A podcast is an audio or video program optimized for delivery and listening on a smartphone, MP3 player or computer. Audio content can be easily captured and edited with free software tools like Skype, CallBurner, Google Voice and Sound Forge, then published to a website or blog. Through an RSS feed, podcast content can be automated for delivery through services like iTunes. MedicCast.com and EMSGarage.com are two popular and widely distributed podcasts. Audio recordings can also be distributed to private audiences using a learning management system or intranet.
EMS agencies can use podcasts to:
- Record interviews with experts like their EMS medical director on specific patient care issues;
- Record morbidity and mortality patient case reviews;
- Record lectures by CE speakers and presenters.
Blog is short for web log. A blog is a dynamic, regularly updated portion of a website, or a website unto itself, used to communicate news and opinions in an immediate, daily way. Using "what you see is what you get" content-editing systems, bloggers can quickly add new posts to blogs and new pages to blog websites without needing to know complex design code.
EMS agencies can use blogs to:
- Announce news and events;
- Provide timely and seasonal injury-prevention tips;
- Distribute links to additional information for things like common diseases, injury and illness prevention, and whatever else people need to know.
Twitter is a common and widely known microblogging tool that allows users to post messages of 140 characters or fewer. Twitter social media & networkings allow users to follow and read the posts (Tweets) of other users, reply to them and forward them to other users. One of the first photos of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 after its emergency landing in the Hudson River in January was posted by Twitter user Janis Krums. Krums Tweeted, "There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy."1 Krums' Tweet was accompanied by a link to a photo captured with his smartphone (see http://twitpic.com/135xa).
EMS organizations can use microblogging to:
- Link to new blog, podcast and video content;
- Rapidly share information during a major incident or crisis;
- Develop a network of followers to more widely distribute content.
Creating social media content is relatively easy. Connecting with the right people who share your interests or would benefit from your content is the true challenge. A proactive strategy to build relationships is needed if you want to use social networks for mass notification during a pandemic or disaster. There are a lot of methods to build a network; you may benefit from employing several.
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and EMS United, are one way to build and maintain relationships. LinkedIn is primarily for job-related networking. An EMS manager could use it to connect with other EMS managers, share resources, join groups focused on EMS management, or recruit job applicants. Users' LinkedIn profiles contain fields for work history, education and other interests.
Facebook has grown exponentially in the past 12 months. It now has more than 250 million registered users, and almost half of them log in at least once a day (www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics). If you're not already on Facebook, many of your employees, vendors, competitors and patients likely are. Most Facebook users are out of college, and the fastest-growing user demographic is over 35 years old.
EMSUnited.com is an EMS-specific social networking site powered on the Ning platform. Ning sites are "for people to join and create new social networks for their interests and passions and meet new people around the things they care about."2 At EMS United, users can connect with other EMS professionals, join groups, share photos and videos, write blog posts, and start and contribute to forum discussions. Members can join more than 100 special interest groups, such as the Arkansas EMT Association, KapStone Rescue Squad or E-Learning for EMS, or start their own.
An EMS organization could use a private Facebook or Ning group like an intranet to deliver information to its members, share news and updates, ask personnel for feedback or direct members to visit websites with continuing education content.