You have to “adopt” social media by setting up your accounts and learning how to use them before you can extract any value from the technologies. However, the real bang for the buck comes when you move beyond just getting familiar with the technology and actually begin to use it. Here are some ways you can safely accelerate the learning curve.

Pick the Right Bucket
CME professionals can use social media for three basic purposes:
1. To enhance the education that is provided for healthcare professionals, or HCPs
2. To enhance our own continuing professional development
3. To advocate for the value of CME

It may be a challenge for those new to using social media professionally to adopt and meaningfully use the technology simultaneously—especially for bucket 1 (to teach) and bucket 3 (to advocate). The very public nature of educating HCPs or advocating for CME seems to be a pretty significant barrier to entry: While a trial-and-error approach may be acceptable behind closed doors, it would completely undermine your education and advocacy efforts to use social media before you’ve built a substantial comfort level with the technology.

You must do your homework and be very aware of your limitations—you won’t become a social media ninja overnight. In fact, this is why I suggest that anyone new to social media begin by taking a few months (or longer) using the technologies to enhance their own continuing professional development—cut your teeth on bucket 2!

Learning and Sharing
For the past 20 months I have spent one to two hours a day exploring social media and building my personal learning network—that is more than 900 hours of tweeting, blogging, and commenting. I have taught myself about technologies that can automatically curate online information for me. I have taught myself about technologies that allow me to curate information I find in real time so that it is readily searchable when I need it. And I have taught myself about technologies that allow me to listen in on discussions and to find interesting and intelligent people I can learn from.

What became apparent as I did all this research was that there was, and largely still is, a paucity of CME-focused content available. On the other hand, there were hundreds and thousands of CME-related lessons to be learned—and over time, I learned where to look and whom to engage in order to find them. My hope is that my work pays off for the broader community, sooner rather than later.

This is the purpose behind #CMEchat, a weekly 45-minute Twitter-based conversation that Derek Warnick, Lawrence Sherman, and I launched April 6. Each Wednesday at 11 a.m. Eastern time, we host and moderate an online discussion of various topics pertinent to the CME professional. For example:
• What is your favorite adult-learning principle? How do you use it in practice
• How do you learn about, or stay abreast of, the science of CME?
• Have you tried using social media in CME? If yes, please share. If not, what’s stopping you?
Faculty play a vital role in engaging learners. What criteria do you use to select faculty/speakers/authors?
• What is your definition of a “successful” CME/CPD activity?

The #CMEchat discussions are archived each week on my blog, CMEadvocate.com. To date we have been joined by more than 80 participants from around the world, and the conversation in growing. Most important, there is no risk in using the weekly #CMEchat as an opportunity to hone your social media skills while actually using Twitter as a means of CPD.

When I began tinkering with social media there was no such thing as a hashtag for social media and CME (#SoMeCME), but now there is a weekly opportunity to build your skills while engaging in CPD. Please join us!

Brian S. McGowan, PhD, has dedicated the past 12 years to medical education as a faculty member, mentor, accredited provider, and commercial supporter. The opinions expressed are McGowan’s and do not represent the views of his employer, Pfizer Inc. Contact him via Twitter: @cmeadvocate.

More of Brian's columns:
The Alliance Goes Social

Getting Started with Social Media

Meet and Tweet

Why CME Should Embrace Social Media