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PROFESSIONAL Colin Wren


#nhssm Joint Chair and Technology Specialist Twitter: @colinwren


Social networking for nurses


The use of sites such as Twitter and Facebook has great potential as a tool for nurses and patients alike


P


atients, nurses and the general population are increasingly turning to online social networks for information, communi-


cation and entertainment. These networks can be useful tools, but there is often fear and misunderstanding surrounding the use of such platforms in both a personal and professional capacity. Websites including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,


YouTube and Flickr can be broadly categorised under the umbrella of ‘social media.’ This is an area which is rapidly gaining interest from a number of organisations and individuals, as they learn how to harness the potential of user interactivity and use the sites as a platform for communication, discussion, and sharing content such as images or videos. To get the most from social media there are a number of benefits, as well as risks, which nurses need to consider.


TYPES OF SOCIAL NETWORKS Social media contains a broad spectrum of social networks. To help explain the different networks, they can be grouped based on the reason people are communicating.


RELATIONSHIP-BASED NETWORKS In these networks people use their real names in their profiles and tend to know the people they connect with outside of the social network. Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ are examples of relationship-based networks.


TOPICAL NETWORKS In these networks people either use real profiles or are anonymous and tend to connect with others due to a mutual view about a


particular topic, common interest or association. Twitter and Quora are examples of topical networks.


CRITIQUE NETWORKS In these networks the people either use real profiles or are anony- mous and tend to connect with others based on the content they create and share with others on the


network. Flickr, YouTube and Blogging are examples of


critique networks. Within all of these networks there are ways to create communities via pages, groups and tags. These


all serve to allow people to discuss a topic, but the means of joining in the discussion are different. Pages and groups tend to appear within relationship-based


‘If a nurse wishes to use social media for professional development they should look at educating their superiors’


networks, and these require the person to sign up to the page before they can post any content. This can be a potential roadblock in getting people to participate, especially if the topic being discussed is a sensitive one. Tags (or ‘hashtags’ on Twitter – any word with ‘#’ in front of it)


tend to appear within topical networks, and require the user to tag a post they want to submit to a topic so others following that topic can see it. Helping people understand how to use tags and which tags to follow can help lower the barriers to online discussion participation.


www.nursinginpractice.com


Nursing in Practice March/April 2012 27


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