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Social media explained



An online encyclopaedia, made up of entries from people around the world.  Once regarded as an unreliable resource, Wikipedia is now so heavily used and appears at the top of most searches in Google, that the online world is starting to realise the benefits.  The term comes from the concept of a wiki, a website that allows users to easily create and edit entries, often in the form of intranets, community forums and knowledge management systems.  Entries range from historical and geographical information to complex scientific and medical terms and procedures.  Chances are, your patients will look here first for their medical information.  Although Wikipedia employs a team of editors, keeping up with the number of entries and amendments made by the world at large means that not all information is accurate.  It is free to use and open to anyone to add or change entries on there.



Known as a micro blogging platform, Twitter allows its registered users to create mini profiles and then post a message no longer than a text message of only 140 characters.  It is a way of communicating with friends, colleagues and the world at large, as your messages, or tweets can be viewed by the general public.  People can choose to follow you, to automatically see a list of your tweets as they log in.  You can also follow your friends and colleagues.  Increasingly embraced by businesses as a marketing tool, most NHS Trusts and PCTs are now sending out messages and updates via Twitter, to inform their followers and update people about upcoming events or news.



A very well known website, Facebook allows its users to create detailed personal profiles, with photos, information about themselves and an interactive messaging service so that people can send emails internally, write public posts on other friends walls and be instantly updated by the people that they are connected to.  It is important to note that Facebook is in the public domain, and doctors themselves should be especially cautious with the information and photos that they post to the site.  The rule of thumb would be to not put anything on a public website that you wouldnt want your family, patients and colleagues to see as, chances are, they are on Facebook themselves.  It is a great way to stay in touch with long-lost relatives, friends that have moved overseas, and to share photos and family news.  Used with caution and with thorough knowledge of its security features, Facebook can be a useful and pleasurable pastime.



Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn works on the same principles, but is considered to be for the business community.  Building up a network of professional colleagues, former employers and potential employers, LinkedIn works as an online CV.  Users create a profile that is not personal, like Facebook, but hold details of previous jobs and experience.  It is heavily used by recruiters and head-hunters and users often refer to it as an online address book.  Instead of adding friends, users link to people, to expand networks of the people they know and increase their visibility in the business world.  You can ask previous employers for recommendations and the more people you link to, the more your professional networks can widen.  Again, doctors should approach a public website such as this with caution, and ensure, if using it, that only information that you would be happy for your patients and colleagues to view, is made public.


You Tube

An incredible well-known and heavily used website, You Tube allows visitors to view and upload (add) video clips to its site.  It is easy to use and is a popular way to watch clips from TV shows, music videos and educational or business information, as well as being a platform for amateur videos (like an online version of Youve been framed).  Adding a clip to You Tube will mean it is visible to the entire world; remember the story of Susan Boyle, who became a world-wide phenomenon after millions of people across the world viewed a clip of her from a British television programme?  Organisations such as the BMA and the Department of Health, as well as politicians, are now using You Tube as another way of communicating with the public.  They create channels which are dedicated pages for their organisation, with regularly updated video clips.  As with all social media sites, be aware that any clips added are instantly public world wide and can be found with a simple web search, so if you do decide to use it for your personal use, only put up clips that you would be happy for the world to see including your patients or colleagues.



A blog is a type of website that allows a user (usually an individual, sometimes a company or organisation) to write an online entry, like a diary, for the world to read.  Often personal, blogs are a very popular way for people to communicate with the world; popular blogs are often avidly followed by journalists or even featured in the press themselves.  Businesses and celebrities use blogs as a public mouthpiece, individuals use them as a diary or confessional sometimes under a pseudonym. 


RSS feeds

RSS stands for really simple syndication.  RSS feeds are a way of taking parts of websites, often news pages, and transporting them directly to individuals where they will be displayed on the user's screen via an RSS viewer or reader.  If you visit a website, you will often see the RSS symbol, an orange coloured logo with white curved lines; this shows you that you can link to this sites RSS feed.  By clicking on it, you can easily add it to your list of feeds i.e. brief updates from your favourite websites.  Used correctly, RSS feeds can be a great way of quickly collecting and viewing vast amounts of information, with little hassle a great time saver for those with less time available.  Following the popular news channels, press or organisations websites means that by opening your reader, you can easily view headline-like snippets, that will then link back to the relevant page on the website.  Readers are widely available from sites such as Google and can make keeping up-to-date with a vast array of websites a lot easier.


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