I’m fairly new to using social media in a professional context. In my personal life, I’m young enough to have a Facebook, but too old to have a tumblr. And, even on Facebook, the friends I have are just that – people I’ve known for years and with whom I have regular contact. I only have 86 of them and I post a lot of pictures of my children. I imagine its pretty boring to the vast majority of people, especially those who don’t know me.
The thought of actually using such a platform for work was, until recently entirely foreign. When I came back from maternity leave in January, a colleague mentioned that the Research Design Service South East, for whom I work as a methodologist, has a Twitter account. It’s @NIHR_RDSSE for those of you interested. Hearing this, I was intrigued – what possible benefit could we get as a service from the occasional posting of 140 characters?
As I explored Twitter, I was surprised by not only the number of professional organizations that have accounts, but by the number of individuals who tweet in, at least a semi-, professional capacity. I came across links to papers that I immediately downloaded, highlighted events of which I hadn’t been aware, and came across funding deadlines that I hadn’t yet got around to flagging. It was a revelation.
However, even more than realising what a great resource Twitter was, I found myself intrigued by the conversations in which individuals were engaged. It soon became clear that there was a real community of people on Twitter who were dedicated to, and passionate about, health research and improving patient care. And, perhaps more importantly, they were using Twitter as a medium to pursue these interests and engage with others who shared them.
For a while, that’s as far as my involvement went. I bookmarked some accounts, lurked on a few blogs, but still didn’t feel that I had anything to add to the conversation. Some weeks later, however, I found myself buried under a pile of draft NIHR applications for various funding programs. I spent a long week going through and commenting on them all. This process is a regular part of my job, but having so many to review in the same few days is, thankfully, rare. As I worked my way through them, I found myself writing the same set of comments time and again. These weren’t long, specific comments about individual applications, but rather short, global comments that I was repeating verbatim. I should write a list and hand them out to researchers, I thought to myself and that’s when it hit me – I could do just that and I knew the perfect platform. By the end of the day, I had a Twitter account, @ClaireRosten, and a hashtag, #NIHRtips.
I still tweet #NIHRtips whenever new ones come to mind and, to my delight, others also use the hashtag. I get re-tweets and have interactions with others because of them. A blog seems to be the logical progression. I hope that it will lead to more interactions and conversations with others who share my interests.
Of course, it also gives me something else to tweet about.
I realise I’m late to the party. But hopefully there’s enough time left for me to pick up a drink and join in.