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Thursday, May 26, 2011
How to Be in Two Places At Once

Nothing like a punchy headline to draw you in.

 

Now that I have your attention, I am in fact going to deliver on the promise made in the headline.  I’m going to tell you how to learn what’s going on at impactful conferences while you’re not even there.

 

It’s as simple as following hashtags.

 

What’s a hashtag? Here’s the Wiktionary definition, which is quite succinct and descriptive:

 

“A tag embedded in a message posted on the Twitter microblogging service, consisting of a word within the message prefixed with a hash sign.”

 

That means when someone posts something on Twitter, any word with “#” in front of it becomes a hashtag.  Other users search for these hashtags in order to filter the conversation.  For example, if I search for the hashtag #oncology, I’m only going to see posts with that hashtag included.  That makes it pretty likely that the content of those posts is relevant to whatever oncology topic(s) I’m interested in.

 

It’s quite effective for sifting through all the noise and honing in on what you want to learn about or see.

 

It’s also become quite common for people attending conferences to tweet using a specific hashtag related to the conference.  I’ve done this dozens of times myself.  This week, in fact, I’m attending BlogWorld Expo in New York City and will be tweeting with the hashtag #BWENY when I post something about the conference. 

 

Most of the time conference organizers now establish and publicize their own hashtags in order to capitalize on the social media conversation that takes place now during any conference.

 

The nature of a conference makes it a natural buzz-generator for social media activity.  We’re a society now driven by information-sharing about whatever we believe has social capital – things like travelling, learning, teaching, and networking are all valuable and educational points of social discussion, and all take place during conferences.  Hence, during any notable conference, you can turn to social media to find and learn a lot about what’s being learned, taught and revealed there.

 

As an example, consider the recently completed FutureMed conference, which took place a few weeks ago in California.  It’s one of the most dynamic and forward-looking events in healthcare, yet it’s certainly not something many people from small or community-based oncology practices can afford to attend (at a cost of $7,500).  However, do a simple Twitter search (that’s search.twitter.com if you’re new to it) and you’ll find all the tweets from people who were there.

 

And just so you know, people tweet everything from conferences: key statistics and research, important speaker remarks from sessions, people they’ve met in the hallway, things they’ve learned that will change their practice habits, and much more. 

 

For example, simply searching on the hashtag #futuremed (either during the conference or after) lets you learn about the following innovative and educational topics that we’re discussed at the conference:

 

·    From @daniel_kraft: "DNA sequencing will become as ubiquitous as the stethoscope in medicine" w/ $800B+ economic impact. http://on.msnbc.com/lJDz8W #futuremed

·    From @HugoR: The Human Body, Searchable in 3-D http://bit.ly/kIqi7i #health #FutureMed #innovation

·    From @ezraklein: Why American healthcare costs so much depicted in 1 graphic http://wapo.st/m1swZ3 (Hint: it's not cause we're fat.) #futuremed

·    From @ePatientDave: Wow: Environmental Work Group analyzed 10 random umbilical cords from 5 states - AVERAGE 232 industrial chemicals each #futuremed

·    From @ePatientDave: Check out Sophia's integrative medicine case studies http://bit.ly/iXVSnL (on http://slidesha.re/jqmJtB) #futuremed

·    From @ePatientDave: It's becoming apparent - docs who don't keep up on these trends will start to look like idiots to leading e-patients. #futuremed

·    From @Ciscogiii: My favorite HIV/AIDS prevention ad but apparently it's too strong for North America http://bit.ly/lg1BIs #futuremed

 

To make it easy, here’s a full list of #futuremed tweets from May 10 through May 21.  You’ll find a ton of useful comments, links and knowledge about healthcare.

 

To sum it all up, here’s one more tweet to consider:

 

·    From @npicme: I feel like I've gotten a year's worth of education by reading the great tweets under #futuremed& #FMRevolution past few days.

 

So here’s the trick to being in two places at once: during and after a conference that you couldn’t attend, spend 30 minutes searching Twitter for information about the conference.  Chances are, someone there is sharing a lot of information about what’s being taught and said – all so you can absorb it as if you were there yourself.

 

Welcome to social learning in healthcare.

 

 

About the Author

Glenn L. Laudenslager
GLENN L. LAUDENSLAGER IV is president of Charge Ahead Marketing LLC and is former marketing director for the Massachusetts General Hospital Academy and Reed Medical Education. He actively uses social media to learn new things, meet important people, and make smarter decisions. E-mail Glenn at glaudenslager@gmail.com

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