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Where to communicate?

Methods of engagement are dependent on the platform used but more importantly the platform selected to communicate with others on line should be determined by the purpose of that communication. The following list is not exhaustive but covers some of the more commonly used platforms (Ofcom, 2015), and provides examples of how they are employed in the radiography context. The rapid pace of change within IT means that these platforms may be less popular in years to come, and others may replace them; nevertheless the authors of this document believed it was essential to provide examples for the purpose of illustration. This brief overview will also help by giving a starting point to those new to using SoMe for professional purposes.    

Twitter  

Twitter allows short (140 character) messages, directing the reader to other links or calling attention to an issue. Twitter tends to be used for professional networking. Searching for a relevant hashtag ‘#’ enables the radiography workforce to join professional discussions on interesting topics; eg #radiography. An ‘@’ sign finds a specific person or community eg @MedRadJclub

Pros: Rapid dissemination across a world-wide audience.

Cons: Takes a while to get used to the short messages and method of networking.  ‘Emoticons’ can be used to decrease word-usage (Skovholt, 2014) however beware of how these may be misinterpreted, especially in cross-cultural interaction (Park et al, 2014).

See also a useful Twitter explanation (Omar, 2014). Examples in radiography: @MedRadJclub, an international radiography journal club, is used to engage practitioners from medical radiation disciplines across the globe in scheduled ‘Tweet chats’. @Radiopaedia is a free online collaborative radiology resource for sharing and learning from interesting cases. 

Facebook 

Facebook (FB) is the most popular SoMe site (Ofcom, 2015) with the majority of adults in the UK having a FB profile. It allows sharing of text and media to network with selected ‘friends’. Unlike Twitter, users have some control over who can see their page. It allows users to set up open, closed and secret groups where small communities of practice can share information around a common topic. 

Pros: Groups are becoming a popular way of forming specific and specialised networks.

Cons: There is a misunderstanding of what privacy is afforded on FB so that users often disclose personal issues that can end up being shared in the public arena.

An example in radiography: The Society and College of Radiographers  

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Society-and-College-of-Radiographers/117467811876?fref=photo

Pinterest 

Pinterest is an image-sharing SoMe site where users ‘pin’ images, as they would on a notice board or scrapbook. These images contain links to other resources. Its visual nature makes it ideal for displaying radiography-related data such as images and anatomical diagrams. It can therefore be a useful space for students to organise and share their learning materials.

Pros: visual nature means it is more accessible than pages of text.

Cons: with image-sharing SoMe platforms such as Pinterest (and others such as Snapchat and Instagram) there is the danger that copyrighted and/or confidential materials might be uploaded without the required permissions. There may also be problems if patients are permitted to take images of themselves during an examination or request to take a photo of their image on a monitor because this is not a controlled situation and it is possible that other patient data may be inadvertently captured on the image. 

An example in radiography: https://www.pinterest.com/lesrob10/breast-screening/

ResearchGate 

ResearchGate is a space where researchers share their outputs, discuss issues and forge research collaboration. It is therefore an excellent resource for the radiography workforce seeking to evidence their on-line comments or justify their practice. The academic focus of ResearchGate appeals to research active or interested practitioners.  

Pros: a serious space for radiographers to share and discuss radiography research.

Cons: those sharing information need to be aware of any publisher copyright issues.

An example from radiography is a profile of the leading radiography researcher Patrick C. Brennan:  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Patrick_Brennan2

YouTube 

YouTube allows users to easily share and comment on video data. Because visual media is easier to process than textual data it is believed that YouTube will soon exceed FB in terms of popularity, especially for providing information and learning resources. There are lots of potential uses within radiography: promoting the profession; marketing private imaging services; helping patients understand what their examination will entail (especially useful for preparing those with verbal communication difficulties); and providing learning materials for students.

Pros: easy to upload videos and provide information to a wide audience.

Cons: concerns about being ‘visible’ may prevent some from exploring this method of communicating information to the public. Making videos is not easy and some training is required to develop these skills.

The following example of free educational materials is the work of the Diagnostic Imaging Radiography team : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHQg_UgcBR4

Linkedin 

LinkedIn is essentially an on-line CV designed for professional networking. Through shared contacts, educational institutions and membership of discussion boards, interesting topics can be discussed and links shared. Through membership of interest groups, the radiography workforce can engage with medical radiation professionals discussing general topics such as modalities and emerging technology. 

Pros: useful for establishing a strong on-line professional identity to support professional development.

Cons: Fewer people use linked-in than some of the other platforms previously mentioned.

Examples from radiography: radiography network https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=1950631

Blogs (eg Wordpress)

Blogs (Web logs) and Vlogs (Video logs) provide anyone with the opportunity to be heard. Unlike traditional sources of publication such as journals, there is no peer review system. 

Pros: Freedom to express ideas and be heard in a medium that has the potential to reach a much wider audience than a journal article.

Cons: Bloggers need to be their own censors and consider how their work will be received. Is the information factually correct, written in a style suitable for the audience, grammatically correct without spelling mistakes, likely to portray a good impression of radiography? 

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