Why Facebook Friends Still Meet Face-to-Face

By Jean Kelso Sandlin, Senior Strategist

Last week I attended a luncheon of professional colleagues, many of whom I had only connected with through a LinkedIn group. The topic of our meeting was social media. We discussed our favorite social media tools, how to measure results, our best successes and our biggest frustrations.

On my drive home I couldn’t help think about the irony of our lunch meeting: a group of social media advocates felt compelled to meet face-to-face to talk about social media. And we are not alone, there’s a website dedicated to “Social Media Meetup Groups” around the world. Just this morning I noticed a “Tweetvite” – an invitation posted on Twitter by a group of healthcare professionals in Little Rock, AR, who meet monthly to discuss, among other topics, social media (#hcsmAR).

In Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article, he praises social media for its ability to provide new ideas and information. He writes “The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvelous efficiency. It’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world.”

In that same article, Gladwell also describes social media connections as “weak ties” that don’t lead to “high risk activism” – such as the willingness to risk arrest for a civil rights movement. In hospitals, we are rarely seeking “high risk activism,” but we do seek activism among our patients. Many hospitals have formed social media groups to encourage cardiac patients to adopt healthy eating habits, or women to have regular mammograms.

After your hospital has taken steps to cultivate a social media group, consider ways to connect them face-to-face. For example, invite your healthy eaters to a local “Farmer’s Market Walk” with your nutritionist; or your new mom’s group to brown bag lunch at a playground to discuss helping toddlers adjust to the new baby.

Building in face-to-face strategies with your social media strategies can strengthen the ties among patients and strengthen the ties between your hospital and your patients.

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