Penn Medicine News Blog

July 21, 2014 // By Robert Press // Comments

Our Most Important Social Media Metric: You.

Community // Patient Care

Social media has been around for about two decades now, believe it or not. The concept of it dates back all the way to 1994, with the now largely defunct GeoCities — which most of the technologically-inclined members of my generation used to build at least one very, very ugly site back in the late '90s. Within the past decade, however, social media as a term tends to be shorthand for more directly engaging things: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus, YouTube, YouGetTheIdea.

The audience for all of these entities is comfortably up into the billions. Moreso than anything else in the history of our species, social media gives you the chance to reach all of the people all of the time — but beware, because you know what they say about pleasing a crowd that big.

And that's where data enters the picture. Analytics. Metrics. The quantitative measurement of things some may have thought unquantifiable: sentiment, interaction, engagement. Here at Penn Medicine, we use analytics to get a look at the bigger picture with regard to our social media presence. What's the size of our audience? What are they saying? How can we better interact with them? Things like that.

At some point, though, the usefulness of these reports breaks down. You can look at all the graphs and charts you like, but they're not going to be of much use when dealing with the day-to-day operations of social media management for a major medical system. It goes without saying that social media is a tremendously useful tool for interacting with patients, patients' families, students, and members of the community on a personal level, so in the end much of our self-assessment in this field doesn't come from a huge PDF of accumulated data — it comes from you.

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