International Practice Development Journal


Title of ArticleOnline social communities: how they can influence the spread and uptake of practice development
Type of ArticleIdeas and Influences
Author/sJoe Henry
ReferenceVolume 5 , Issue 2, Article 11
Date of PublicationNovember 2015
KeywordsMozilla Open Badges, smartphone, social media, virtual community

Social networks seem to have permeated every aspect of our lives: Facebook for friends and family, Linkedin for professional relationships, forums and chat rooms for our interests and hobbies. While some may scoff at the idea of having hundreds of ‘friends’ – most of whom have never been met in person – there is no doubt that social networks have changed the way we behave in terms of sharing our thoughts and experiences.

But can this new behaviour, underpinned by public acceptance of social media technology, be harnessed to accelerate the dissemination and uptake of best practice in professional environments such as in nursing and healthcare?

Of course it can – and here are some of my thoughts on how.

A virtual social community is any collection of individuals bound together by subscription to an online service. This could be a simple forum or a more complex social network; these are only really differentiated by the level of sophistication in functions and facilities available to the subscriber. An example of such a resource is the Lydia Osteoporosis Project at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (see Further information, below).

There are few people now who do not understand the power that a forum discussion has to draw you back once you have posted a comment yourself. Add to this the power to specify your areas of interest (using subject tagging) and re-engagement techniques such as push notifications to inform you that another user has replied or posted something that you may be interested in and we have a highly compelling communication platform that’s always ‘on’ and accessible almost everywhere. This is the idea of ‘user-stored-value’ – the underlying compulsion that social media builds on.

In a professional context, there is a strong drive to be connected to other professionals; to access information, share knowledge, demonstrate prowess, compare progress, to belong to an elite group. In fact, this drive is so strong that the question of belonging to a relevant social network is more likely to be ‘why not?’ than ‘why?’ So, how can this motivation of individuals to be part of an online community be used to help further practice development?

This article by Joe Henry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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