Using social media wisely

Friday 23rd June 2017 by @KathEvans2

Using Social Media Wisely - Reflections for explorers, interested lurkers and complete novices

(Warning: This is a long blog! :D)


This blog reflects on a social media session that was run at #RCPCH17. As is always the case there were brilliant other sessions running at the same time and many other colleagues weren’t able to make it to the conference (someone has to do the day job and funding for conference attendance isn’t always accessible) so we thought we’d share the key bits here.

In 2016 RCPCH supported a social media workshop which created a great discussion and we blogged about it here the 2017 session built on this.

Damian Roland, Consultant and Honorary Professor in Paediatric Emergency Medicine, tweets as @Damian_Roland and blogs on a weekly basis on ‘What I learnt this week’ #WILTW



Damian shares there isn’t really a unified definition of Social Media but it's out there and it’s not all negative and subject to media hype. To keep pace with the world you need an information source that reduces, not increases, the time you spend reviewing it. Social Media can reduce the knowledge translation gap by giving you access to information you need in a format relevant to you. There are many communities of practice out there, be curious and you’ll almost certainly end up being connected.’


Becky Hepworth, Community Children’s Nurse Team leader and Queen’s Nurse who works on the Isle of Wight. Becky tweets as @hepworth_becky and is one of the nurses who supports the @WeCYPNurses twitter community. Becky was also supported by Caroline Dodd, who tweets as @cdodd09 and Sian Spencer @spencer_sian



Becky reflects ‘My session began with asking the room whether they were twitter users or twitter novices.  The answer was about 50:50 which is not unusual when asking a group of professionals.  I explained that I was part of the @weCYPnurses volunteers who help run the twitter account as part of the @wenurses community which has now become the biggest on-line health care community.  

Twitter offers a platform for discussion, networking, and collaboration.  It has no hierarchies and quite often will see student nurses asking advice from senior members of multi-disciplinary teams without hesitation.   I have found twitter an invaluable tool for widening my horizons beyond the Isle of Wight.  I am part of very small Children's Community Nursing team and our geographical location often means we are very isolated from networks.  Twitter has very much opened those networks again for me and I now follow/chat with many other CCN's from around the country.  The 'has anyone got..?' , 'has anyone ever tried...?' or even 'does anyone have an example of..?' accessibility and openness of twitter never ceases to amaze me, often leading to many examples of your request. The NMC, GMC, GPHC and the HCPC all offer regulations and recommendations around the use of social media which must obviously be adhered to at all times.

Twitter provides me with a newspaper that is completely written for me every single day - the latest journal articles, policies, national drivers and conversations with likeminded people.  

Many people complain about the confusing nature of twitter and will give up using it as they get stuck at the 'what the heck does @ and # mean' stage.  www.wecommunities twitterversity offers a really comprehensive teaching package.  

My top twitter tips would be 

  • Be engaging talk to people, talk to different people, make it a rule that you’ll talk to 2 new people a week and ask questions.
  • Be reflective – write a blog, comment on someone else’s blog, write a guest blog for someone else
  • Be twitter savvy – use pictures, share links, join in a twitter chat, don’t just retweet
  • Be human – be you, share stuff that interests you
  • Be consistent – whatever you do, do it regularly
  • Be a ‘10 minutes a day’ advocate – 10 quality minutes spent on social media is 10 mins well spent.

 Above all - Go on be brave - it will be worth it!’


Ranj Singh is a Paediatrician, a TV presenter, author, columnist and charity ambassador who tweets as @DrRanj, Ranj was supported by Thom O’Neill a Paediatrician who tweets as @fakethom who has a You Tube Channel which offers info for young people on health, sex, LGBT, mental health issues and more.



Ranj shares ‘Smartphones and social media are now an integral part of many people's lives - especially young people.  This is an important consideration for anyone that wants to engage with this audience, both in terms of a means of accessing them but also being aware of a key part of their lives.  Currently it is estimated that 80% of teenagers use a smartphone, 70% of internet users are active on social media (especially those under the age of 30), and 90% of doctors use smartphones too.

There are many social media platforms out there - they are all essentially platforms for conversation and networking: sharing of ideas, information and communication.  Whilst it is not essential to be a prolific user, at the very least it is important for healthcare professionals involved in the care of CYP to be aware of them and their use.  And key to all of this is these platforms were developed for fun and social connection, and that should be remembered.

Major platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube and Twitter all play a significant part in young people's lives. They are also excellent platforms for healthcare professionals to explore too - both socially and professionally.  Awareness of their potential benefits, and pitfalls, is important.

Twitter is a major platform currently and is growing everyday.  When starting with Twitter, it is important to ask yourself some key questions:

- why do you want to use this platform (are you a 'peruser' or a 'poster'?)

- what (if anything) do you want to be known for?

- what's your 'brand'?

- do you want to use it professionally or personally?


My Twitter Do's:

- know your audience

- engage & interact

- same something useful/relevant

- be imaginative/creative

- keep it simple (know the limitations of the medium)

- link to resources/utilise hashtags where useful

- be authentic

- be polite

- show personality

- keep it fun!


My Twitter Don'ts:

- be too 'me, me, me'

- RT everything

- be too niche

- just follow people you like/agree with

- tweet/post without reason

- take it personally

- be rude/combative

- feed the trolls


Social media (including Twitter) is an increasingly important phenomenon, and it's useful to recognise the many potential benefits:

- health promotion/public health messaging

- engaging & networking public and professionals

- regulating media reporting & counteracting 'bad' medicine/scaremongering

- championing important causes (including the NHS)

- inspiring others

- downtime/leisure"


Scott Russell, a youth worker who tweets as @scottscott09



Scott shared "As a young person it's important for you to engage with me and ask my views but knowing the best way to engage is important, ask us we’re happy to advise you!"


Kath Evans, a Children’s Nurse, tweets as @kathevans2 asked if we can we use Social Media to better engage with Young People about their health experiences?



Kath reflected ‘We are part of a networked age – social connection & autonomy are part of our daily lives, it’s part of contemporary culture. 91% of 16-24 year olds use the internet for social networking it is a ‘youth centric public space’. Let’s bust a myth, young people aren’t addicted to Social Media; they are addicted to each other, they use it to connect, socialise, gossip, share information and hang out. Social Media tools and services are launched almost daily but chatting, self-expression, grappling with privacy; sharing media and info are common themes whatever platform is being used.

We refer to children and young people as ‘digital natives’ yet in reality they are still naive and maturing in their relationship building/communication skills, they are testing out what works & doesn’t. As child health professionals we know too well that adolescence is a vulnerable developmental stage, with 10% having Mental Health issues and knowing that 75% of Mental illness in adults starts in childhood, social media can bring an added complexity to the developmental challenges of childhood particularly with vulnerable young people. Yet it can also contribute to building confidence and personal resilience. Social media usage therefore brings both negative and positive contributions to young people, a balanced, informed perspective is important.

We as adults can be fearful of the unknown; many of us are testing out our use of social media and are engaging with young people via social media, yet some are hesitant. I’d suggest that we fail young people if we focus purely on protectionism and take a paternalistic approach by not embracing social media, even if it’s just raising our awareness of being a young person in a networked age.

I believe that together health care professionals and young people can navigate the challenges of social media, and engage safely and effectively, sharing insights and ideas for improvement in healthcare.  


What do YP need from us?

We as health care professionals can do better at recognising what young people are trying to achieve and work with them, enhancing our understanding of what matters to them. Role modelling, offering everyday care by being there, guidance – supporting informed choices, offering importantly encouragement, nurturing positive beliefs and values and importantly paying attention to what they have to say all play a part in helping young people to achieve balance so that they can become thoughtful and engaged citizens with a strong sense of identity. We as health care professionals should aim to maximise engagement and enjoyment and minimise risk whilst doing engagement work in the online space.

It is also worth considering the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which highlights children and young people have the right to have a say in decisions, to be safe & free from violence, to stay in touch with people who are important to them and to play & take part in activities, social media offers us a tool to assist in hearing their voices, perspectives and solutions.


What does Social Media offer?

It can offer: Persistence; the durability of online content; Visibility: the potential audience that can bear witness; Spreadability: the ease with which content can be shared and Searchability: the ability to find content.

We’ve been discussing Children and Young People’s Experience using #CYPExp and sharing tips on enhancing our communication using #CYPMefirst for many years now and have created a diverse range of views from many people globally, professionals, young people and families all having a conversation online when it suits them.


Understanding our and CYP’s digital footprint:

We all need to understand and take responsibility for our own digital footprint

As adults we need to be role models in staying safe online we aware of issues such as

  • Privacy settings
  • Online friendships
  • Geolocation
  • Think before you post: We need to agree rules about what’s ok & what’s not; be clear on standards of behaviour, if you wouldn’t say it don’t post it!
  • Know how to report concerns, helpful information is on

Be aware Social Media is for those over 13 years, of course other resources can be used to capture digital feedback from those under 13. If you see an under 13 year old posting on social media, it’s worth probing to see that they are being supported by informed adults. A lovely example recently was of a young man tweeting about his inpatient experience during his cancer treatment, tweets were supported by his Aunty, Mum and Dad.


Issues that health care professionals need to be aware of

  • How CYP use the internet & technology
  • Risks CYP take online
  • Harmful content online
  • Online radicalisation & extremism
  • Sharing & sexting
  • Sexual offending against children online
  • Bullying online
  • Supporting Parents and Carers
  • Supporting Children and young people
  • Photographs & permission

The NSPCC is a great source of information and their website is worth a visit

There are lots of positive examples of social media engagement with CYP, I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got a fab example to share, please do tweet me!


Some of my favourites are:


‘Text Your School Nurse’ by @ChatHealthNHS – texting supported by online info this is now spreading across the country!


Newham, are progressing care with young people with Diabetes, using technology to engage. Skype consultations, bring them on!


Advocacy to improve Young Adult Care experiences, let’s be honest if you’re 16 & on an adult ward there’s lots of opportunity for improvement, Amy @Amy Frouks & Lucy @LucyAlexandria, are both young people tweeting on this subject using #YAExp there’s also @AYPHCharity please join the movement to improve young adult care experience!


The NHS Youth Forum has been going for 4 years now and tweet as @NHSYouthforum they’ve led lots of projects. Recently they powerfully connected with Caitlin a young person in the palliative stage of her care via social media to ensure they were addressing issues that mattered most to her in their work.

Caitlin created a film on transition, thanks to the support of @FixersUK


Digital Badges can help to engage young people in exploring health related issues and encourages young people to gain recognition of their work by being rewarded with a relevant digital badge (a bit like brownie/scout badges!) this programme has helped connect health and schools.


Anna Steryx, @annasteryx who is the NHS Youth Forum co-ordinator, at the British Youth Council shares some tips on setting up a closured Facebook page for a specific group of young people to communicate on.

‘If you’re establishing a Facebook page, retain responsibility as the professional.

The group should be closed – as the adult lead you should have control admin.

Only have adults as admin (you) as you control who is added. A closed group should have settings in place do that all anyone outside can see is the name and no member info, posts or photographs.

You need to post on there regularly to give it purpose and it needs clear aims that are communicated to all in the group.

If a new group, I would explore the purpose and top tips before adding them. I would put a banner photo up to promote inclusivity and identity. 

The group needs to buy into it to promote purpose and use. Need to feel it is for them.

The top tips etc cover you and them if someone posts a bullying comment or posts concerning material in the middle of the night. You need some form of code of conduct or expectation.

My groups are synced with my laptop and phone so I see all posts and I have certain colleagues in there to support safeguarding measures and the above.         

Open FB groups are a whole different matter!!!’ Thanks Anna!


Some resources that may help you as a health care professional:


Social Media & engagement with YP toolkit for professionals


Share Aware Campaign NSPCC – work as a TEAM Talk, Explore, Agree, Manage Controls


RSPH ‘Status of Mind’


Boyd, D (2014) ‘It’s complicated’ the social life networked life of teens

Blog on Social Media session at RCPCH 16


Reflections on the RCPCH 2017 Social Media Session from attendees:

‘Thank you for a really interesting session. This brave new world is quite overwhelming, we have to understand it and use it as a force for positive change’

‘Interesting discussions, learnt about pros and cons of different social media’

‘Very useful information. Liked the Do’s and Don’ts. Dr Ranj was great. I’ve joined Twitter a while ago but have been inspired to become more involved n the conversations for children and young people.’

‘Keep spreading the word about engaging quiet voices and the unheard young people through social media’

‘Great talks clarifying the power of appropriately and responsibily utilising social media in a professional capacity. Hope to see more workshops like this in the future’

‘I am in agreement about the power of social media regarding engagement with young people, but I do also get quite sad about the extent to which young people spend their time on this medium rather than face to face engagement. Whilst positive engagement is clearly useful to understand what is happening I do think it is important to not become part of the problem that is increasing mental health issues in children and leaving any of our young people fearful of human to human interaction.

‘Not a twitter user but great presentations – feel I have missed a trick to connect with CYP and their families and I will give it a go. Less scary than I thought and almost irresponsible to keep my head in the sand.

‘Having been glued to (for real time information) and appalled by the (real time comments and reactions) on social media this week after the events in my home town in Manchester it has been good to be reminded of the positive impact social media can have in healthcare when used wisely.’

‘Excellent interesting session. I have been a ‘twitter virgin’ until now but will give it a go. I do worry that extrovert types are heard rather than the opinions of quitter thoughtful types though’

‘I’m going to sign up to twitter. I feel motivated to connect with other professionals and young people.’

Hope to see you online!

Damian, Becky, Caroline, Sian, Ranj, Thom, Scott & Kath J


Please feel free to post in to this blog; you'll need to be logged in via twitter from the top right of the menu to post.
{{Comment.DateCreated | date:"dd MMMM yyyy HH:mm"}}
01 March 2018 22:10
Thanks for an interesting post @KathEvans2 I've been part of the tweeting community for a long time now but definitely learned about engaging service users in social media- thank you. @WeNurses perhaps a blog on blogging would be valuable too?

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