4.23.2013

#AOTA13 Social Media Presentation

I wish I was preparing to head out to sunny California and join the OT A-Team in the second edition of our social media presentation, but let's be honest: if I haven't had the baby yet, I'm probably taking a nap. Here is some supplementary information to my part of the presentation.

Title: What’s New in Digital and Social Media for Occupational Therapy?   
Short Course 328  Saturday 2-330pm

Digital and social media can facilitate interventions with clients and advance occupational therapy practice. In this era of constant change it is difficult to keep up with the latest tools. Presenters will share their knowledge and expertise about five key categories of digital and social media essential for practice.

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My category is networking- how we develop relationships and communicate online. You can watch my presentation on video here. Most people are familiar with social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn,
 Google+ and Twitter) but may not be aware of how to use these for professional development. There are also niche communities for therapists such as OTConnections or OT Exchange. Mainstream networks have an advantage over niche sites of greater usage, wider functionality, reduced cost, integration with other sites.


Here are some of the ways that you can use networking websites to advance your professional development as an OT practitioner.

Most people are familiar with Facebook since it has an estimated billion monthly users worldwide (http://newsroom.fb.com/Key-Facts).  Website is open to anyone with an email address and allows you to “friend” people you know, “subscribe” to public updates of others, and “like” pages representing brands, public figures, or organizations.

Many groups use Facebook because the wide usage is a great way to get lots of members for brainstorming and crowdsourcing of ideas. Group pages currently represent a way to start discussions, share resources or files, and host events. Some of the most popular Facebook groups are in the “4OT” series- OT4OT, AT4OT, MH4OT.

Public pages are a way for organizations, brands, or public figures to present information to the Facebook community at large. (These pages used to be truly public, offering a free website service, but this has changed) Page owners try to communicate with those that “like” them but can be limited by changing algorithms and restrictions from Facebook on number of posts allowed or likelihood of those posts to show in a person’s newsfeed.

Some of the negatives regarding Facebook usage include frequent changes in privacy and features without notice, the lack of control over what exactly appears in your newsfeed, and the advertisements (some of which are less obvious than others). Facebook is also publically traded and trying to turn a profit.

Exemplars: OT4OT group connects therapists around the globe as they share resources related to online technology and occupational therapy. Kawa Model page gets interaction from OTs related to the Kawa River Model.

Twitter is a microblogging site allowing only short updates of 140 characters or less. This provides a quick platform to provide a status update, share a link, or interact with a wide audience. This is an easy way to connect with peers or engage in upward networking with a public figure or organization. Hashtags allow for ongoing conversations on a subject or event.

Twitter chat can be topical or during events and offer a way to share resources, connect to other professionals, and process information in real time. Some offerings for OTs include the expanding #OTalk brand ( #OTalk2us #anzOTalk ) #occhat #aota13 #ot24vx. The 24 hour OT Virtual Exchange lecture series is a setup of live OT lectures presented via web video, which gets great worldwide attention on twitter. Anita and Chris have also been using twitter to solicit interaction from international participants for the OT classes they teach.

Twitter chats shouldn’t be carried off as a lecture. The best ones are dynamic between participants. Sometimes this is accomplished by having specific questions also tagged in the post, or by a few participants having a side conversation marked by their names. This should not be considered a distraction, but a separate learning process to synthesize ideas. Just as some people learn better by doodling or talking during an event, these ongoing discussions can help a person achieve a deeper learning than just sitting idly by.

Some of the disadvantages of twitter are that you are limited to a short phrase to share, so it can be hard to explain something in detail. There can be a large flow of information which can be overwhelming for some to manage (though tools like Tweetchat and aggregators can assist in this). While there are private messaging options, most conversations are very public. I sometimes have to unfollow people even when they are interesting because they have too many tweets or too many replies cluttering the feed… conversely, if you do not post very often your tweets may get completely overlooked.

Exemplar chat: #OTalk  -the original chat runs biweekly out of the UK (Tuesdays 3pm Eastern) on various topics related to OT. Make sure that you also check out #OTalk2US one Sunday each month at 7pm Eastern.   Exemplar user: @gilliancrossley who tweets her blog posts, helpful OT info, and participates in multiple chats.

LinkedIn is a professional networking site designed to contain only people you actually know to advance your business world connections. It allows you to build an online portfolio showcasing your work history, projects, and awards. You can see connections of your contacts to try to gain an introduction into a particular company. You can also search for jobs or be contacted by a prospective employer if your profile is set up in this manner. Group pages allow for discussions related to an overall topic.

Some of the downsides of this site that I have found are the frequent requests to connect from recruiters, lack of variety in group posts, and inability to message a person you may be acquainted with.

Google+ is part of the integrated google platform that allows you to subscribe to individuals’ posts and categorize them into interest circles. The advantage over groups here as opposed to other sites is that you can integrate easily with Google Drive to share and edit documents and video chat. The open video chats are a unique and worthwhile feature. There are a number of other features which do not have to be used in a “social” manner, such as automatic photo backup and updating your contacts on your phone. Google also uses its trademark algorithm to try to find interesting posts and people for you to add to your circles.

While Google is a household brand and has a variety of products (search, Android phone/tablet platforms, calendar, drive, etc), Google+ still needs to gain active users to really gain momentum. Social sites are only useful if their participants have a number of active connections. 

Individual blogs can also be a way for networking to take place. Frequent commenters can develop a community as they interact with one another over posts. Some of the qualities I look for in a good blog are frequency of updates (I prefer between once every 2 weeks to 3x/week), quality of writing and posts, and ability to foster interaction on the page. Tonya from TherapyFunZone has been trying to encourage monthly link-ups of fun activities in the comment section, and YourTherapySource also is good about encouraging interaction. The exemplar for a true networking community on a blog would be the Mothers in Medicine blog, which has a group of authors who also comment frequently on others’ posts as well as a large group of followers that comment also.

Trends in networking

Peer to peer communication remains a main use for social networking sites. But now it is becoming far more common for users to engage in upward networking- contacting celebrities or organizations directly and expecting a response. In the general usage, power companies are responding to users directly when issues arise. AOTA has really improved in the past 3 years of responding and recognizing OTs on social networking sites, and is great about answering questions. 

The netiquette for making new connections varies on the context and an individual’s preferences. I prefer to keep facebook friends to people who I actually know and am share more with those I am close to, but others (cough cough Erik) are fine with maintaining a more public presence. Most people keep their Twitter accounts open for all to follow. I try not to follow too many people as it can be too distracting for me. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ all offer options to subscribe to public posts, instead of needing approval.

Integrated options are gaining ground across the web. These can offer ease of use if you no longer have to remember multiple logins but beware, this log in can follow you and be a sleeper program in the background. You may be unknowingly acting as an advertisement on your friends’ pages or affecting their search results. The use of your login may also give the site or application access to your friends or other private information. Social reader options are not taking off because people want to be able to read in peace. 

We are also seeing a big uptake in mobile applications for online sites and organizations like Google and Facebook making their own phones.  We now expect applications to work across multiple platforms to be useful. In the US, this is a matter of convenience, I want to be able to access information while on the go or without having to boot up a computer. But in many countries, access to the internet is primarily through mobile devices instead of computers. So mobile usage becomes essential for any connection to the international audience.

Most of the popular sites are basically stealing each other’s ideas and features. As Pinterest gained momentum, you saw an increase in visual media usage for the other sites, such as Facebook acquiring Instagram and Google+ encouraging users to share their uploaded photos. This feature thieving is at a point where some of the main social media sites are becoming bogged down with features that have been rushed to market in attempt to compete, and may not be fully functional or bug-free. I believe that this trend, along with the frequent changes in how content is presented and privacy is managed, is why many people take a hiatus from social networking.

My keywords for social networking are integration, moderation, separation, and filtration. I want to integrate my participation into routines that I already have instead of trying to start an entirely new habit. For me, this also means that I prefer to use applications that work on both my computer and my phone so that I have multiple options to access when I have the time. I moderate my screen time and don’t feel bad about un-following or un-friending if I find that someone’s posts aren’t helpful to me or are too time consuming. You also shouldn’t feel bad about having networks that you prefer and ones that you don’t use.  I keep my personal and professional lives separate online to an extent, which I think helps me stay less stressed and better balanced. Similarly, I try to filter what I allow in and what I put out. Thinking before I post or add someone else to my circle has been helpful. By following those principles, I can keep my overall media time low while still getting the useful professional development and lighthearted fun that I want. Social media usage can easily be balanced into your life to facilitate professional networking in an innovative way.


Overall, there are many options for OTs to find professional networking and information sharing online. Experiment with a few sites to see what works best for your interests, learning preferences, and time available. 

Check out my superb cohorts:

Anita @virtualOT  TechnOTs blog
Chris @chrisalterio  ABC Therapeutics blog
Erik @armyOTguy  Army OT Guy blog
Karen @funkist  Miss Awesomeness blog

and I believe special thanks is owed to Allison Sullivan @allisulliOTprof for running a twitter chat during the session (#SoMeOT )  and Bill Wong @billwongOT for assisting with streaming video.



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