Social Media and Social Activism<br />How to use Twitter to enhance communication, share information, and affect policy.<br />Mark Ryan, MD, FAAFP – VCU Department of Family Medicine<br />What is Twitter?<br /><ul><li>Micro-blogging platform: only 140 characters per message
Each account has followers, who can see each tweet that is sent.
Tweets can be shared (re-tweeted, or RT) by anyone following the account, making it visible to many people regardless of their locations.
Tweets can be sent generally,can mention or target one account directly (using the @ reply), or can sent as a private direct message (DM).
Using hashtags (#), tweets can be tagged as being relevant to specific topics. This allows users to follow discussion on these topics. Using popular hashtags allows your posts to visible to thousands of interested people.</li></ul>Why use social medial for social activism and advocacy?<br /><ul><li>Dr. Alan Rosenblatt, from the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) notes that using social media puts more pressure on Congress and policymakers because messages are visible to the public.
Officials will be more accountable because it is publicly visible when they have been contacted to address specific issues.
Tweets can mention a public official or policy maker along with mentioning local media sources, ensuring that local media is aware of the contact.
Tweets can engage traditional media (news papers, television, etc) as well as new media such as bloggers and other influential social media users.</li></ul>How can we use Twitter to share information and address health issues?<br /><ul><li>Twitter chats (TweetChats) can promote discussion on specific topics, using hashtags as a way to organize the discussion. www.TweetChat.com can be used to follow a live discussion:
As a result, conversations can be held at a pre-set time with participants anywhere in the country (or overseas). NPA joined with the @MD_Chat account to host two twitter chats—one focused on Medicare and another focused on Medicaid:
TweetChatscan also be used to focus on issues important to specific medical specialties, such as in the case of #FamMedChat:
TweetChats can also be organized around specific health issues. The #HCSMVac campaign aimed to increase vaccination rates, and was organized after its participants met during the #HCSM TweetChat. #HCSMVac developed a web site, apps to help individuals find sites to get vaccines, and videos promoting vaccination. The project was enhanced by community outreach efforts, blog posts, and posters.
Conclusion: Twitter is an effective means for enhancing communication, promoting activism and advocacy, and sharing information about important policy and healthcare issues. Contacts established and strengthened via Twitter can contribute to actions aimed to change policy and address healthcare needs.</li></ul>Twitter in Action:<br /><ul><li>The #SaveGME project shows the reach Twitter can have to draw attention to specific topics. Dr. Mike Sevilla mobilized a handful of family physicians actively using Twitter to draw attention to how Medicare cuts could affect GME funding.
By recruiting a handful of active social media users and encouraging interactions and RTs, the #SaveGME campaign allowed thousands of people to see information related to this important topic.
Considering the #SaveGME idea was introduced just three or four days prior to launching the project, it is evident that Twitter can reach large, dispersed audiences very rapidly.
The short messages distributed by Twitter encouraged discussion, while Tweeted links to blog posts allowed for greater in-depth discussions of the issues at hand. The tweets drove readers to blog posts with additional contentand provided much more detail than could fit in 140 characters.
By planning ahead, recruiting participants, agreeing on a hashtag, and writing in-depth blog posts to explain the issues at hand, #SaveGME presented its message effectively via Twitter.</li></ul> V i r g i n i a C o m m o n w e a l t h U n i v e r s i t y<br />