The 2013 ACMHN Consultation Liaison / Perinatal & Infant Mental Health Nurses Annual Conference was held on June 6th and 7th, in Noosa – on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It is a boutique conference: these two subspecialties account for a tiny fraction of the total mental health nursing workforce. Given the size of these subspecialties, the conference organisers were pleased with the attendance of about 70 nurses, who gathered together from New Zealand and most states/territories in Australia. 70 is probably about par for the course.
The theme of the conference was “Present and Available” – an exploration of the process of presence, being with and affecting change in the variety of settings that we work. This post explores whether social media can also help mental health nurses and their conference content be present and available to others via social media, specifically: via twitter.
There were 26 twitter participants using the #ACMHN hashtag over four days (the two conference days being in the middle of this period). Interestingly, only 3 of the 26 #ACMHN participants were delegates (ie: only 12% of those tweeting about the conference were actually at the conference). Let’s look at the make-up of all #ACMHN participants:
- 3 conference delegates (each of them Australian mental health nurses)
- 4 Australian mental health nurses, across three states (Victoria, South Australia & Queensland)
- 2 European mental health nurses (Germany & Netherlands)
- 2 Australian general nurses (New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory)
- 2 Australian nurse/midwife academics (both in Queensland)
- 1 UK nurse academic
- 1 Australian psychologist
- 6 Australian health-related agencies
- 1 Australian health service manager
- 1 USA physician
- 2 non-clinicians from the USA
- 1 mental health clinician?/consumer advocate? from Scotland
It’s surprising and enthusing (to me, anyway), that a boutique conference being held in a small regional Australian city attracted such an eclectic, geographically widespread group of social media participants. The 26 #ACMHN hashtag participants sent 141 Tweets in the timeframe being examined. The three delegates generated 90 #ACMHN tweets, being 64% of the total during the examined period.
Use of the #ACMHN by those away from the conference was almost entirely in the form of retweets – a simple process where one twitter user shares the content of another twitter user, thereby spreading information quickly and widely. Through this compounding, amplifying effect that social media activity has, during the 96 hours being examined the #ACMHN hashtag had a potential reach of over 94,000 (source). Two specific examples of this will be examined below under Twitter is an Amplifier.
The qualitative data is the content of the tweets.
I recommend that you scan through the curated (ordered, edited and quite readable) version of the transcript here: http://storify.com/meta4RN/noosa
Also available is the un-curated (asynchronous and jumbled to read, but complete) transcript here: http://qld.so/tweets
Twitter is an Amplifier
Assuming that a key purpose of a health care conference is to share information, it would be foolish to overlook the amplifying effect of social media. This first example of a simple statement in a presentation on anorexia nervosa, shows how a message reached beyond the 70 people at the conference to a potential audience of over 20,000.
Let me show the maths on that:
579 = the number of people following the @meta4RN Twitter account. So that one Tweet could have been seen by up to 579 people/organisations. I doubt very much that it was seen by that many. Believe it or not, people have better things to do with their time than read every single one of my tweets. Nevertheless there is a very good chance that many dozens, maybe as high as a couple of hundred or so, people see any single tweet sent. That single Tweet was retweeted (ie: shared/passed-on) by five other Twitter accounts, each with their own group of followers, thus:
- 9712 follow @nurse_w_glasses
- 8433 follow @yayayarndiva
- 1969 follow @ClaudiaNichols
- 178 follow @SameiHuda
- 1403 follow @HR1529
Let’s add those numbers up: 579 + 9712 + 8433 + 1969 + 178 + 1403 = 22,274. (source)
So, the potential (not actual) audience for that one message delivered to 70 conference delegates suddenly becomes a message that would have been seen by thousands of people. How many exactly? No idea. As long as you pick a number less than 22,274 your guess will be as good as mine.
Another example of Twitter being used as an amplifier is with this Tweet regarding the publications of one of the conference presenters. The bit at the end that reads “Ping #nswiopCS13” can be interpreted as “You people following the Advances in Clinical Supervision conference may also be interested in this”.
One of those in attendance at the Clinical Supervision conference retweeted, as did two Professors of Nursing: one with James Cook University in Cairns, the other with City University in London. So, while the numbers of people exposed to the presenter’s publications via a tweeted internet link is more limited than the previous example, they were also more targeted… nobody values peer-reviewed journal publications more than an academic. It’s good for Chris Dawber’s professional profile to have nursing academics on either side of the world to be aware of his papers and sharing them with their Twitter followers. It is also useful that Chris had his papers bought to the attention of those at/following a Clinical Supervision conference that was being held in Sydney at the same time as our conference. The link to Chris’s papers is here.
Danger Will Robinson!
This amplifying effect of Twitter comes with a cautionary note… what if I misquoted or inadvertently misrepresented what Catherine Roberts said?
Easily could have.
I don’t doubt that I’ve captured the essence of what Catherine said as I heard/understood it. However, by using quotation marks I have attributed it as a direct quote from Catherine. Now, a few days after the conference, I’m not 100% confident that I have used Catherine’s exact words.
Naturally, I’ll pass-on a genuine and contrite apology to Catherine if I have got it wrong and caused any offence or embarrassment. However, in practical terms, it’s too late – the horse has bolted. For better or worse, there are probably thousands of people who now think that’s what Catherine said.
Another point of risk: all the way through the conference I tweeted out the take-home message from sessions as I understood it (as seen by scrolling through here). What if I’ve missed the point that speaker wanted emphasised? What if I got it wrong?
Does that make social media too scary and dangerous to use professionally? Of course not.
For me, there’s three strategies that these reflections suggest:
- Be careful with what you Tweet if you’re attributing it to others. For example, only use quotation marks when you’re sure you have the presenter’s exact phrasing correct. Also, try to make it clear whether the take home message is the presenter’s words, or your own understanding/interpretation.
- Encourage more social media conference participation. As with this example from a keynote presentation at the International Council of Nurses 25th Quadrennial Congress, it’s more interesting to have multiple people using social media rather than just one. Multiple participants also makes it less likely that a single participant’s misunderstanding will be read in isolation… a safety in numbers thing.
- For presenters: take control of your social media presence – don’t leave it to chance. That’s what I did with my presentation at the conference (see example below).
As you can see above, rather than take the risk of being misunderstood and/or misquoted by a conference delegate tweeting, I did the tweeting myself via scheduled tweets in the lead-up and during my presentation. As I did, you can include links to websites that are relevant to your presentation. This is a good way to keep control over your message. (BTW: a summary of my presentation is online: meta4RN.com/twit)
For presenters, the alternative way to take control of your social media impact from a conference is to announce, “No Live Tweeting Please”. That’s fine – it should be the presenter’s prerogative. However, what you’re actually saying is either, “What I Have To Say Is Too Precious For People Like You To Share” (in which case, should you be talking about it at a conference?), or “I Do Not Understand or Trust Social Media” (which sounds a bit like, “I do not understand or trust traffic lights” – charmingly quaint, but oddly old-fashioned).
For those familiar with my web site, you’ll notice that this post is an obvious companion piece to three previous posts:
Through examining and reflecting on this collection of data, I am gathering confidence and understanding of professional use of social media. By sharing it online, hopefully other health professionals will do likewise: more the merrier.
- Storify http://storify.com/meta4RN/noosa
- Symplur data http://qld.so/data
- Symplur transcript http://qld.so/tweets
That’s it. As always, your comments/feedback are welcome.
Paul McNamara, 12th June 2013