Medical transcriptionists and social media

socialmediaIn her Facebook group for medical transcriptionists, Kathy Nicholls asks the question:

I am fascinated by how social media is changing our world today. People are on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so many other places. Yet it does not seem to me that this has caught on very fast with MTs. I wonder why? I just finished a course in inbound marketing, just working on what else can be done on the internet, and as I searched my networks for MTs, I don't find many. How about you? Are you on other services? If so, what benefits do you see? If not, any particular reason why? I look forward to some discussion!

I started to answer this over in the Facebook group – but then it became complicated, so I decided to blog it.

Each type of social media serves a specific purpose and therefore it will attract users whose needs are met by that specific purpose. If a potential user doesn't see a need, they won't use the social media. And let's face it – most social media doesn't come with a clear-cut set of instructions.

I recently posted: “I've been tweeting for 2 years, 3 months, 2 weeks, 1 day, 2 hours, 15 minutes, 53 seconds.” Someone noted that I must have started using Twitter in its infancy. Well, I did sign up when it was a new service, but it took me awhile to figure out exactly how it could be useful or fun. Until I saw the purpose of using Twitter, I didn't use it. The same would be true of anyone, including MTs.

One problem with the proliferation of social media is the duplication of purpose, which (IMO) creates confusion among users. And, like many users, I refuse to sign up for every service that comes out just because a couple people I know use this service and not that service. Even if you're just using the major social networking sites (for this purpose, I'll say Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter), you can spend a lot of time socializing there. Add in 3 “just like Twitter” sites, a couple “just like Facebook” sites and suddenly you're spending more time than you can possibly justify, just keeping track of social networks. The purpose of social networks is to socialize – not just sign up so you have an account. It's time consuming to set up an account, find friends and then maintain social contact. Users have to focus on what serves them best – and stick with that. At the core of any type of networking is building relationships – and that takes time.

For a medical transcription business or a vendor serving the medical transcription industry, use of social media has a completely different purpose and therefore a completely different approach. I'm going to assume that since Kathy posed this question in a forum composed primarily at practitioner MTs, the discussion should center around how the average practitioner MT can benefit from social media.  (Should I apply to have this article approved for CEC credits??)

LinkedIn: LI is primarily a business networking site. The fact that many MTs don't participate doesn't surprise me. It's been my observation that the MTSOs and vendors serving the industry aren't all that good at it, either. It really isn't a very good social networking tool for practitioner MTs. Like Facebook, there are many, many related groups. There's a reason for belonging to groups, but it has little to do with getting questions answered. I would never go to a LinkedIn group and ask a word help question. And, because you simply cannot be anonymous, I also wouldn't ask specific employment questions. Regardless of how ineffective MT companies may be at using LinkedIn, it probably isn't a good idea to post company-specific information or questions there when your own name is attached to them. Since the primary purpose of LinkedIn is business networking, IMO the average practitioner MT isn't going to find it very useful in answering day-to-day questions about work or industry.

Facebook: Facebook is, obviously, a very social site. You can connect with friends, family, coworkers, people of like interest. Most people don't view it as a place for work. Like LinkedIn, anybody can start a special interest group – and many do. So far, I've found over 10 Facebook groups for medical transcription, and that's not counting the company-sponsored groups. Most of these groups have crossover; i.e., members who belong to one group are very likely to belong to the other groups. Active participation in all groups would be  extremely time consuming. While it's easy to monitor the newsfeed for these groups, just monitoring the newsfeed isn't socializing within the group. What I do like about Facebook is it allows me to stay in touch (in a virtual way) without feeling like I'm intruding on someone else's time. I read their wall, look at their pictures and follow in my newsfeed. I also find it easier to message people there, rather than use e-mail. To make it even easier, I use the Facebook toolbar for Firefox.

Twitter: I personally enjoy Twitter, but I know a lot of people who don't get it and a lot of people who just get plain crazy when confronted with how it works. I'm not sure it has a lot of use for the average medical transcriptionist and I'm pretty sure if an MT did get hooked on it, it could become a time-sucking black hole that would be detrimental to productivity! Finding other people of like interest on Twitter depends on one of two things: (1) they have included in their profile meaningful keywords that identify their interests briefly and accurately and/or (2) they have tweeted using keywords that identifies their interest. I can search for people tweeting about transcription but if medical transcriptionists aren't tweeting about their work or what they do, I am not going to find them using this method. Likewise, if their profile doesn't mention anything about medical transcription, I can't find them.

Kathy's question on Facebook references inbound marketing. Well, here's the thing – most MTs aren't interested in marketing, so they don't use social media for marketing, inbound or outbound. Effective use of ALL social media requires a really good understanding of how it works and what it can do for the user. I think most MTs either aren't seeing how it can help them in their work and/or they just aren't interested; therefore, if they use social media, they use it for personal reasons and not necessarily to socialize or network with other MTs. Many people prefer to socialize face to face, so they don't want to spend their time in virtual social networks. It is possible that if the MT services were more effective in using social media, practitioner MTs might see some benefit to it.

Prepare for HITECH changes

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