what inspires a doctor to tweet?

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That's the question I was asked by Michael Hemphill for the Roanoke Times (@Roanoketimes) last week for the "One question" Sunday feature that appeared in today's paper.

My answer was kind of long-winded, but I think he captured most of the conversation pretty well (and, combined with the photograph by Brett Lemon (@BrettLemon) the article took up 2/3 of the back page of the business section).

In the article I spoke about my inspiration to blog--which came from reading Paul Levy's (@paulflevy) blog which used to be called "Running a hospital" and now that he has retired as CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, it is titled "Not running a hospital."

From the first time I read Paul's blog back in 2006 I knew I wanted to have the opportunity to talk about issues important in my medical world (health care for kids) and how those issues impact health care delivery in our region. And I wanted, like Paul, to provide insight into how medical leadership makes decisions, especially the hard decisions we face daily with regard to personnel, budgets, quality, etc.

It looked easy.

I thought I would just sit down every day or so and write what was happening, or what was on my mind. That I would spend 20-30 minutes a day writing "stuff" and you would read it.

But once I started I found it was much harder to do than it looked. I was reluctant to write about anything that I hadn't fully researched, so I could provide links to articles in the literature. I had not "found my voice." I asked some followers of the Seattle Mama Doc blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson (@SeattleMamaDoc) to look at my blog and leave comments. They thought I was being too academic, and that my blog wouldn't appeal to everyday people. They were right. So I have worked on making my blog more personal, while still keeping it grounded in current issues.

The blog receives a couple thousand visits a month, on average, but each post only generates a few comments. I was hoping for a conversation around these topics, which hasn't happened--yet.

And that is what eventually led me to join Twitter.

As I described to the reporter (who doesn't have much experience in social media) I have discovered that Twitter is a great place to meet people, to network with peers, to find mentors, to interact with parents of patients, experts in a variety of fields, and so on.  As I told the reporter, I found Mark Schaefer's (@markwschaefer) book: "The Tao of Twitter" to be extraordinarily helpful in navigating the twittersphere. I now recommend the book to everyone who is considering using Twitter for networking or business, or who is already involved but not satisfied with how its working. Beyond that, and what Michael didn't include in the article, is the fact that through Twitter I have been able to communicate directly with Mark, and he has been as genuinely helpful to me as he urges others to be in his book.

I am glad you dropped by, and I understand if you are too busy to leave a comment. But now that you know how much I really want to hear from you, I hope you will stay for just a couple more moments and drop me a line.

Let me know how I am doing. Or just say hi. It can get kind of lonely not knowing who's out there.

And I particularly want to know how I could do better, what topics would meet your needs, and what topics would get you to leave me a comment!

Recent Comments

Hi Alice,
After reading this post I HAD to comment because I related to it on so many levels. I started blogging, tweeting and nurturing a Facebook Page for my business in 2009. I, too, thought it would be easy...and it is not. Writing is a passion of mine but writing about relevant topics pertinent to dentistry is not exactly where my writing passion lies and so, it does take time and effort. As of the first of this past year, I started to incorporate a weekly video blog called Word of Mouth Wednesday. It seems to get a pretty good number of hits but, like you I wish I would get more comments. I also have a business entity called Social Media DDS where I work with people in the dental profession on making them comfortable with social media and I blog for that site as well. That blog gets a few more comments. Twitter definitely is a good platform for increasing the visibility to our sites and it, as you mentioned, creates new relationships (and I agree...Mark Schaefer is one of my favorites as well). Like you, I relaly want to build a conversational community on my blogs. I will keep plugging..I know it takes time and perseverance and I am very passionate about what I do so I will continue. As an aside, have you seen the Livefyre commenting plugin? It allows more of a conversation feel in the commenting section of your blog. You may find it intriguing.
Loved this post and thanks for letting me share!
Claudia

Oh Claudia, thank you so much for your comments! Its amazing how many of us find ourselves in the same "boat" with regard to our passion and how we are trying to share that passion with others. I feel blessed that I found our "tribe" at Triberr, and look forward to reading all your posts (and commenting) as we continue to share. As our colleagues start to accept social media and realize it is not a short-lived fad, they will be looking to early adopters like yourself for guidance. Thanks for your encouragement, it means a lot to me.

I do like how your posts have become more personal and more from your perspective as opposed to "research" or too factual.

Maybe you could try some guest posts or co-authored posts. It would give you the ability to have a break from time to time, but still keep your blog up and running. Plus if you had topics that were interesting to you and you thought should be read, then you don't have to feel as if you aren't qualified enough to write about them, because maybe someone else could, or at least help you. Personally I don't like huge amounts of guest posts, but one every so often is nice.

Heather, I have definitely thought about having guest posts, but have been a bit concerned about losing my "voice." I have made offers to the other physicians at Carilion Clinic Children's Hospital, offering to allow them to write a post. Only one, Dr. Hanna Jaworski has taken me up on the offer. I continue to work on that issue. It would take some pressure off, but I actually LOVE writing the blog. I hope it didn't come across as if I find it too tiring, because I really do enjoy it. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and thanks for ALL the support you have shown over this past year to the blog and to helping this blog be more grounded in reality.

Oh well I didn't mean so much that you were tired of it, but more if you had a busy week, it might be nice to have a guest post you can put up. And I think that you can keep your "voice" if you only have them very occasionally. But I do think that sometimes having a different perspective or someone who can talk about something that is related but not quite your area, can add to the blog. Like 3-4 times a year.

Wendy,
Thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment.

Mandy,
Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. Reading Mark's book will definitely help you to see the possibilities, and help you to feel not so overwhelmed. Please let me know if I can help in any way. I approach FB much differently than Twitter. On FB I try to connect with folks I already know in real life. On Twitter, I pretend I am at a huge cocktail party, where there are a number of folks I would love to get to know. Those are the folks I start to follow, and when the time is right, I send them a note or retweet something they put out. Eventually some will take notice and you can have a conversation. It's best not to try to play games, but to be genuine in your interest, and your desire to be helpful to others.

Do let me know how it goes, and if you start a twitter account I would be happy to be a follower.

I found this quite interesting & plan to get Mark's book. I have to admit that while I use FaceBook, the whole "Twitter" thing escapes me, so I'm looking forward to learning & understanding how it can help me as well as how perhaps something I know and/or am passionate about can help others.

Thanks Alice!

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About Dr. Ackerman

Alice Ackerman, MD, MBA, FAAP, FCCM is the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Carilion Clinic and Professor and Founding Chair of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Ackerman is recognized nationally as an expert in pediatric critical care.

She has been at Carilion Clinic since June of 2007. Her primary goals are to enhance the health care of children in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia, and is actively working to do this both as physician in chief of the children's hospital, as well as through involvement with many state-wide initiatives.

Close to home links

Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital
Carilion Clinic Pediatric Services
Children’s Miracle Network
Follow me on Twitter
Pediatric Residency Facebook Page
The AAP website for parents
Just the Vax
Moms Who Vax blog
Parents Who Protect
Roanoke Times Medical blog
Running a hospital blog

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