Sunday, November 15, 2015

Look what they've done to my song, Ma (Musings on misuse of Twitter)

Updated: 16 Nov. 2015
November's blog was motivated by monitoring the AABB's twitter account during and after the 2015 Annual Meeting in October. 

The blog's title derives from a 1970 ditty by Melanie Safka, known professionally as Melanie. 

As an AABB member since 1975 (40 years), and being an early adopter of social media (mailing lists as of 1994 and Twitter since 2011), I'm naturally interested in how professional associations use social media. [FYI: Tried Facebook and hated it.] 

Be aware that you can follow Twitter accounts without being on Twitter. It's a good way to keep current on the latest transfusion news. Just bookmark (favorite) an account and visit daily, weekly, whatever suits your needs.

Why read the blog? Maybe to see what Twitter's all about? Or  how you as an individual or member of a transfusion-related professional association may want to use it to benefit the profession? To read the blog takes 5-10 minutes out of a 1440 minute 24 hours (maximum of ~0.7%).

For interest, the AABB is one of the largest transfusion medicine related professional associations in the world, if not the largest, at least in the West. A few statistics from AABB's 2014 Annual Report:

AABB has more than 5000 members:
  • 5,420 Health Care Professionals
  • 1,294 Physicians
  • 149 Residents
  • 29 e-Members
  • 298 Emeritus Members
I'd guess non-physician AABB individual members are mostly medical laboratory technologists/scientists.

AABB's Transfusion had almost 500,000 articles downloaded. That's impressive and I'm curious who's doing all the downloads.

AABB revenue ($US) from 
  • Dues: $3,084,744
  • Annual meeting: $3,956,264
  • Print sales: $2,577,601
  • Education: $5,065,813
Let's agree that AABB is a huge professional association. If you read the annual report, you will see that expenses are also large.

With that as background, let's examine recent @AABB activity. Tweets during the annual meeting, Oct. 24-27, 2015, are summarized as follows. Non -substantive tweets are those that are 'me too' or thanks.

Day (Date): Number of tweets (n,% non-substantive)
Day 1 (Oct. 24): 47 (7, 15%)
Day 2 (Oct. 25): 48 (9, 19%)
Day 3 (Oct. 26): 29 (3, 10%)
Day 4 (Oct. 27): 30 (7, 23%)
Total = 154
Average tweets each day = 38.5. Non-substantive tweets over 4 days: ~17%
Post-meeting (28 Oct. - 14 Nov)
17 days of tweets: 32 tweets with 11 thanks 
Average tweets each day = 1.8. Non-substantive tweets over 17 days: ~34% 
See @AABB 2015 Annual Meeting tweets  (Non-substantive tweets in pale green)

NOTE: You can access tweets that include https:// as follows:
  • Highlight the URL, e.g., in the first tweet 
  • Don't include the "
  • Right click highlighted text
  • Select 'Go to'
So what do AABB's tweets reveal about how health-related professional associations use Twitter?

Twitter's Background
First, be aware that Twitter  - founded in 2006 - is a relative Johnny-come-lately to social media. Twitter didn't take off until years later and Twitter's 500 million users pale compared to Facebook's claimed 1 billion+ users. 

Twitter is popular, even indispensable in crises, because you discover what's happening before it's on live news channels. Indeed, news media now identify what's happening via Twitter. During the latest Paris terrorist attacks, I saw breaking news on Twitter before it appeared on CBC, BBC, CNN. 

Yet, many health professionals do not use Twitter at all. They learned Facebook and are unwilling to endure Twitter's learning curve. Plus many see Twitter's 140 character limit as meaning it's mickey mouse, only about tweeting what you had for breakfast, as if anyone cares.

Indeed, many professional associations do not know how to use Twitter to maximum advantage, likely because they see it of minimal value, albeit something they need to do if they want to be considered 'with it'. 

AABB vs Other Associations
As a large organization, AABB has a relatively active Twitter account compared to much smaller transfusion medicine associations, those with fewer resources, such as BBTS  and CSTM, both of which tend to post more substantive tweets. To my knowledge, ANZSBT isn't on Twitter.

Designated Person Tweeting
I know from one of my Twitter accounts, @transfusionnewsthat tweeting substantive news to interest others requires time, effort, and discernment. It definitely helps to have the time and motivation to share significant 'goodies' but especially to have a transfusion background.

Would love to know who tweets for AABB. A paid staff member? Transfusion background required? What guidelines, if any, are provided regarding suitable content and frequency?

Bottom Lines
AABB is to be commended for maintaining an active Twitter account. That many tweets thank folks is also commendable and creates goodwill. 

But...and there's always a 'but' in my blogs...If I were tweeting for AABB, I'd include many more substantive tweets. Many of the @AABB tweets that I did not categorize as 'me too' and 'thanks' were not particularly substantive. 

What do I mean by 'substantive'? Tweets that are significant and meaningful to users and useful in their professional lives. Information and resources they didn't otherwise know about and are grateful for.

Because that's the beauty of Twitter. Despite it's 140 character limit, it's a wonderful medium for disseminating useful information quickly to many users. Yes, it should be fun and foster goodwill but mostly distribute information to those interested. That's one of Twitter's key strengths. 

Another is Twitter's ability to provide feedback and opinions. Yet few professional organizations use it for that. For example, I've never seen a professional organization use a poll or ask followers important questions. 

Yes, AABB's tweets during its annual meeting and thereafter were touch-feely but disappointed. From a huge organization I expect more. 

As Napolean said, 'If you're going to take Vienna, take Vienna'. Similarly, if you're on twitter, use it wisely to good advantage.

This song written and recorded by Melanie Safka for her 1970 'Candles in the Rain' album fits the blog because it expresses how I feel about professional associations that misuse Twitter. 

Not abuse, just misuse. The blog is meant to be food for thought for how we can all improve our tweets so that busy professionals find them more useful.

Need I mention that I love this song for its clever lyrics?
Or try this fun duet: 
Look what they done to my song, ma.
Look what they done to my song.
Well it's the only thing
That I could do half right
And it's turning out all wrong, ma.
Look what they done to my song.

As always, comments are most welcome.