I am a late adapter. Social media was not a natural fit, at first; I had done just fine without it, thank you. As a busy academic neurosurgeon, who has the time or the key messages to broadcast? However, in business school, I had learned the importance of connectivity and having wide numbers of contacts. LinkedIn provided an ideal platform for an “interactive rolodex” that enabled me to maintain a large group of contacts that was:
- Easily searchable;
- Automatically updated; and
- Continually expanding my network.
These contacts now include a wide variety of individuals, from social to professional connections, and include people that I know and many others who I have never met, yet all remain important links for some meaningful aspect of my life. Each profile gives a large amount of information on each connection — current and past jobs; education; shared contacts; important organizations and interests; and even languages spoken.
Using LinkedIn, I can easily search for all my neurosurgery contacts in a particular location, or look for business associates in a particular field. I can also search for new contacts, as there is an algorithm-produced menu of potential contacts that one can scroll through looking for friends, colleagues or potentially important contacts. This algorithm is generated according to your choices of contacts, either through jobs, organizations or location.
I use the basic (free) LinkedIn package, although there is a Premium Package that allows broader searches and more details on contacts as well as jobs. This is probably very helpful if one were looking to hire candidates or keep an eye out for a new job.
Twitter came much later for me, both conceptually and practically. At first, it seemed too self-absorbed to be constantly updating the world on one’s activities and, for a busy neurosurgeon, a seemingly frivolous waste of time and effort.
My first intern at WHO insisted before her term was over that I must begin using Twitter. She set up an account and a Tweet Deck for me, which fills my laptop screen with several columns to follow specific individuals or groups, keep track of my own notifications and likes along with keeping constant tabs on the tweetosphere.
At first, I started with a few re-tweets that were merely a push of the button and Voila!, a tweet; I didn’t have to think up anything pithy or erudite to broadcast to the world.
However, during the recent campaign for the new WHO Director-General, it became acutely evident how Twitter could be used as a formidable advocacy tool. I was flattered that one of the candidates followed me on Twitter. But observing their social media team’s effective use of Twitter as a campaign tool to get their messages out worldwide convinced me of the importance of this as an advocacy strategy.
At the moment, tweeting has become a way of life. I follow a wide swath of individuals from the Dalai Lama to my most recent intern. My tweets are mainly getting a message out on all aspects of my work focus:
- Advocacy for safe, timely and affordable surgical, obstetric and anaesthesia care worldwide as a key component of universal health coverage, including financial protection.
This gives me ample material for primary tweets or re-tweets of important posts by others pertinent to this topic or another global health issue. It does take a bit of practice, but it does get easier all the time. And, like LinkedIn, one can add (or subtract) the list of those one is following.
I started slow and small, but am already approaching a 1,000 followers. Clearly, taking the leap has benefitted my cause and my work.
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