Bridging the Social Media Skills Gap

bridging the social media skills gap
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Social media literacy is fast becoming a source of competitive advantage in the workplace.

Just ask my young friend, Lauren Wiebe!

A couple weeks ago, I was thrilled to receive this note from Lauren, who is graduating with a degree in Social Work and was one of the marrvy Summer 2015 interns with the Midwest Cancer Alliance:

I’ve accepted a position with an AmeriCorps organization in California for next year. My most attractive attribute to them was my corporate social media experience. I’d like to thank you (again!!!) for letting us play around on Twitter with you. I learned so much, and it’s a skill-set that other organizations clearly value. THANK YOU!!!

Just a few years ago, social media at work was the domain of marketing pros… the gatekeepers who owned a company’s public face on leading platforms. Now, I am seeing social media ‘duties’ being radically democratized and decentralized.

The number of job descriptions on mentioning social media skills is booming.  Employees are being asked to use social media in ever more numerous and unfamiliar ways. The ‘traditional’ marketing functions I mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. Social tools are being used to streamline customer service, educate patients & families, improve team collaboration, and build employee brand advocacy programs.

We See You Are a Social Media Influencer

In my own career, building professional networks and developing competencies via Twitter and LinkedIn has led me to opportunities I never dreamed of even just 4 or 5 years ago.

One of the first times I recognized that these skills were valued by my employer, was when I received an email from the communications associate with the University of Kansas Cancer Center.  The subject line?  “We see you are a social media influencer”.  Wow…are you sure you have the right Carol Bush?

That email led to opportunities to coordinate and co-host the first Twitter chat for the cancer center.  It was not long before physician, nurse and research colleagues began reaching out:  ‘Hey Social Nurse, can you teach me how to Tweet?’  Needless to say, that was a big ‘AHA’ moment for me:  by developing a large network and digital competencies, I could help others leverage awareness of their great work and research.  This was the flame that started burning to launch The Social Nurse.

Bridging The Social Media Skills Gap

In an article for FastCompany just a few weeks ago, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes explains that there’s a skills gap you probably haven’t heard of: the one in the social media industry, getting wider day by day. Holmes says that while there are $1.3 billion dollars in value out there waiting to be garnered by companies, formal training and education programs are lagging seriously behind, falling victim to the sentiment, “Facebook? I use that every day. Who needs to be trained in it?”

There is a mistaken assumption that because someone uses Facebook personally, they know how to use it for business, as well. In the article, Holmes cites that while only 12% of companies believe that they’re using social media effectively, many require their employees to use it either internally or for external promotion. “The real problem is that we expect people to know these skills without providing any training,” Holmes said.

This challenge can be exacerbated when companies assume that millennials, who they believe to be digital natives, know how to use social media for business. (“Have the interns do it, they’re young!”)

First, assuming that all young people know how to use social media, or that your intern understands how to locate evidence-based resources suitable for posting via healthcare social media, is incorrect.

Training is necessary, for ALL of us…regardless of our age, even if it’s on-the-job training. After all, you wouldn’t ask a medical student with little training to perform open heart surgery immediately.  You’d make sure they had the proper expertise, credentials, and supervised experience first. Using social media for personal use is not the same as using it for business, and from terminology to interaction, the strategy is immensely different as well.

Second, you might have a tough time finding employees with expertise in both social media and their jobs (which, in my experience, is one of the reasons to hire a contractor experienced in social media strategy). Allowing your employees to work closely with that contractor will provide the best possible content. I submit that nobody knows a brand ( or your hospital, healthcare organization or clinical practice) like the people who work there day in and day out.  The more content that comes from the inside team, the better.

The Social Nurse Provides Resources for Healthcare Social Media Training

We have a few answers to this problem.  Online courses and individual or team coaching.

Get Social Health Academy 

I am a huge fan of collaboration and not re-inventing the wheel.  I first met Janet Kennedy through our mutual membership in the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. She is the host of the Get Social Health podcast and an experienced small business marketing professional.

I learned she had spent the past year developing the Get Social Health Academy.  I checked out the courses and knew they were the perfect match for friends and clients of The Social Nurse.

Since busy healthcare professionals have limited time for in-depth study, online courses that are on-demand can work well. Check out more on our services page, or take a look at all the course offerings HERE.  Spoiler Alert:  there is even a FREE COURSE which will give you a snapshot of the great content available.  

If you have questions about which course might be right for you or need access for your whole team, just contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Coaching for individuals & teams

Many people still like individual or small team coaching, so we offer that, as well.  This is done virtually via a meeting platform I use called Zoom.  You can access my appointment calendar HERE and we can talk in more detail about your unique needs.


The moral of the story is that savvy individuals (and team leaders) who invest in upgrading social media skills in the workplace will be spending money wisely and will discover new ways to leverage outreach and retain patients, engage employees, and increase marketable skills.


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Carol Bush

Partner | Content Strategist at Healthcare Marketing Network
I am a co-founder of the Healthcare Marketing Network, a content creation company that specializes in connecting Healthcare Writers with Healthcare Businesses looking for creative & factual articles and blog posts. I write and speak about healthcare social media & integrating digital skills in nursing practice.

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  1. Beth Boynton, RN, MS on April 25, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Great post and I enjoyed learning more about your career path, Carol. I’m looking forward to checking out the “Social Health Media” resource. I’ve had some interesting connections arise out of blogging. In particular, a clinical consultant role for a software as a service company called ManageUP PRM ( . I love my role with them b/c they are interested in engaging staff and promoting healthy environments which I have found to be an unusual mindset for tech-related solutions. So not only has it evolved into an interesting position for me, but it also speaks to a bridge between people skills and relationships and technology!

    • Carol Bush on April 28, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Thanks for stopping by and for sharing info about ManageUp PRM! It is really exciting when opportunities come to us from blogging! Anytime we can blend tech, people skills & relationships…that’s a great combo in my book!

  2. Elizabeth Scala on April 25, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Awesome post, Carol! I do agree that generalizations about who is going to be tech-savvy can omit exceptional people. Or when we make these assumptions, we assume the person in front of us knows what they are doing… when they may not. I love your specific examples of social media ‘street smarts’, so to speak. And Beth’s right… interesting connections come from all over the place!

    • Carol Bush on April 28, 2016 at 7:54 am

      I like your statement about assuming the people in front of us ‘know what they are doing’. Some of my most fun conversations at conferences have taken place just by my asking “Are you live tweeting this session? I’d love to connect with you.”

  3. Donna Maheady on April 25, 2016 at 11:35 am

    So true Carol…training is important for all of us..regardless of age!
    In my work with nurses with disabilities via, I encourage nurses to build social media skills. It can be the key to so many connections and new opportunities.
    I will be sharing this post with my groups.

    • Carol Bush on April 28, 2016 at 7:57 am

      Donna- thanks so much for sharing….what an honor! I am glad to hear you are encouraging the Exceptional Nurse community to leverage social media for networking! I believe today’s social & virtual collaboration tools….coupled with our marrvy ‘Nurse Brains’ really open up great opportunities for Nurses of all shapes and abilities!

  4. Anne Llewellyn on April 27, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Great article Carol. I think we will see more social media outlets that help engage the patient and caregivers. As nurses we need to keep up with the changes in technologies and help patients be able to use them. Here is an example of a new organization that I recently leaned about. Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think

    Personally I find social media exciting and am really trying to learn how to use it more effectively.

    Exciting times!


    • Carol Bush on April 28, 2016 at 7:59 am

      Anne- I always love the resources you share! I am looking forward to checking it out. The patient community is soooo far advanced in the social arena…healthcare as a whole needs to catch up quick! Luckily, we are seeing more of our colleagues embrace social platforms…I agree, it is very exciting! I learn A LOT from listening to patient communities and chats!

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