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You sink into your most comfortable chair, pick up your tablet and find your favorite social media site. It might be Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram. It doesn’t really matter. You’re a pro on every one. But let’s stop right there. What if you aren’t so slick on social media. What if something has kept you from diving in. What if you really don’t know how to behave there. It’s time to learn from the social media experts.

“What is social media? It’s the language that people speak today, said Katie Duke, practicing ER Nurse and blogger for Scrubs Magazine. But we all aren’t speaking the language, or if we are, we could be communicating better. Those who are still very new to social media could use some advice. Enter the experts: Duke; Lee Aase, director of social media at Mayo Clinic; Kati Kleber, an RN and blogger; and Brittney Wilson, who’s the Nerdy Nurse, an RN and blogger. These four social media pros recently participated in a live video chat on YouTube about how to behave on social media.

Don’t say anything on social media you wouldn’t say in front of your mother or preacher, Wilson said. “Tweet happy.” (A Tweet is a post you make to your Twitter followers.) A social media post makes a “lasting impression.” Always “think before you Tweet,” Duke said. Someone can take a screenshot of your post before you delete it. If you make a mistake, “own up to” it and be honest about it, Kleber said. Duke said she was fired on national TV for a mistake she made. “If you make a mistake, own it,” Duke said. “It’s the first step to learning.”

It’s important to be clear about who you are representing on your social media site. Represent yourself, not your employer, Aase said. “Know who you’re representing, what you’re representing,” Duke said. Stick with positive posts. Don’t use social media as a place to make fun of or laugh at patients, Aase said. “If I were to see this on the front page of the newspaper, would I be pleased or not?”

Before taking the plunge into social media, speak to your manager about your employer’s social media policy. “Be part of the solution and not the problem,” Duke said. New social media users can start out by being a ghost and just follow the popular sites. “Then, start sending Tweets out,” she said. “Always start out slow.” Use hashtags for each topic you discuss. A hashtag is one-word description in your post that begins with an ‘#’ symbol. For example, one might use #TRSSocialRN as a hashtag for this blog. As you start to make posts, check back often to see if anyone responded to a post. It’s important to engage with and respond to your followers. Be present consistently.

A major benefit of social media is to help people to get out of their individual “silos” and to “support each other,” Kleber said. It’s a great way to gather information. It allows you to “find out what other people do without throwing you under the bus.” Social media has also provided nurses with new opportunities. Writing blogs helped Wilson get jobs. She was a clinical informatics nurse before she became a community manager.

Deciding who you are going to follow is also important. Kleber follows people on social media who add to her day. She stops following those who are negative and post inappropriate things. “Focus on the positive,” Aase said. Don’t just go with the flow on social media. “Just because they’re doing it, doesn’t mean you should,” Kleber said.

Are you ready to rock the social media world with an amazing post? If so, just remember this before you post: “You’re not going to please everybody. What you can do is be true to yourself,” Duke said. Check back next month for more social media tips.

What advice do you have for those who are just starting out on social media?

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