The Future of Social Media

the futureSo you’re probably wondering what I’m doing blogging about social networking when this is a blog about health and medicine and medical writing. Well, just consider:

  • Thousands of tweets are sent every hour about health/medical issues. Want a cool way to follow them? Check out Health Tweeder.
  • Thousands of health care professionals, medical organizations and healthcare facilities have Facebook pages.
And I’m sure that’s only the beginning; those, together with Linked In, are the only social networking sites I currently use so that’s all you get for now.
Anyway, I’m here at the American Society of Journalists and Authors annual meeting in NYC. Our lunch speaker was Peter Shankman, social media guru and PR maven. His advice was not only hysterically funny (explaining to the under-30 crowd in the ballroom that MTV used to have music videos–not reality TV–and that telephones used to have cords) but right on.
Among his nuggets of wisdom we would all be wise to listen to:
  • Be transparent. If you screw up, admit it. If someone is paying you to hawk their product, admit it. If something goes wrong with the surgery, the medication, the procedure–admit it.
  • Social media should be about everyone else–not about you. That means linking to interesting content, retweeting interesting content, tweeting to help out your friends, patients, business associates, etc.
  • The good writers will win. Learn to write and you will find your audience. Good writing is brevity and brevity is social media. I think I’m going to have this advice tattooed on my teenaged sons’ foreheads; like too many of their generation, they only know texting shorthand. Have no clue how to put together a complete sentence in the active voice (but then, neither do most of the people I meet). Peter once received a cover letter from a Harvard grad that said, “I look forward to working 4 you.” Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.
  • Be relevant. That means giving your customers (patients, clients, etc.) information in the way in which they want it. How to know? ASK THEM. Then give it to them. An aside: Twitter is the Pets.com of 2010. Why? Because it hasn’t made a cent. Don’t focus on the Twitter; focus on the form of communication that is Twitter, basically, the text. And keep in mind that the average attention span of the average person in this country today is about 2.3 seconds: about as long as it takes to read 140 characters.
And the future of social media? All social media will become consolidated and linked. Meet someone, “bump” to exchange information, and, with each succeeding interaction through various portals, our network will “learn” more about us and our preferences and keep those with whom we interact in our network while weeding out those we never “see.”
It’s a Brave New World.

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