been suggested that I move to a more modern format and use networks and social media. To some extent I have, but I realise that many people remain anxious about such communications. When I have asked the opinion of groups to social media the response has been very clear and on the whole not supportive at this time. I believe that will change but I am not sure when or even that I know what the future needs of the Alumni look like. Some good questions yet to be asked.
Social media, email alerts, newsletters, colleagues, journals and newspapers all provide me with a great deal of material each week and I try and review and filter to help avoid you being swamped. In a recent article the unstoppable rise of social media in public services was discussed. The piece suggested that social media networks were here to stay and all organisations were using them and that use would only increase. So what do you do if you feel uncomfortable with social media but acknowledge that it is here to stay and you should learn something more about it? Well, perhaps you could start as I did and lurk!
Lurking is a term that is used to describe someone who signs in to social media sites and then watches but doesn’t contributes. I have a responsibility as an individual and an employee to manage all my communication and I share the concerns of many of you. The medium may have changed but my professional responsibility hasn’t. But I wanted to learn, understand and explore the potential of new media outlets and connect with others and share our work. I also wanted to make sure I had an understanding of this new world. So that is how I get many of the links you see, I lurk. I watch and listen to a lot of what is going on out there without contributing. When I find something of interest I read and then I share, I hope I am a useful filter for you as there is a great deal of ‘stuff’ produced each and every week. As time has progressed I have become a little more comfortable and have written a blog, responded to debates on twitter and used LinkedIn to connect with others, I also have auto emails generated from sites of interest, I let internet search engines alert me to news items and even facebook now contains many useful organisational sites (although it is my least favourite medium).
A further concern is the cross over between sharing professional news and personal thoughts or social / family stories. You can often see a well respected professional is discussion with colleagues about important topics and then see an update on their weekend activity, holiday snaps or TV habits. Some of these observations are actually very revealing and show we have more in common than you first think. However, some are dull, boring and you can feel a little intrusive at times. I have worked around this challenge by creating two online lives. I have a personal email, facebook and twitter account on which I can share my personal and family life. I will not be sharing these and so you won’t be getting tweets from me letting you know how my kids are doing, what coffee I drink or how disappointed I am with Saturdays football results. My second online world is a combination of those social media outlets which connect to my work and wider professional interests. I have created a second set of twitter, email, facebook, blog, Google + accounts and keep my work and my personal world separate. I have found this a safe way to explore social media networks. This option may also be a safe way for you to learn about these services. Create an online presence for your professional interests and just lurk, listen, don’t talk and learn along the way. When you feel confident you may want to contribute.
New media platforms are springing up and I am sure the future for this style of communication will not be where we are now, but now is a good time to start learning. If people are interested I am very happy to share my experiences of lurking and also happy to help people set up connections. I am no expert and I have made several mistakes but I am happy to help if the need is there. If that is still a little too much of a jump then perhaps a more gentle way of bringing numerous sources together without creating social media accounts would be an App called Flipboard. This App allows you to have numerous online worlds feeding into one place and creates a personal journal, newspaper, and magazine. So if you have a tablet or a smart phone then try out this free App. If I can help in anyway, if you want to try some of this stuff then just let me know. I am sure some of you know and understand more than I do but this has been how I have experienced and learned about new online communication networks. If it helps you can explore and simply connect your new online world to mine and see how you get on. I have made lots of mistakes and I am sure my online presentation could be improved but I have learned and have enjoyed the experience.
My professional interest connections are below.
twitter : @steveandrews3
linkedIN : www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-andrews/22/7bb/8b
facebook : www.facebook.com/steve.tlh.andrews