A Thought About Social Media. . .

In the digital age that we live in, it is becoming increasingly important for organizations and their leadership to embrace social media and use it to its fullest capability.  It is the fear of the unknown that really causes the problems that we see, and developing an organizational culture that promotes safe, appropriate use of social media is key.

Take, for instance, the Facebook pages of Hennepin EMS in Minnesota and Boston EMS.  They do a great job of not only promoting their members but fearlessly advertising the successes of their organizations.  They report call volumes, medical advances, and in Boston EMS’s case, even tweeted a ride along day that was done a few months ago.  Bravo!

While the press plays a key role in the public’s perception of EMS, with an increased emphasis on social media, blogging, and a means of making our own “press releases” we can, as a profession, dictate our own direction.  It is becoming more common for blogs to be just as well respected as some news outlets, and some of those outlets are even looking to bloggers to fill their printed pages with their online content.

So how does an organization “get there?”  It starts with structure.  When people do not know what limitations and rules are set for them, they are more apt to push the envelope and see how far they can take things.  Remind them what is appropriate to post and what is not.  More importantly, remind them WHEN it is appropriate to be in their phone.  Nothing irks me more than when I hear about someone in the back of a truck answering a text or a Facebook message.  Let’s keep it confined to the downtime people!

The key above all else though is to be responsible.  Think before you post.  That goes for status updates, tweets, pictures, anything you can think of.  While social media can be very useful, it can also present some challenges when the WRONG thing is posted.  Even if you take it down, there is a chance someone out there might have already captured it, and even if something is up for just a few minutes, someone is going to see it and be ready to talk about it.  The only way to prevent those pitfalls is to take a good hard look at everything before you press that “send” button.

With structure, a positive message, and the right people driving the content, social media can be a powerful tool.  Its use and perception by the public is completely up to each individual organization.  Embrace it and use it right. . . It won’t fail you!