Social media measurement: straight talk

Since the topic of our PrISM meetup this afternoon is social media measurement and analytics, I wanted to post this article I came across yesterday by Mark Schaefer, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions.  The post, “The Social Media Smackdown,” appeared on Schaefer’s blog grow this past Sunday, and was reposted on yesterday.

In the post, Schaefer decries some recent statements by some respected social media experts that seemed to carry an “anti-measurement bias”.  Schaefer (and many commenters) seem to understand the frustration with the insistence that the ROI (return on investment) of social media efforts must be fully supported by the numbers, but they caution against throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  I found the following comment from Eric Wittlake particularly insightful:

Measure social media so you can manage it. So you can discuss it. So you can learn from it. But be very cautious if you are measuring it as a black-and-white way to decide if you should continue.

So part of the problem is that people are using social media measurement to answer the wrong questions.  Metrics are not generally the right way to answer the questions of “whether” and “why” — those come from your organization’s mission, goals, and your understanding of your audience.  Metrics are the right way to answer questions like “how”, “when” and “where” — to improve the impact and effects of your social media efforts.


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Social media, surgeons and patients

Here’s an excellent insight and guide to social media use by surgeons that appeared in the July 2011 issue of the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons. The authors, including faculty from SUNY Buffalo and GHSU and a healthcare attorney among others, emphasize how important it is for surgeons to participate in conversations about disease and patient care that occur online, where they can engage patients and laypeople, and correct inaccuracies.  They also emphasize the important role of social media as platforms for GME and CME.

Yamout SZ, Glick ZA, Lind DS, Monson RA, Glick PL. Using social media to enhance surgeon and patient education and communication. Bull Am Coll Surg. 2011 Jul;96(7): 7-15. [PMID 22315896]

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Social media in the medical school curriculum

Neil Mehta of Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner College of Medicine just announced that two of his students had presentations on social media in healthcare accepted for the Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting in May 2012.  The titles of the two presentations: “Swimming in the Murky Waters of Social Media? Don’t Let Your White Coat Get Dirty: A Workshop for Medical Students” and “Professionalism in Social Media – Do existing guidelines fail a reality check?”

What’s particularly notable about this is that both presentations grew out of a case-based workshop on professionalism in Social Media that Dr Mehta had built into the curriculum for MS3s (third-year medical students) last May.  Dr Mehta chose a particularly interesting case as the centerpiece of the workshop — a case about which respected and experienced professionals had disagreed and discussed rather passionately — via social media, of course.  Dr Mehta described the case and his plans for the workshop on his own blog.

Social media are an inherent part of the communications tools that current medical students will use as professionals to interact with their colleagues, their patients, and the public at large.  How well are we preparing those students to be successful if our curricula fail to consider these media as part of the healthcare environment?  Dr Mehta has posted a number of interesting observations on his blog on healthcare social media and medical education — I invite you to browse the posts tagged “social media” on his blog.

Congratulations to Dr Mehta and his students for their forward thinking.

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Save the Date: February PrISM meetup

Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Time: 2:00pm-3:30pm

Place: AAB 110 in the Academic Administration Building

Address:  7703 Floyd Curl Dr, San Antonio

This month, we’ll be talking about analytics and measurement. How do you know your social media efforts are having an impact? What metrics can you use to report that impact to program stakeholders and funders? There’s no magic bullet — but there are a lot of creative ideas, so let’s share them.  Please RSVP using the button below:

PrISM (Professional Interest in Social Media) Meetup

We hope you can join us, and please invite your colleagues as well!

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Can tweets predict citations?

The October-December 2011 issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research featured a very intriguing editorial under the title “Can Tweets Predict Citations? Metrics of Social Impact Based on Twitter and Correlation with Traditional Metrics of Scientific Impact” [PMID 22173204].  In the article, Gunther Eysenbach attempted to analyze mentions of JMIR articles on Twitter within the first 30 days of their publication, and correlate that with eventual citations by other articles.  His conclusion: “Highly tweeted articles were 11 times more likely to be highly cited than less-tweeted articles… Top-cited articles can be predicted from top-tweeted articles with 93% specificity and 75% sensitivity… Tweets can predict highly cited articles within the first 3 days of article publication.”

The appearance of the article, however, showed another effect of social media on research: intense and immediate scrutiny of new research immediately upon publication.  Shortly after Eysenbach’s article appeared, bloggers like Phil Davis at Scholarly Kitchen began to raise questions about the article’s methods and its ethics.  Eysenbach is actually the editor of JMIR, and the fact that he chose his own journal as an outlet for his research struck some as suspicious, if not improper — especially since the article’s conflict-of-interest statement revealed that JMIR had registered the domain names, and to provide services tracking the phenomenon described by the article.  Since the articles whose “twimpact” was studied by the article appeared in JMIR, a certain number of the “twittations” were automatic ones by JMIR‘s own twitter account, and the article originally included a significant number of citations of JMIR articles — which some suspected as a way of artificially influencing JMIR‘s impact figures.

Eysenbach eventually issued a correction to his own article addressing some of these concerns — but the intrigue certainly emphasizes the need for additional, independent research on the part that social media conversation is beginning  to play in the larger scholarly communications ecosystem.

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Draft for review: Statewide social media policy

The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) has posted a draft of a proposed Social Media Policy intended to guide state agencies and institutions of higher education in their use of social media tools to conduct official state business and communicate with citizens.

Here at the Health Science Center, we will be gathering input from faculty, staff and students, and submitting a set of comments as an institution.  However, the document appears on DIR’s “Posted for Review” page, and the DIR invites feedback from the public (via email to through March 14, 2012.  So in the interest of promoting discussion and feedback, I am posting the draft here so all of you can check it out.

What do you think?  What strengths and/or concerns do you see?

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More Social Media Grand Rounds

I was very glad to have the opportunity to present with Bridgett Piernik-Yoder at last Friday’s Grand Rounds for the School of Health Professions.  We discussed social media tools and their use in the health professions and education, along with a description of what’s been going on here at the Health Science Center for the past year or so, since PrISM began — and we had some great discussions about what the next steps might be for the SHP and the University as a whole.

Presenting those Grand Rounds reminded me about an excellent item I’ve been meaning to post here, so I’ll do it right now.  Dr Bryan Vartabedian is a pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine, whose 33 Charts blog is a constant source of thought-provoking and well-considered observations on the use of social media in medicine.  On December 2, 2011, he presented Pediatric Grand Rounds at Texas Children’s Hospital on physicians and social media.  A few days later, he posted a narrative version of his presentation on his 33 Charts blog, under the title “Physicians, Risk and Opportunity in the Digital Age”.  It’s a great piece and highly worthwhile reading for physicians who are both new and experienced in the social media realm.  A few key nuggets I found particularly interesting:

  • “For the better part of modern civilization our role as physician has centered around privileged access to information and knowledge.  But the web has created a type of disintermediation.  Patients can do more on their own.  They can access information and make certain judgments.  They can share information and adjust what they’re doing based on the input of others.   And the physician encounter is evolving as a more narrowly defined element in an individual’s quest to understand their condition and get better.  This health 2.0 element is fueled by social media. So in effect, what we see are a variety of social and technological forces conspiring to redefine the physician.  I believe that how we react professionally to these forces over the next generation will help shape who we become.”
  • “With respect to social media, I see two challenges facing our profession: patient privacy and professionalism. There are others we could identify but I think that these two occupy the minds of those watching doctors in public. Privacy is relatively easy. Professionalism is remarkably difficult. I’ve noticed that health institutions tend to focus on patient privacy almost at the exclusion of professionalism.”
  • “The way to train the next generation is not to prohibit the media but rather to teach how we can live with it as professionals.”
  • “Are physicians morally obligated to participate in social dialog? I first raised this question in 2009 and it generated a lot of dialog.  I’ll submit to you that as physicians we are obligated to create, curate and talk… It’s interesting that as physicians we are the first to criticize what patients read but we’re the last to create it.  Public education is part of our charge.  We have an obligation to do better.”

This question of professionalism and how it plays out in social media space is an area of very active and interesting discussions.  Dr Mark Ryan, a family medicine doctor and assistant professor at VCU, responded to Dr Vartabedian’s Grand Rounds with a blog post of his own.  Dr Ryan agreed with most of Dr Vartabedian’s ideas, but disagreed about some of the nuances of what constitutes professional behavior in a public space like social media.  He notes that professionalism does not always demand restraint; for some, it may also mean more radical transparency, advocacy, and humanity.  He also disputes Dr Vartabedian’s position that anonymous (or pseudonymous) postings online are practically always less effective, less useful and less professional than identified ones:

  • “I do think there can be value in anonymity in certain cases.  What if a physician is criticizing the practices of a major insurer, or their employer?  What if someone wishes to discuss a sensitive personal issue without self-disclosing?  Even if this cloak of secrecy is not foolproof, it can provide a safer space for such discussions.  I think the content of an account will dictate whether or not it is trusted or considered valuable–not just whether or not it is anonymous… Whistle-blowers, agitators, and critics may all have important perspectives and contributions to an issue under discussion, or might call attention to larger problems.  Raising these issues might strike some as unprofessional…raising the question of who will decide professional vs. unprofessional conduct?”

Dr Vartabedian, in turn, continues the dialogue in his comment on Dr Ryan’s post.

I encourage you to read and consider both posts as we think about what professionalism looks like in this new world.  Where do you find yourself on these issues right now?  In what ways does this new reality challenge your comfort zones?

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