To selfie or not to selfie ….

Selfies at conferences … where to start?  Well ever since someone was smart enough to reverse the camera on a smart phone (and in fact before then, though selfie quality was much diminished and you often ended up with a picture of your left ear!) selfies have been a part of our social media spaces.  Now I have to admit – I am a fan of the humble selfie, its good to meet people and take a picture and then hang it in a social media space .. its fun, it’s part of a ritual and it’s a good way to keep memories of great events.  However (and here’s where I duck for cover) I think that there is a time and a place.

Let me add a little context here…

Over the last five years nurses have worked hard to break down boundaries, to get healthcare and nursing to take social media seriously, and there can be no doubt that we have made great strides.  There are now more nurse bloggers than ever, twitter chats are not only being used to share information, ideas and expertise but also being used for CPD and as part of revalidation, evidence and research is being shared,  best practice is being disseminated and developed, and nursing issues are being debated constructively and productively.

In addition to this nursing itself (regardless of social media) continues to promote the ideas that care is anything but basic, that no nurse is “just a nurse”, that nurses need a degree education in order to deliver the very best care, and that nursing is a profession that is based in evidence and research.

I have often said that social media gives us global expertise in the palm of our hand but there is a flip side to this … with access to global expertise comes the plain and simple fact that we too are on that global stage.  Social media puts us – and by us I mean nursing – front and centre, whether we like it or not the second we set foot into social media spaces we are “on show”  And herein lies my problem with selfies at conferences  … is this the image of nursing that we want to portray at  national events? Isn’t this a bit trivial? Isn’t trivialising nursing what we are all working hard to eradicate?

Ok … lets just hold fire a moment and get one thing very clear …. I am not saying ban the conference selfie ! Perhaps I ought to say that again … I am not saying ban the conference selfie (hoping that’s clear now!)  I take selfies at conferences from time to time and as I stated above I think they are becoming an interesting part of modern culture and have a purpose that is based in fun and bonding.  What I am saying is lets make sure we get the balance right.

So how do we get the balance right ? I’m not sure I have all the answers but here are some of my suggestions to conference organisers:

  • Be your conference role model – use your own account to share the tweets highlight the amazing work that nurses do and how great your conference is, let that be your global image
  • Encourage those who are sharing the conference well
  • Have some role models in the room, people who tweet well and can convey the key messages of the conference
  • Encourage selfies at break times
  • Give people some top tips on conference tweeting before they come
  • Share the speakers Twitter handles – this may sound a bit off the wall but give people the tools they need to share the important messages
  • Have great wifi – again this mean that people don’t just tweet at breaks and the selfies don’t take over

And my advice to all those tweeting nurses out there? Just remember that nursing is so much more than a selfie.



Back at the start of the year WeCommunities held it’s own “Conference” – I put this in inverted commas as it was more like a get together (WeGetTogether) than a conference in the traditional sense of the word – anyway, I am diversifying slightly (nothing new there!) the point is that through the WeGetTogether I learnt so much about the art of the possible regarding social media and conferences.  I have been to many conferences and witnessed so many more via Twitter and I feel that we have somewhat lost the plot when it comes to why we use social media during conferences.

I have long since thought that in order to make social media work for us and our organisations we have to look beyond just being on social media and ticking that social media box and look to our purpose here.  Correct me if I am wrong, the purpose of a conference is to:

  • Share information and knowledge,
  • Bring people together to enable them to network
  • Bring people together in order to make decisions or forward plan

Soooooo my question is … why is it acceptable to merely associate a hashtag to a conference and then flood the timeline with a whole heap of useless noise and selfies !!! This is particularly frustrating if you are watching the conference from afar, as a conference that has a “tick box hashtag” serves no purpose whatsoever, and, in fact, is counter productive as it just frustrates and annoys people.  Some of the things I have seen as recent as this week, that are a direct result of “tick box hashtags”  (and yes it is only Monday!) include:

  • Multiple hashtags for one conference (causing confusion for conference goer and conference watcher alike)
  • Conference hashtags streams full of selfies – even promoted by the conference organisers themselves! (whilst I like a good selfie there does need to be balance here!)
  • Useless information – eg Joe Blogs is now speaking …. Arrrggghhhhh !! We would love to know what he is saying !!!
  • Not enough links to live streaming – by which I mean that it is tweeted once at the start of the day and not promoted enough throughout the day for watchers to find
  • Ignoring tweets coming in to the conference – no mechanism to ensure that those watching the conference are included

Believe it or not I could go on … isn’t it time that we put a little thought into this? Isn’t it time that we revisited the purpose of conferences? And the purpose of using social media at conferences? If we want to hold a conference to share information, to bring people together and to forward plan why on earth are we not putting more thought to the people who are outside of the four walls of our conference?

When we put together WeGetTogether we had three aims (I would love to call it a triple aim but alas that title is already taken!)

some x3 conf aims

I cant admit to getting it all right first time but some of the things we did worked very well indeed:

Broadcasting / Taking the inside out – we used multiple social media including Twitter, Blogs, Vines and Periscope to engage people.  We made our agenda short, sociable and shareable.  We had student volunteers who Tweeted out informative and relevant tweets and were active role models for engaging. We held concurrent Twitter chats that sat alongside the agenda topics.   We made sure that the hashtag was visible – on every slide and on all of the literature.  We shared speakers Twitter handles.

Listening / Bringing the outside in – We had people whose specific job was to listen to social media and feed points back into the room.  We held Twitter chats and fed the main points back into the room.  We had large and visible Twitter walls  – that were uncensored. And, again, student volunteers really helped with listening to what was going on in social media and actively engaging.

Networking / Helping people to network – We had QR codes on each badge that people could scan to follow newly met friends.  We encouraged people to follow the people in the Twitter hashtag stream

If you are holding a conference it is not longer acceptable to just create a hashtag.  The social media part of the conference is as important as the conference itself – it spreads your message, it enables ideas from inside and outside of the room to be shared, it helps to make your audience feel valued (as opposed to the privileged few who can make the conference) and it enables both watchers and conference goers to network before, during and after the event. Doing social media well means ensuring that information and opportunities are accessible to all … it’s disappointing when all we see is a half-hearted hashtag with a stream of selfies! 


Sharing scribbles

A good few weeks ago now I downloaded a new drawing app, I really love creative apps that allow me to explore ideas in new ways and this app was right up my street .. so I sat down to think and scribble about my favourite subject at the moment … doing social media well! This nice thing about this app was that it enables me to screen shot my scribbles and share them via twitter … which is what I did!

social medai well 2

My thoughts were following a Twitter conversation I had with @Damian_Roland around innovation – hence my starting point was the graph that he shared during that conversation.  I have felt for sometime that our message around social media and health needed to change and Damian strengthened those feelings – we need to stop talking about doing social media in health and start to talk about how we can do it well. Which then got me thinking about what “well” looks like.  So I drew a few ideas and shared them on Twitter – the really great thing about sharing ideas is that they can start to evolve and be improved upon … however this takes a little courage.  Most people shared my scribbles at face value however a few people, people who clearly do social media well entered into a conversation with me about how my thoughts could be improved upon.

Someone somewhere once said “Two heads are better than one” well that person clearly didn’t have access to social media and the collaborative power that it offers because it seems to me that sharing and developing ideas is a great way to use social media in nursing for those who have courage to share and those who are courageous enough to comment and give their thoughts.

So back to my scribbles – what happened to them? Well I did go back to them after I shared them (it was a good few weeks after, as time seemed to run away with me, as it often does!) I looked at the tweets and revisited my drawing app, I added in an umbrella of safety and tidied up a few bits here and there …. what do you think? Are you brave enough to say ? ;D