Q How can we be effective nurse leaders in the world of social media influencers?
The ubiquitous presence of the internet coupled with the portability of mobile devices has changed the way healthcare professionals communicate within and outside of their facilities. Healthcare organizations now use social media to engage with their customers, promote services, and support the workforce. Employers have policies in place providing guidelines on the use of electronic devices and social media within the workplace. For example, hospitals and professional associations have instituted policies governing privacy and confidentiality, controls on what websites can be accessed with restrictive technical rules, and the personal use of computers during work hours as part of employees' annual competency training. However, these policies may not address employee use of social media outside of the workplace.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has created a nurse's guide to social media use, accompanied with information on the consequences and impacts to licensure if a violation occurs.1 The illustrative cases provide examples of inappropriate use of social and electronic media that could lead to varying negative outcomes, such as fines, suspension, termination, loss of licensure, sensitivity training, expulsion from a nursing school, criminal charges, and jail time, depending on the state's jurisdiction. On the other hand, benefits of social media use include providing an outlet for nurses to share workplace experiences; express emotions; show support; and appreciate reflections from friends, colleagues, and other social media users.2,3 How can nurses balance the use of social media and carefully build their image as leaders and influencers?
Start by asking yourself: What's my niche and how do I want myself to be known? Differentiate yourself and share your passion. Set yourself apart by understanding your target audience and choosing your social media platforms. Do you want to target Millennials and Gen Z users by posting photo- or video-based content? Sharing photos can create engagement, promote a positive image, and provide a medium for branding and recruitment. If your interest is focused on long-term goals, create tutorials or write thought leadership content. Be thoughtful and deliberate in crafting meaningful messages and strategic in creating your brand.
Be intentional and reflective when identifying goals and evaluating outcome measures. Social media analytics consider views, engagement, and participation.4 How many clicks were generated on your leadership video? What was the reaction of users based on their interaction using buttons (such as “likes,” emojis, or thumbs up/down) and posting comments related to the content? What's the number of participants based on subscribers, followers, and visitors to determine interest in your content?
Take the time to acknowledge and respond to questions or comments from your followers. Be calm and professional with criticism and negative feedback. Expand your base by creating guest posts and investing in boosting posts. Schedule posts through social media automation tools that minimize manual publishing. This saves time by uploading content in scheduled batches.
The exponential growth of social media platforms, including social networking and video sites, online chat rooms and forums, blogs, podcasts, and gaming environments, will continue. Challenging and emotional events related to the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the outcry of the nation on Black Lives Matter are being vividly captured through videos, images, and text posted by social media users. This new wave of movement will create more followers and influencers. Nurses have the opportunity to own and create their narratives. The key to success is finding the right balance and being responsible and accountable for your actions in the digital space.
1. National Council of State Boards of Nursing. White paper: a nurse's guide to the use of social media. 2011. www.ncsbn.org/Social_Media.pdf
2. Ventola CL. Social media and health care professionals: benefits, risks, and best practices. P T
3. Suby C. Social media in health care: benefits, concerns, and guidelines for use. Creat Nurs
4. Jackson J, Fraser R, Ash P. Social media and nurses: insights for promoting health for individual and professional use. Online J Issues Nurs