Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Social media for the health professional - intro to search

More and more I've found myself talking to health professionals and clinics, interested in how they might use social media in their work. I usually advise that they should at least ensure their website it simple and easy to use (address and contact details on every page for example, and to consider using website services like Blogger to create and manage their site - because in my experience, its more reliable and better run than locally produced services). But most importantly, they are on search results. For example, look at this result for Canberra Health.


Notice how in the first result, Google is able to extract key navigation from the site and offer them in the search result, thereby helping people get to the information they need quicker - at least in theory, nothing worse than clicking "contact us" only to be presented with an online form and no address or phone number!

Also notice further down in the search results the image? Its to a news item with a video. Videos, especially if they're on Youtube, are given thumbnail previews in search results, naturally dragging the eye to the result.

Google search results are a snap shot of the web, relating to the search query. Logically then, the more coverage you have across the web, the more of these sorts of results you can generate for your area.

So my advice is to consider using the web in a distributed fashion. This means distributing your media across services, and then regather them into your central site. For example, all websites have images, graphics and photos. Consider first loading these images to a popular image sharing site like Yahoo's Flickr. Once these images are online, they can easily be embedded in your site like they never left. This way, some people browsing Flickr for images on places and events etc, will happen on your photos and see in the description your mention of your site and services. Likewise for video - on Youtube and then displayed on your site, for Calendar of Events, use Google Calendar and embed it on your site. Etc.

This sort of advice has been controversial for many years, with traditional web developers expressing concerns of control and reliability. As time goes on however, their concerns become less realistic, and for those who went first, their search spread and results are going from strength to strength.

Exercise:

For this exercise, put aside the better part of a day (part time), or about 3 hours solid and focused.

  1. Create accounts on Google, Blogger, Youtube, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook.
  2. Set up a website on Blogger.
  3. Create a playlist of the best videos you find on Youtube, and try and work out how to embed that playlist on your website. Hint, Google search is your friend.
  4. Load photos of yourself and your colleagues to Flickr, and embed these photos in the website section that is about you.
  5. Write a tweet announcing your website (and look into how to have new content on your website automatically update your Twitter status.
  6. Create a page on Facebook, and look into how your updates to Twitter, Flickr, Blogger and Youtube can automatically update your Facebook status.

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