Why is social media so powerful?

August 20, 2010

The success of H1N1 vaccinations and prevention was driven in large part by the huge broadcast media component. It was the lead story for weeks if not months and, true to the media, it was sensationalized to the nth degree. There were many critics of the government’s SM component. But there existed a strong non-government SM component. People, parents, families, everyone was interested in not contracting H1N1. We were all washing hands, taking children out of school, avoiding riding subways, and going online chatting. I would say there was an AFFECT from all media sources both traditional, digital, and social that drove learning and outcomes.

Broadcast drove the social aspect, which in turn drove the affect, and resulted in outcomes.

The question for me comes down to this, how can H1N1 success and the agencies become a model for collaboration and improved outcomes on a smaller scale without the media driving the message? How can we leverage the problems patients, consumers, HC professionals want to solve and multiply the affect? What do we need to learn about digital learning in order to improve HC outcomes?

The topic was “What should collaboration (in social media) between public health agencies and the broader public health community look like?”

I saw the topic differently “What should collaboration (in SM) do and why?’

Many comments and opinions focused on the word collaboration and the need for public health agencies to foster dialogue with the public. Many opinions stated that collaboration does not exist.

@CarissaO: In a word, dialogue. Public health agencies need to improve their listening skills, translate listening into action.

@AndyKetch: Broadcast of info and request for feedback to improve how info is broadcast and turned into action. It’s collaborative/action!

@RichmondDoc: T3: a good model would be if govt/agencies provide info they have, but also are willing to accept reports from public

@Miller7: Dissemination! Public health can learn a lot about how to use social medical for spreading info.

Let’s look at social media. To paraphrase Janice Joplin, ‘collaboration is just another word for affect’. SM is social. It expects an exchange of knowledge, opinions, understanding, experience, and reflection in order for it to succeed. This social aspect is a powerful motivator for learning because it creates bigger affect. A library, digital or otherwise, of information where the user is left to find what they need and make their own judgments about what is valuable what is not, what to use and what not to use is an important tool. But motivation and drive comes from the need to find solutions to problems and the affect I believe is less then it is in a social situation. Affect increases memorability.

Do not mistake the above for my belief that reading and engaging in learning is without affect, cannot drive change, or improve knowledge (outcomes). It happens; we all know the emotional power when we are engaged in that OMG moment in learning. What happens in a social environment is a powerful multiplier of that affect. There is a greater and many times more positive affect. Learning is not just the reader reflecting but also the individual drawing on another’s experience to create an additive affect, which upon reflection changes knowledge. Reflect on the #hcsm chats and your experience and what you’ve learned. Did you leave pumped? Are you reflecting on what you heard today? How did you incorporate it into your work or life?

There were many comments regarding where public health agencies can improve their function in SM:

@pfanderson: I am HUGE fan of public health agencies/advocates in social media, but find they R largely undiscovered resources by target audience

@CarissaO: Health agencies/orgs need to invest in better understanding the behavior and needs of their audience

CarissaO made a very important observation. The question I have is do we define understanding in regards to the health behavior and needs of learners or do we examine the learning behavior and educational needs (i.e. problems) of learners? Which one will have a great effect on improving outcomes in HC?

It is well documented, health agencies/orgs know what behaviors need to be changed, less sugar and salt. Exercise more, stop smoking, lower your cholesterol, etc. are all well known and understood. What I think we don’t know enough about is how learners access and incorporate knowledge in this digital world. We know how adults learn. What we may have to do is study how adults learn on the web and what they do with their knowledge and how they incorporate that knowledge into behaviors, and finally what are the outcomes of that. Is it different in a social setting vs. search and read.

Finally, let me present an idea on how we may create a better tool for quality HC search, improve the ability of agencies to leverage SM and improve affect in learning.

We are all familiar with Pandora Music? http://www.pandora.com/. They have an algorithm to help you find the music you like associated with something you currently like. Say you put in Prince Royce, they will find other musicians who share the Bachata roots, etc.

Why can’t we create algorithms for diseases or illnesses like Pandora’s radio stations? The algorithm would be written around diabetes. As with Pandora, each song (content) gets reviewed by some parameters and is meta-tagged. This algorithm would do the same on the content, assessing where is it from, author, references, child or adult, etc. And like Pandora, it would serve up information (chats, articles, groups, papers, etc.) according to your profile, education, needs, and problem you are looking to solve. And like Pandora the content is in a library, not a Google search, which rates by top hits of others who may or may not be good at selecting information. This library of content is based on a HC associated algorithm and your profile. Will this solve the problem of reliable information, improving SM and learning affect?

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