Engaging with people online

Social media is a great tool for engaging with lots of people quickly and easily.

It can also help you reach out to a diverse range of people. For example, did you know grandparents are the fastest growing demographic on social media?

Exploring social media and how to use it

By using social media you have the potential to reach out to literally millions of people, but it's important to consider what this could mean to you and your participants:

  • It can be difficult to gather in-depth personal information particularly when it comes to healthcare
  • Users may be more comfortable providing feedback in an anonymous way that social media enables, however, anonymity can also make it difficult to verify what people are saying
  • Social media is most useful for capturing a sense of how people feel rather than gathering scientific, verifiable information 

There are lots of ways to engage with people via social media and hundreds of tools to choose from. The most popular social media sites in the UK are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and SnapChat.

Below are just some of the ways you can use these sites to involve users:

  • Post on your own channels asking people for their views on a certain topic of concept
  • Make a post in an existing social media group asking people for their views e.g. via diabetes UK on Facebook
  • Use social media polling tools e.g. Twitter polls to gain a sense of how people feel about a certain topic or concept
  • Use your social media profiles to reach out to specific individuals or groups and ask for their involvement Use the group functions available on some social media tools e.g. Facebook groups to host an online focus group
  • Use instant messaging tools like Facebook messenger and WhatsApp to directly and privately engage with individuals  

Top tips for using social media effectively

  • Be open and honest in all information that you share online
  • Be prepared for negative comments online and plan a response to those
  • Be aware that most interactions on social media are in the public domain even if they are deleted at a later date
  • Pick one or two tools that are most appropriate for your audience rather than trying to be on all social media sites at once
  • Be responsive to comments just as you would if you were hearing them face-to-face
It's important that you are clear about the Solent NHS Trust social media policy, as well as the information governance policy before sharing any details online.

If you're not sure about these policies please contact us and we'll be happy to help.

Social media in action

Here's an example of how social media has been used in Solent:

We had a research study looking for men who have sex with men and we couldn’t find anyone who wanted to take part within the service. So we used an anonymous facebook targeted campaign to recruit people to the study without the service knowing about it. This as helped inform ways of engaging with people who don’t typically turn up at our services, and on ways of engaging seldom heard groups.