On December 17, I attended an Exploring Learning Technologies presentation by Ryan Squire, the program director for digital and social media for the OSU Medical Center. Squire talked about how he has developed a social media strategy to support the OSUMC mission and strategic goals. As is often the case, the interesting questions here aren’t which social media technology to use (let alone how to push the buttons to make the technology work) but rather, when and why and how to use a general class of technology.
One problem Squire faced was getting buy-in for his project, especially from senior colleagues. His solution was to get those colleagues to actually use a site like Facebook themselves. Without any kind of personal experience with the tools, stakeholders had no context within which to understand the rest of Squire’s plan. This is a problem faced by many early adopters of technologies: how do you explain the value and potential uses of a new tool to people who really can’t envision what you’re talking about? We’ve probably all heard stories about investors who couldn’t imagine the need for telephones in homes, or more than a dozen computers in the world, or a personal music player.
Another issue that Squire addressed was the need to help stakeholders understand how tools designed for socializing and for personal connections between individuals could be used to fulfill institutional goals. Much of the answer here revolved around the development of a set of policies and guidelines. The policies and guidelines outline for staff how and when to use social media on behalf of the institution, following the same kinds of standards for institutional authority, professional presentation, and data and patient security as they would use in a face-to-face environment.
A final point that I found interesting was the need to balance planned message campaigns with timely reactions to communications initiated by the “audience.” Part of Squire’s job is to disseminate ideas and information that build positive relationships with OSUMC employees, patients, and community members. These messages can be crafted ahead of time, shaped to fit particular communication vehicles (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, etc.), and targeted at particular audiences. While the exact shape of the messages may be new, this work is not much different from what marketing, communications, and public relations staff have always done. The new addition is the ability of staff in many parts of the institution to be aware of online conversations and to provide value-added information immediately.
In a nutshell, what Squire did was enable stakeholders to see all OSUMC staff as potential customer service ambassadors, using social media tools to help ensure that the image of the institution seen by all audiences is positive and on target.