Social Media 1 – Networks 0

Having completed the survey by the NHS Commissioning Board “Compassion in Practice” I must admit I audibly sighed that the theme of the survey leant towards the use of closed networks and I recall a blog I wrote a few months ago which was posted on the WeNurses website and which I have re- posted below: 

“Over the last year or so I have been party to many conversations that have debated the virtues of “closed private networks” against “public social media” within both the social media and nursing world. I am often a long thinker, by which I mean that I will often take a long time to mull things over and form an opinion, and I have listened to healthcare professionals who have raised concerns over the public nature of social media and I have also listened to those in the social media world who extol the virtues of all social media. However when it comes to healthcare the virtual space in which we live becomes a particularly important issue: we have conflicting priorities of connecting with as many people as we can versus observing confidentiality and protecting our patients.
I think that one of the basic questions we must ask ourselves is what are we sharing as healthcare professionals? Well, from the majority of networks that I have accessed it seems that we are sharing ideas, knowledge, expertise, experience and resources… so what’s wrong with sharing that in a public space?


The phenomenon of social media means that word of mouth quickly becomes world of mouth (Eric Qualman) – information is spread wide and fast in social media communities and beyond. The fact that there is ease of access means that connecting with the community becomes … well easy ! We have sites such a Facebook and Twitter in the palm of our hand, we need no complicated log in process we can access these sites at the touch of a button. The success of the nurse community on Twitter is down to the fact that nurses can connect anywhere at a time of their choosing, they can opt as to their level of connection, with whom they connect and the can choose to read only the information they want to read. Because of the ease of access the uptake of social sites is huge – according to Offcom figures (2011) just under 50% of the population use social media, on closer inspection of those who are in the working age bracket (18-64 year olds) the figure is from 72% – 92% of the population… I would challenge any closed network to top that potential reach.

Ease of access is extremely important if we want to achieve a world of mouth phenomenon with our messages. Ease of access turns what could possibly be a chore – sitting down at your PC, logging in, remembering the password and trawling through a complex and unfamiliar site – into a time saver – standing in the bus queue jumping onto Twitter at the touch of a button and asking the community for the piece of information you want and reading what like minded people are sharing.

There are other benefits to being in a public social media space, the transparency that social media creates means that the nursing message is spread both widely in the nursing community and also beyond the nursing community – you only have to read Laura Cleverys blog “ Becoming @type1nurse ” or to see the work of Mandy Hollis and the NHS Change Model and 6 C’s to see the positive effects of transparency. Of course transparency does have its drawbacks, which we will conveniently skip over … for now!
If we want to spread our messages throughout the nursing world and allow the nursing world to spread their messages we need to be in a space where nurses are, we need to “cash in” on ease of access and we need to embrace the transparency and use the world of mouth phenomenon – which means that in my opinion for the sharing of nursing ideas, knowledge, expertise, experience and resources public social media wins hands down.”


I hope that another closed network for nurses is not going to be developed and that people start to see the value of transparency, world of mouth and accessibility in social media platforms. Social media works because these things exist, when you shut the doors you limit the access and the possibilities.