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How To Get Involved In Social Media

When healthcare reform became law, HR and benefits professionals I spoke with had two reactions: surprise and annoyance. Surprise, because they thought reform was dead; annoyed, because the law was full of provisions that didn’t make sense to them. But it was partly their own fault.

Blogs and other social media were buzzing with healthcare reform talk for more than a year, and were more influential than ever. But HR and benefits professionals –- experts in the topic –- were mostly on the sidelines. They didn’t shape the debate, didn’t point out when people didn’t know what they were talking about, didn’t talk about how what was proposed would affect what they did for a living.

Don’t take my word for it. A study last year on social media use by HR professionals revealed some striking results:

  • Only 13 percent use RSS feeds, tags and bookmarks
  • Only 5 percent post original content to blogs and website
  • Only 4 percent post ratings and reviews or comments on blogs and online forums

Reform shows there are real consequences to this failure to participate in social media. If you’re not part of the conversation, you’re marginalizing yourself, losing influence within your organization and the world.

So let this be a wake-up call: Get involved in social media. Easy to say, but how do you get started?

Here are three simple steps you can take –- today –- that will have you in the game right away.

1. Set up an RSS reader. A what?  An RSS reader is a fancy word for a simple web tool that lets you read multiple blogs, news sites, or other web sites all in one place.  Getting started is easy.

Create an account with an RSS reader provider (I use Google –- it’s free and you can sign up for here).  Next, enter the address of each of the websites to which you want to subscribe.  Now, every time there’s a new post or article on that site, you see it show up in your reader, sort of like getting an email.  Now, any time you find a cool or interesting website or blog, you can just add it to your reader.

When you start you’re only going to have a few web sites on your reader.  That’s ok.  When you find a blog you like, here’s a tip.  Most bloggers keep a list of their favorite blogs on the lower right hand side of their blog.  It’s called a “blogroll” and if you like a blogger, you’re sure to find interesting blogs that that blogger reads.  Click through to them, and if you find something you like, add it to your reader.  Check out their blogroll, too.

In no time at all you’ll have a lively, interesting set of things to read every day.  You’ll also probably learn that your favorite TV and print media are often a day or two behind blogs in reporting on interesting stories.  You’ll be “in the know.”

2.  Create a Profile on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is one of those “must haves” mostly because it’s so damn practical.  You probably go to lots of conferences and events where you meet interesting people in your industry and get lots of business cards.  But by the time you get home, you’ve completely forgotten whether that Evan Falchuk guy whose business card you have was the fascinating person you met at lunch that you wanted to follow up with, or if he was the guy at the booth who had nothing to say.  Now what?

What I do is go to LinkedIn and search for his name.  Presto, up comes a picture and a basic resume –- ah, now I remember who he is. Now, if you want, you can press a button and add him to your network.  If he accepts (most people who you’ve met will accept your invitation) you get to see much more detail about them, including who they are connected to. You’ll be surprised at what a small world it is and how much easier it now is to network.

What’s more, you now have some kind of rudimentary relationship with the person.  More serious users of LinkedIn regularly update their profile with news, or post interesting articles or blog posts, so it’s a great way to get to know someone in a completely passive way –- all you have to do is read.  Next time you see them, you’ll have more to talk about than trying to remember each others’ names.

Know this, too: if you’re ever looking for a job or trying to hire someone, having an active LinkedIn profile means you have an installed network of people who can help you.

Setting up your profile is very easy, you can do it here.  Share as much or as little about yourself as you want, but whatever you do make a profile.

3. Create a Twitter Account. Twitter gets a really bum rap as a place where people post inane stuff like what they are eating for lunch.  It’s true, there is a lot of that out there, but that’s not my experience with Twitter.  Think of Twitter like a big cocktail party where you get to decide who’s there, where you can overhear every single conversation, where people agree to only talk about subjects you’re interested in, and where you don’t have to say a single word.

Sounds pretty good, right?

It’s true.  I follow more than 1,000 people on Twitter.  Many are doctors, some are HR and benefits professionals, others are business executives, news analysts and other people interested in health care or business.  As you might expect, almost all of the posts I see have something to do with some health care story that’s in the news, or being talked about on someone’s blog.  It’s a real-time view of what people are talking about.

Setting up a Twitter account is very easy (do it here).  Finding people to “follow” (it’s not stalking – people want to be followed!) may take a little bit of work.  Start by following someone interesting (like me!) and then look at who they follow.  You’re likely to find plenty of interesting people in their list.  Like I said, you never have to say a word, so don’t feel any pressure to say anything.  Still, don’t be afraid, if you have something interesting to say, say it!

Like with your RSS reader, you’ll quickly find that when you turn on your computer there’s a lively conversation going on that you can dip into at your leisure.  You’re very likely to learn something interesting, think about something important in a way you’ve never done before, or even get annoyed.

It might just be enough make you take some more advanced social media steps. I’ll cover those in another post. Meanwhile, enough –- go get an RSS reader, a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account!

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

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2 Responses to “How To Get Involved In Social Media”

  1. Evan, I am not sure if your suggestions to embrace social media are the cure or the disease! While I realize that technology is inescapable, there is a real cost to this. This has all been at the expense of direct human-human interactions. Even telephone conversations, where a real time human voice can be heard, has been supplanted by text messaging and emailing. I still value a real handshake and eye contact and hope that these and similar experiences won’t vanish. Telemedicine is an example of progress, but with a cost. I wouldn’t relish spending hours of my day twittering, texting, emailing, RSSing, etc. This stuff can take on a life of its own.

  2. Evan Falchuk says:

    Hi Michael,

    It’s amusing of course to be having a conversation about this between two bloggers on the comment section of another blog….

    You’re right of course about the danger of replacing real-life interactions with on-line ones. That’s a bad use of social media.

    What is so cool about social media is that you can meet and get to know huge numbers of other people who you would otherwise never meet. For instance I’ve gotten to know you through social media – I don’t think we would ever have met otherwise. That’s a good thing!


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