I’m excited about taking part in my first #nhssm chat in quite a long time. On Wednesday 11 March – NHS Change Day – we’ll be talking about how the NHS can use social media to deliver tricky messages to different audiences. The chat starts from 8pm on the #nhssm hashtag.

The messages I have in mind are about sexual health and testing for STIs, but the chat could take us anywhere – smoking, mental health, alcohol. What I’m keen to find out is whether these topics are social at all. Do we, as members of the public, want to be approached online about improving our health, and if so, what are the most effective channels? Are there more private, selective social channels such as WhatsApp, that can help the NHS be part of an existing conversation?

In particular, I’m interested in how we reachLGBT, BME and teen audiences.

My interest has been spurred on by a very exciting project I have been involved in and the feedback I have heard and read from focus groups and healthcare workers. Suffice to say I don’t think a hashtag or Facebook page will solve this one.

Join in from 8pm on Wednesday and let’s see what knowledge we can share and how we might learn from each other.

This post from Andy Baio is a great insight into various hidden features on Twitter.

Despite Andy calling it ‘Stupid tricks…’ I’ve gone back a few times trying to articulate how one of the features might be useful for comms teams.

Here goes.

If you are running a campaign, or making an announcement, you may want to get the attention of a group of different people at the same time: for example journalists or bloggers. You may not have their contact details, just a Twitter account. They don’t follow you, so you can’t DM.

A lot of people (me included) are tempted to publish a load of the same tweets in quick succession, directed at different people.

This doesn’t look great, because if a follower of yours also follows some of your recipients (highly likely in the case of, say, a Government department and related stakeholders), their timeline will fill up with your @ messages.

Your recipients might also notice that you are sending the same message over and over to different people.

What if there was a way you could contact different people with the same tweet, without those tweets appearing in your timeline, or anyone else’s apart from the individual you are addressing? Well, there is a way.

  • While logged in to whichever account you wish to use, go to https://business.twitter.com/
  • Start the process for creating a new ad campaign, and select Twitter engagements
  • Go to the Compose panel and write your tweet, mentioning the person you wish to target. Hit the tweet button.Twitter business compose panel
  • Your tweet has been published, but only you and your recipient can see it. It won’t appear in your timeline and no one else can see it, unless the recipient replies, at which point the conversation is public again.
  • No need to continue building the campaign. A record of who you have tweeted in this way will build on the right hand side of the screen.

I wouldn’t normally endorse this kind of approach, of course. You need to put the effort into relationships in good time, and not rely on a random tweet that will encourage someone to write about your story, or change their behaviour. But we’ve all been on deadline and eager to get people’s attention. In these circumstances this might just work for you.

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