Documentation:EHealth Strategy Office/Staff Documentation/Social Media

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eHealth Strategy Office

Staff Documentation

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Purpose and Scope

These guidelines are designed to address some common issues with using social media in a communications, community engagement, or other project-related context. They are intended to be useful to all staff, by providing a foundation for appropriate use to be consulted when planning a social media initiative for your project or when thinking about particiapting in the Office's various social media profiles. They will also include helpful links and templates that will be important for the people on the ground running social media initiatives day-to-day.

These guidelines do not address basic information about social media (such as how to create accounts and minute differences between platforms) but they should address some concerns about engagement and will hopefully enocurage critical thinking about the best ways to use social media for the improvement of project communications. If you would like suggestions about how to learn more of the basics of social media, please contact Daniel Hooker who will be able to provide you with some recommendations for foundational resources.


At its most practical, social media is a set of web-based tools that enable fast and easy ways of communicating to large groups of people. These are tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They enable their users to create or upload content, and then share that content with others quickly and easily.

More philosophically, social media represent a way of thinking about the people you interact with, and about the things we do on a daily basis both at work and at home, that encourages openness, transparency and a collaborative spirit. However, we are not all used to, or comfortable with, sharing our work with a large audience at all, much less before it is polished, finished and sent to the printer.

That being said, the benefits of interacting openly with a large network of supporters has started to be seen as outweighing many of the concerns around changing our work habits. And many organizations in health care including the eHealth Strategy Office have begun to participate in these channels in order to share their work and expertise with others directly -- well before any publication is released.

Social Media in Health and Medicine

Most areas of health care have started, in some way, to become involved with social media.

Professionals in many areas of business and practice use social media tools to create and interact with an online network of their peers, similar to an electronic Community of Practice (eCoP). Doctors, nurses and other health professionals are no different. There are many health professionals who connect daily with their peers to discuss literature, conferences, changes in professional practice, and anonymized cases. Medical students and residents are also blogging and tweeting about their educational process, and potentially making valuable connections to leaders in their field.

Non-profit organizations were among the first to adopt social media tools for marketing and promotional activity, because dontaions and fundraising are central to their ability to conitnuing their work. But they do not use social media simply to solicit money from their audience, quite the opposite in fact. More typically, non-profits and research groups use social media to cultivate relationships with their communities in a supportive and convenient way. Perhaps support and donations result from this relationship, but it is the community engagement and health promotion that is of primary importance.

Hospitals and clinics have also adopted social media for reaching out to patients, because understanding patient experience in their facilities is central to being able to improve their services and facilities.

Journals and news outlets also use social media to spread their content, and to make accessing their published work easier for those interested.


eHealth Strategy Office Policy Statement

Using social media for eHealth Strategy Office on behalf of the eHealth Strategy Office and its projects and promotions is encouraged. If you are a project manager, blogging about your project via the eHealth website is mandatory, and you are also required to plan communications on your project, which may include social media. However, if you are running a project-based social media profile, or if you identify as an eHealth Strategy Office staff member on any social media, you are expected to follow the Social Media Guidelines as available on the eHealth Strategy Documentation wiki page.

You are also required to notify the Marketing and Communications Coordinator of any new Office or project-related social media program. Social media initiatives require planning like any other element of project management and the Marketing and Communications Coordinator can help to ensure issues such as governance and sustainability of social media initiatives are integrated into any project plan or strategic document from the start of the project.

University Policy

UBC is currently drafting social media guidelines for all university-related social media profiles, which will include us. As such, you should review the UBC Social Media Handbook until the final guidelines have been produced, at which time they will serve as a foundation on which we will base our own unit guidelines.

Social Media Guidelines

Why we share

  • Transparency
  • Knowledge Translation and Exchange
  • Community Engagement

More detail here

General Principles

  • Be yourself. One of the reasons social media is so unique is that it allows your community to speak with a real person with a point of view. If you are speaking from a project-based account try to identify who's running the account in the bio (see @ehealthstrategy for an example of this). It's OK to voice opinions, but state them as such, not as fact.
  • Be professional. Though you have license to speak as yourself and share your opinions, remember that when you identify as an eHealth Strategy Office employee, you are speaking as an ambassador of our group and of UBC Faculty of Medicine.
  • Be available. Social media is about engagement. If someone asks you a question, do your best to answer quickly. If someone retweets or shares your content, thank them or follow up some other way. Provide a link to your bio, your email address or other contact information if you can.
  • Be accountable. If you make a mistake, misquote, or misinterpret something, acknowledge it or apologize if necessary.
  • Support your network. If you see other eHealth or FOM profiles (or anyone important to you, for that matter) asking for help, do what you can to support their initiatives. You never know when you'll need help in return. Building a strong network within our Office and the University/FOM community will be beneficial for everyone.
  • Keep internal communcations internal. Make sure you don't quote emails or release sensitive project documents without getting permission from the project team first. Ideally, you will have established a communications plan from the beginning of the project that specifies what type of information can be shared about the project publicly. If this hasn't been done, consider doing it now.
  • Integrate. Remember that social media is just one piece of your project's communications and community engagement plan. Align your messages across the whole project.

Code of Conduct

  • If you are participating in social media under your own name on behalf of your project or the eHealth Strategy Office, make sure your position as a representative of your project is made clear to your audience unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as a potential threat to personal security. Never give out personal details like home address and phone numbers.
  • Always make sure to clarify whether you are participating in an official or a personal capacity. list how does one actually go about doing this?
  • Be aware that participating online may attract media interest in you as an individual, so proceed with care regardless of what capacity you are acting in.
  • Participate on social media in the same way as you would in other public forums or conferences. People are there to hear you, but in return you are expected to act with respect and to add value to the interaction.
  • Remember that participation online results in your comments being permanently available and open to being republished in other media.
  • If you’re using social media in a personal capacity, you should not identify your employer when doing so would bring your employer into disrepute

If you have any doubts, take advice from your supervisor, project manager or the Marketing and Communications Coordinator.

Communications Planning

All projects that will communicate their results and work processes should undertake a communications planning process as an early part of the project management lifecycle. This process should eventually involve all types of stakeholders, and should be coordinated initially with the Marketing and Communications Coordinator.

Should attempt to address

  • Target Audience(s)
  • Stakeholders and partners
  • Key Messages about your project (vision statement, elevator speech). You will use these to refer to when writing reports, blog posts and other social media posts.
  • What is appropriate to share about your project
  • Goals and ways to gauge success

Inter-office coordination

Social media initiatives benefit greatly from coordination and teamwork. In order to maximize the effectiveness and amplification of all the social media initiatives of the office, please notify the Marketing and Communications Coordinator when embarking on a new social media initiative.

As a general rule, projects will operate on social media through existing eHealth Strategy Office accounts, unless a need for creating new project-based accounts is called for. Using current channels takes advantage of the audience and community already established by the Office, and helps ensure that accounts are not orphaned or abandoned after the project lifecycle completes or as staffing and funding levels change.

Coordinating your project's social media efforts with those of the entire Office should be considered in your online communications plan.

Support, Training and Inspiration

For a general introduction and training in specific social media tools, try checking out the Mayo Clinic's Social Media University, Global.

Here is a list of eHealth Strategy Office's currently active channels

Tool Training

These links will become active as training information is developed.


Some portions of these guidelines adapted from:

Other inspirations from: