This past year our NHS foundation trust has been beginning to get to grips with the opportunities as well as the challenges of using social media at a corporate as well as clinical level.
The incentives, to us, are clear – the ability to enter into conversations with different stakeholders, and getting authentic feedback to create meaningful change and improve services.
At the same time, we hope social media can help us become more sociable as an organisation.
A corporate approach
From the outset we wanted to embed social media at a corporate as well as clinic level. We've been experimenting with different kinds of social interactions such as live-tweeting and inviting feedback. Both through our individual accounts as well as official accounts that represent the trust and its initiatives.
We're setting the tone as friendly, helpful and informative. This approach also gives individual staff the freedom to showcase their personalities.
We have also begun producing original multimedia content to promote our campaigns that tackle mental health and learning disability stigma.
In clinical services
Some of the most significant insights have come from trying to engage with people who use our clinical services online. This includes initiatives such as the Leeds Club Drug Clinic which uses a blog, Facebook and Twitter to access a specific demographic.
Along the way we have realised that the trust needs to have a wider digital footprint to reach greater numbers. As a result, we use now use our many channels including Pinterest and YouTube.
We have also developed an understanding of how to bridge the gap between our online and offline activities. Sometimes an initiative that is launched online needs to have physical activities and events to support it.
For example, when the trust backed the development of the Leeds wellbeing web – a blog where individuals can contribute information, stories, pictures or films about places and activities in Leeds which help maintain their wellbeing. For this, we provided training as well as engagement through social media workshops.
We also have monthly social media surgeries planned for people using our services and our staff.
Many staff continue to be nervous about social media or don't see the value. This is quite understandable given the constant hyperbole that surrounds it and the frequent negative press it receives.
But our approach is empathetic. We encourage peer-to-peer support, finding clinicians who are using the medium to share their experiences with others. We have also invited external practitioners to deliver training that encourages storytelling as a means to get people online.
The way forward
From an operational perspective we have ditched automated tweets, broadcasting and self-congratulation. We have realised the importance of getting our extended network online and focus on building capacity.
And while we continue to make every effort to ensure the right policies, processes and safeguards are in place, we realise the need to continually experiment and improvise our activities online to find the best fit.
The longer-term vision is to enable practitioners to support people's recovery journeys in both their offline and online lives. And our hope is that as we continue our journey of using social media, our stakeholders will play a significant role in collaborating with us.
Victoria Betton is a deputy director of Leeds and York partnership NHS foundation trust with responsibility for strategy, innovation, partnerships and communications. Abhay Adhikari is a digital engagement specialist who has run a number of digital identity workshops in the trust.
This article is published by Guardian Professional. Join the Healthcare Professionals Network to receive regular emails and exclusive offers.
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