The value of #potential

The value of #potential

Twitter, the seven-year-old social media juggernaut, set sail on Thursday 7th November as a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: TWTR). The launch was a smooth and successful one by most accounts, especially when the unavoidable comparison is made with the initial public offering (IPO) of Facebook, whose floatation was summed up by most money moguls as a huge Wall Street debacle.

What do investors see in this poster child of Silicon Valley? Revealed in their recently published S‑1 form, Twitter lost $130 million in the first nine months of 2013 and has accumulated an operating deficit of nearly $420 million since its creation. Despite this track record, after its first day of trading the company was valued around the $31 billion mark. On the face of it, this does not add up. Is the value of Twitter purely potential?

“We started with a simple idea: share what you’re doing, 140 characters at a time. People took that idea and strengthened it by using @names to have public conversations, #hashtags to organize movements, and retweets to spread news around the world. Twitter represents a service shaped by the people, for the people.”


What is incredible and unique about this marketing tool that is, at its heart, a platform to post and read text messages? In my view there are four key characteristics that contribute to the success of Twitter:

  1. the content is public. This makes the interaction between users easier and much more organic.
  2. the content is real-time. Breaking news, stories and trends are instantly available, first hand.
  3. it uses a conversational model. Users are comfortable to honestly express themselves.
  4. it has unrivalled distribution of content. Tweets are appearing everywhere and are an accepted part of daily life.

These are qualities that many newcomers may be naturally nervous of – an open structure of honest opinions infiltrating all aspects of our personal and professional lives. To me, these are similar to old school concerns that held my father back when he first encountered a desktop PC contraption. Similar to the concerns that I had myself when adorned with oversized goggles and Baywatch-orange armbands, first clambered into the very deep end of my local swimming pool and attempted to survive. Twitter, used in the right way, is a gift to all its users. It should not be shied away from just because it may be outside your comfort zone. To get the value back for the effort you put in, you must free yourself from the old school concerns of ‘I don’t want to break it’, and ultimately, you have to let go of the sides of the swimming pool.

So has the world of healthcare fully embraced the potential that Twitter offers? Nurse @DGFoord has compiled a number of user lists related to the healthcare arena. David’s list of NHS Directors currently contains 114 Twitter accounts and his list of NHS CCGs contains 161. This highlights just how well healthcare related groups and individuals have adopted Twitter.

Particularly as patients are becoming more and more demanding, acting and being treated more as ‘consumers’ of the healthcare, hospitals and other healthcare organisations have taken to Twitter like a duck to water, utilising this channel to improve patient engagement.

Rob Webster, soon to be new chief executive of the NHS Confederation, maintains a very active Twitter account as well as penning his own regular blog. His blog acting as a stream of article based content and his Twitter account being his modern day megaphone used to publicise his thoughts, question others and rapidly respond to any attractive content. Dr Mark Newbold, chief executive Heart Of England NHS Foundation Trust, is another pioneer in a similar position – using Twitter as second nature.

Looking closer at the presence @WeNurses have built for themselves, this is a perfect case study of how to use this tool to its fullest. They are a very honest and personable account that engages with other users. They are not afraid to voice their opinion or join in with conversations. They have seen the potential that Twitter offers and are doing a remarkable job of building their followers with the end goal of providing better care by connecting, driving and supporting the nursing community. The soul of their account and, in my opinion, the reason for their success, is that they are simply being themselves. They are being the nurses that we as a nation are proud of, elevated on the platform of Twitter.

Representing the voice of the consumer, @patientopinion shares and raises the profile of patient’s experiences, both positive and negative, again with the end goal of making healthcare better. Overall, it provides a very balanced range of feedback on the service provided to the public.

Yet with all the evidence of success, there are still groups on the sidelines, still unsure, possibly in denial. To those who are still too old school for the Twitter revolution that we are in the midst of, stop turning a blind eye and living in your cosy past. Engage with not just your cosy future, but also and more importantly, your present. Let go of the sides! Twitter is here. This is where ‘the content’ is at nowadays. The potential is begging for attention and according to the financial predictions made after its IPO, Twitter is certainly not going away anytime soon.

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