Please join my social media experiment

I haven’t done a blog like this before. I’m trying what I hope will be a relatively simple experiment to help me run some seminars on Thursday 3 March 2016 for the East Midlands NHS Leadership Academy.

And you can help me!

  • If you read the blog before Thursday, I would love to have your comments at the bottom of this blog to help me help the people in the seminar groups think about the use of social media in the NHS.
  • And if you read it afterwards, you can help me to think about it some more. Comments would be really welcome from seminar participants and others. Because like all of you, I am a lifelong learner.
  • I intend to use this blog as my main audio-visual aid for the seminars. It is therefore shorter than usual and presented mainly as
    • Bullet points!
  • As well as seeking your comments in bold, I will be encouraging comments and discussion from the attendees.
  • I plan to start by asking people where they are on scale of 1 – 10
    • 1 = a social media virgin
    • And 10 = social media savvy warrior
    • I am pitching the seminars and the blog towards the people who place themselves towards the lower end of this scale, but I will try to engage the more informed attendees by inviting their comments, as I am inviting yours.
  • How does that sound to you?
  • I will then introduce social media as a form of media where the control lies with the individual.
  • I will illustrate my point with a newspaper story that ran about me recently (two blogs down from this one if you haven’t heard about it) and how I was able to redress the balance myself via Twitter, Facebook and my blog.
  • Is the above example too self-indulgent, do you think? And if it is, can you think of a better one?

I will then list the different forms of social media thus:

Social media products:

  • Facebook: An early product. I use it to stay in touch with family + friends. But people use it very successfully for work, even instead of a website
  • Instagram – good for sharing photos, I am told.
  • Linked-In: For keeping in touch with people at work, finding jobs, making connections. Again an early product. I don’t like the interface. But I’ve missed some important messages from people who have tried to contact me that way, so be warned!
  • Skype: Free video calls. Can be erratic. But great for interviews or meetings with people far away. Much cheaper than video conferencing
  • Twitter: Admission time – my favourite. I love the discipline of the character limit.
  • Viber: Similar to WhatsApp. Also free calls
  • YouTube: used by President Obama, Justin Beiber and me!

  • WhatsApp: Great for staying in touch with individuals and groups. And free phone calls!

Does that sound overwhelming? Any glaring omissions? And does expressing my preferences help or hinder?

Benefits of using any/all of the above:

  • Control
  • Thrift
  • Contacts and connections
  • Equality

Things to look out for:

  • No such thing as a free lunch – you are the product for the companies providing these “free” services
  • Warning: social media can be addictive
  • Loss of privacy with some formats (see my blog On Forgiveness)
  • Trolls and other monsters (see my blog Please Take Care, Twitter can be Cruel)

Again, your thoughts please?


  • Why do it? (see my blog called Why do you Blog?)
  • And why not do it? (hint: there are lots of good reasons)

This is where I hope we will have the richest discussion.

I’d really welcome your comments here too please.

Some NHS-inspired bloggers that I think are worth following:

  • Zoe Bojelian Wonderful mother of a brilliant boy who we will never forget
  • Annie Cooper Senior nurse + social media genius – she will be at the conference
  • Andy Cowper The most original writer on health policy I know. Also v funny
  • David Gilbert Writes in a brilliant, challenging way about patient leadership
  • Paul Jenkins Ex CE of Rethink, now runs a mental health trust. Deep thinker
  • Liz O’Riordan A breast surgeon with breast cancer. Stunning
  • Charlotte Walker A mental health patient (like me). Writes in real time. Gutty, startling insights
  • John Walsh My personal compassion guru
  • Rob Webster A brave, wise leader who shares generously

The list is of course not exhaustive, but I’d love your thoughts – who would you add?

My plan is to share this blog via the seminars, including all comments received, to stimulate discussion. And I will invite those who take longer to decide what they want to say, to add their comments after the event.

My final question to readers of the blog is this:

  • Would you find a seminar structured in this way useful?
  • And if not, and I really want your honest answers, please tell me how you would improve it.

I promise to incorporate your ideas. And I will also let you know how it goes.

Thank you very much indeed for joining my social media experiment!










  1. Hi Lisa
    Firstly thank you for including me and asking me, so kind.

    I would probably put myself as 7-8 on your scale. I feel confident with the platforms I use but know others exist which I don’t use. You may wish to mention Stella as that is quiet a good one for telling a short story with photos & quiet straight forward to use.

    I think using your personal experience is good and not self indulgent. It is a very powerful example and makes the point very well.

    I agree, Twitter is also my favourite. I like the fact that it encourages conversations and that anyone on Twitter can join in those conversations. To me it is like a village ( a large one). In contrast I find Facebook more like a notice board, people post a photo or update but there seems to be less interaction. Some good conversations take place in Facebook groups but they tend to be closed so not so good at breaking down hierarchies as people can’t stumble across them so easily and tend to invite those they know and connect with already.

    Benefits of social media and most particularly Twitter is making connections. Also it breaks down prejudices and negative assumptions. For example, people who might not have bothered talking to Adam because they assumed he had nothing worth listening to or could communicate, read his words, saw he said good things worth listening to so engaged with him. Same across so many barriers patients/professional; health/non-health; etc. Another benefit is being able to attach documents so good way to share information. Other benefit speed – things can often be published much quicker and money; people can communicate around the world without having to travel to one place.

    Disadvantages, perhaps advise people not to respond to abuse etc if it happens but to block the person.
    Also does seem to be an issue of patients, families and HCPs who are active on Twitter having problems with some people who don’t understand Twitter. Have heard first hand from a number of HCPs who are relatively high profile on Twitter of having hassles at work. We faced similar with Adam, really silly things like a clinical director telling me off because Adam tweeted thanking a doctor for brilliant care. I also read interesting stuff in Adam’s files after his death. Comments about wanting to “shut him down” and particular comments about his “high profile” followers. So there clearly is a negative side, but this is probably an indication of the fears created as a result of Twitter etc breaking down the old barriers and hierarchies.

    Perhaps some illustrations eg a screen shot, of each platform mentioned might be helpful for people new to social media.

    Good luck, look forward to hearing how it goes.


  2. Hi Lisa

    Starting with yourself as an example is not self-indulgent. Personal stories always capture the attention of people in the audience rather than a lecture. I now start every talk with “Hello my name is Liz and I’m going to tell you a story”…

    Other SM apps are snapchat and periscope (I’m probably a bit old for them). I think you have dos ay what you use and why, and admit that you might not be an expert in those you don’t. You could give examples of how SoMe has influenced news and politics such as twitter with the junior docs contract, #ilooklikeasurgeon and #likealadydoc after the Dominic Lawson article in the Times. I think it’s great to find your own ‘tribe’ of like-minded people and supporters

    pros of twitter – being able to directly contact people you admire professionally / socially / experts in their field etc for advice or just to say Hi. It’s amazing what can happen when you ask an expert a question. For example, Dan Lepard and Vanessa Kimball will always give me sourdough tips when I ask. When I finished chemo, I asked twitter where I should go for sushi, and a London sushi restaurant offered to buy a friend and I a bento box each.

    You can be very cheeky and try to blag things. Often If I’m staying somewhere that is on twitter, I’ll tweet about how I’m looking forward to going there. That tweet is often picked up, and I’ve had a couple of room upgrades in hotels. But I ALWAYS tweet after the stay to say how great the stay was and the customer service etc. It has to work both ways

    Blogging – writing is a great way of dealing with your thoughts and emotions. But blogging is a whole new world, and you kind of have to learn on the go. I discovered it ad hoc. Problems for me – firstly working out which program to use (I use rapid weaver as I have a Mac and my husband had already bought it). Then how do you make people aware of your blog? Marie Ennis-O’Connor @JBBC has some great tips. Here’s a link to her blog about why HCPs should blog

    Hours obsessing over colours and layouts and how to add photos and videos and things, and what platforms to use to let people subscribe, share and comment. I use Disqus codes and mail chimp, and AddThis.

    Roy Lilley gave out great advice – try to keep it short (ideally <800 words), as people lose interest. And try to add photos or diagrams to break it up and keep visual interest. Blogs with a photo or picture in the twitter / Facebook link are much more likely to be opened.

    Dangers of blogging – losing focus. I write to tell my story and help others. But very tempting to write to feed your fans, and then you're writing to please others, and not to please yourself, and your message can alter. Seeing your numbers of followers and subscribers grow can be addictive and it this too can affect your reasons for blogging. I write, then save it as a draft and read it again the next day, and get my husband to proof-read it. Often you need a day to let it wallow and check that it says what you want it to say, and those typos suddenly stand out.

    Remember anything you post can be used against you in the future so be very careful if blogging about health. Check that any medical facts you post are accurate, especially if you're meant to be an expert in that field. I always ask people if it's OK to mention them by name, as not all my friends/family approve of SoMe.

    other dangers of twitter – feeling the need to reply instantly to everyone who mentions you – you don't owe anyone anything and it can be very time-consuming. Also, do you thank everyone who RTs you and end up in a vicious circle of twitter thanks..?

    My husband says it's rude if you have 4000 followers but only follow 40….


  3. Hi Lisa,

    Despite being a little bit of a geek I was really late coming to the world of “professional” SoMe, yes I was on Facebook (I mainly joined while I was a Uni Lecturer to communicate with the students) and Twitter (my daughter,14 at the time joined) but to be honest it was not something that I invested much time in.

    This all changed about 18 months ago when I started doing more work with mental health charities and people with lived experience of mental health problems. They all told me how valuable SoMe was in helping them manage their condition and charities told me ow they communicated out important interesting things. At this point I became more involved with Twitter. I have always craved information, and if you follow the right people and organisations you do not have to find it , as it comes straight to your timeline.

    I have also become more active championing things I feel strongly about and often share things I think others might find useful.

    What I really like is the community, without Twitter I would have not linked with people and had virtual support in situations outside my comfort zone. I have helped people write presentations, commented on poster designs as part of the twittersphere and got to meet and know some really great people.

    I have also shown people how to use Twitter, although I still class myself as a novice, but that is the power of SoMe you can feel supported.

    Some organisations have real issues with their SoMe policies and get really hung up on getting them right, and not settling for good enough.

    One of my bug bears is “All views my own”, I think that if you feel strong enough to tweet something you should be able to stand buy it, the phrase feels quasi legal, but actually offers very little, if any protection.

    My advice is use social media, use it sensibly and the world is your oyster.

    Hope this is helpful,



  4. Hi Lisa – nice idea to crowdsource content for your session.

    Two things to start with;

    1 why suggest a boundary of social media ‘within the NHS’? Surely this is about collaboration, engagement, co-production and all those other current buzzwords that really mean working together (talking, sharing, learning, doing) both within our organisations and cross boundary – I’m thinking the other buzzword

    2 I’d stay away from using the term ‘control’ and that it perhaps stays with the individual. Let’s be real – can anyone really control it? Perhaps more about starting in a reassuring setting, knowing the opportunities and risks – exploring the opportunities and mitigating the risks with guidance, knowing the dos and don’ts and following people to see how they do it.

    That might help you introduce your scale of 1 to 10. I’d guess there are folk who we’d expect to see using social media that aren’t. Or maybe we think they aren’t – some people may not be active users but they may be quietly exploring and still on your scale. Nothing wrong with that, we all start somewhere.

    Why blog?

    I started writing and sharing my thoughts for a few reasons. Firstly, to find out what blogging was about; for work and personally. Secondly to see if I had the will to regularly post useful and interesting content.

    Also, and most importantly, to work out what I don’t yet understand about what I do and about where and how I live. My blog is that place where professional and private identities overlap; an exploration of opportunities and consequences of living in that space between work and home.

    Have I really found out what it’s about?

    I continue to learn from others each day. It seems people write, follow and read blogs for many different reasons. Oddly, I’ve never really taken to reading books but I got into the habit of reading blogs. I like short texts and having the opportunity to respond, by liking or commenting. It was this new style of reading that led me to start writing. Initially I covered some family stories I’d been wanting to record for a while. I then included some stuff that’s work related.

    Am I doing it right?

    Sometimes when I read my posts back, there’s logic I didn’t see before I put the words together. That’s my learning. I hope what I write is of interest to others too. The responses, likes and stats suggest so and are always appreciated and help in my understanding of whatever I’m posting about or trying to work out.

    My life is made up of all sorts of other stuff – family, friends, voluntary work, normal work, golf, gym, gardening, and holidays. They all get a part of me and get shared.

    Blogging should never make you stressed, or feel guilty for not posting. If it does then you’re definitely not doing it right. I credit this to Sally Whittle (@swhittle) who has a great blog. Her post “the one where I can’t be faffed” says it better than I can. To me, blogging is also about reading and signposting to others whose thoughts and words are worth reading.

    Useful and interesting?

    I don’t post every week, only if I feel the content is relevant, maybe useful. Some of my posts challenge my thinking and are my opinion on what I do and what happens in my home city. Hopefully, they may widen discussion and return different opinions that I can learn more from.

    Most times though it’s about me commenting and leaving ‘likes’ on other’s blogs when I appreciate their content.

    Finally – I’d mention LinkedIn as a social media platform as it has recently upped its game re blogging and I’d bet a lot of people are connected that way too. I’d also suggest various intranets would be social networks too.

    I’ve read the other responses and agree with 99%. Totally agree with Chris about the ‘my own views’ thing – it doesn’t help and only confuses. There’s a post about this on my blog.

    The 1% – I’d suggest an immediate blocking should be a last last resort. Always best to say that whatever is/has been said is not how you intend to continue the conversation and that if it persists, you won’t continue and may block or unfollow.

    Hope the above helps for Thursday


  5. Oh my word you ask big questions don’t you!

    Stories at the start are essential. I tell them about my love affair with twitter and my deep love of blogging. I tell them how it happened for me and why it matters that, as a minimum, they understand what it means for the public and patients. I will tweet you some of my materials in a mo.

    For me the actual platforms are secondary to purpose. the first thing to decide is why might you want to be there? Do I want to learn? Do I want to keep up to date? Am I seeking specific knowledge? People like me? For me a sense of purpose is critical.

    From there you can chose a platform, or find the people you want to connect with. There are more platforms than you can shake a stick at. Medium is coming across my horizon….. a sort of cross between linked in twitter with a bit of blogging flair. Helen Bevan mentioned Quora yesterday….. it all depends on your purpose.

    I have very recently fallen in love with Pinterest for curating resources. I never thought I would

    So if you really want to be a social media ‘person’ it means staying up to date too…. spotting potential.

    I will tweet you some things that might be helpful to you but I know you will give them food for thought.

    I will try to stay focussed on professionalism and the darker side of social media – so we are complimentary 🙂 But I will start with my story! 😉

    Anne xx


  6. Hi Lisa,

    I’d rate myself about 7 on your scale. I’m just going to mention a couple of things of things to look out for:

    Social media, especially Twitter, and to some extent Facebook (depending how people use those sites), can present a very unrealistic view of the world – a kind of bubble. If you are mainly following people/ organisations/ news organisations that you’re interested in, you will inevitably end up seeing posts from people with a similar viewpoint and get quite a distorted view of the world.

    Also remember that people/organisations portray themselves in a certain way (usually accentuating the postivie) – social media (and the addictive nature of it that you mentioned) can have negative effects on people who have depression or anxiety, for example.


  7. Personally towards the novice, probably now a 3 on your scale. Use Facebook for family, but not keen on it. Twitter I’m on at least once a day, find it great for making contacts, although many are work related. Also good for learning. Have used Skype, but for meetings and face to face chat with husband when away. Not sure about blogs and blogging, still not entirely convinced, but do sometimes find the limits of Twitter too brief.


  8. Thanks Lisa for very kind comments. So you :))

    On twitter. I can think of many benefits. I will mention three positive things I have found. The first is people. I have met so many good and kind people I would never have met. Through twitter, DM’s and then face to face meetings, great friendships and network have emerged.The second is platform. Twitter has been a platform for ideas, learning and engagement. It can be a real school of growing and development. The third is possibility. Its amazing how campaigns, support and joint work can happen through twitter. A great example is where our health centre with Leeds ASC and Leeds Beckett University had a conference called ‘Putting People First’ last year – how we create best care and culture for all? One night on twitter Lisa and I talked about this. As a result Lisa came to Leeds, we met, had a great conversation. Lisa gave a wonderful keynote speech at the conference and that speech helped people. All because we talked on twitter – people, platform and possibility.

    In terms of the other side of twitter I would say there is a dark side. Be careful – everything is not what it seems – all that glitters is not gold. As in life and work – we need common sense and discernment.


  9. On blogging.

    There are two fundamental reasons I blog. The first is – it helps me. It helps me to think of what I see and try to capture this in words. Blogging supports me to join the dots together although I may not always get the picture right. I often co-blog with others and in this way I learn so much from service users, staff, carers and families. This tells me an important thing – that I need others and that my growth is linked to their stories and gifts. I grow as I write, listen and work with others.

    The second reason is it helps other people. It has been for me a happy experience to support other people write their first blog. I believe we all have a message and song inside us. It is a real shame if we never hear and share that song. Blogging can be way to listen to the music in our hearts and express its message in words.

    Perhaps the most wonderful thing about blogging is where people – sometimes on twitter or sometimes privately – contact you to say ‘Thank you – that blog really helped me’, or ‘I needed to hear those words’ or ‘Your words have helped me and given me hope’. This sort of experience makes all the work that goes into blogging so worthwhile. It shows that blogging can be a means of connection and support to others. Blogging can be conduit of compassion and humanity to people struggling. We all need to sometimes hear words of healing and life – blogging is certainly one way this can happen.


  10. What a breath of fresh air to share knowledge and engage with many people and participants.
    I would put myself on a scale between 5/6 – and still learning- which I love.
    I find the bullet point style easy to follow and it tends to stay with me a little longer.
    Photographs and Images also are powerful alongside alongside text.
    I blog and am relatively new to it- I have found it both scary and amazing in equal measure.
    I am able to share my knowledge- but in turn gain so much richness from SoMe conversations.
    I have been challenged – both personally and professionally, and have sought the support of my fellow HCP’s via SoMe to guide me through.
    I have chosen to ignore negative and abusive messages- however I have to say I have received a minimal amount.
    I also have discovered Stellar Stories- which as well as working on a image and visual way of sharing- it helps me to put all I have learnt into one place.
    Stories are so powerful, and voices heard- impact greatly on how we can engage groups and affect change- and move towards a accepting rather than blaming society.
    I have many guides and Twitter family members now.


  11. Lisa, great stuff, I’m sure your participants will get a lot from it. I don’t know whether you ever saw this that did for Surrey PCT in 2007

    It was an experiment, and a bit more “press”-like than I’d have hoped, but I’m quite fond of the interviews with patients and clinicians

    Good luck!


  12. Lisa, great stuff, I’m sure your participants will get a lot from it. I don’t know whether you ever saw this that did for Surrey PCT in 2007

    It was an experiment, and a bit more “press”-like than I’d have hoped, but I’m quite fond of the interviews with patients and clinicians

    Good luck!


  13. Hi Lisa, All sounds well thought through to me. Would it be wise to also mention the effects of over use of social media (technology) on ones mental health and the necessary need for downtime.


  14. Hi Lisa,
    I attended your workshop today and I thought it was great.
    I really liked how you used the blog to structure the seminar and create interesting discussions. The 45 minutes felt like they flew by!
    Also just wanted to add another NHS blog that I have been reading – Kate Granger – the lady behind the #hellomynameis campaign. who is a consultant battling a terminal illness and blogs about her battle bringing both the patient and doctors view points.


  15. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I attended your session last week (wishing and hoping and blogging and tweeting-what a great title)! It has inspired me to start my own blog to record my journey (and learning) throughout my year-long HEE Fellowship.

    As you know from my question via Twitter, I wondered if anyone had any preferences/comments on using different websites for blogging services? I thought I’d bring my question to this forum too…

    Thanks again,



  16. Laura, it was fab to meet you last week. I’m so grateful for your feedback and can’t wait to see your blog. I’m doing an update tomorrow drawing from the two sessions, comments on Twitter and comments on here. Hope it’s useful


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