Professional Development in the Age of Social Media

Proficiency begets accomplishment. Continual investments in talent-expansion needed to take on greater challenges almost always ensure continual return.

In an age where media continue to evolve, the value of professional development appreciates.

Once organizations get over the hump and hype of social media and begin investing in the long-term discipline needed reap any kind of return (however that’s defined and targeted), three biggest challenges come into clear view:

  • Resource-allocation
  • Logistical planning
  • Process execution

Common to all three of these: Professional Development.

In the last few years, there’s been a ton of fuss over social media? What’s it about? What’s the big deal, really? Well, aside from technophilia and our fascination with connection, play, exchange and intravenous information highs, I think that at the back of many executives’ heads is something like this:

How are we going to actually do this? What exactly are we going to need to allocate to this and how? How much is this going to cost us – in terms of dollars, effort, time and risk?

These are all legitimate concerns – in fact, it’s only responsible to have them.

A problem, however, is that resistance to adoption gets reinforced by uncertainty, unfamiliarity and fear. Since human talent is the largest needed component of doing social media, it’s professional development that is at the core of these concerns.

In the coming years, more organizations will realize the need for proficiency in online communications, proficiency which can only be maintained by due professional development.


Now here’s the paradox of integrating today’s media into businesses: the level of seriousness about social media is inversely proportional its ability to accomplish work.

In other words, for the people actually executing social media, it can’t be another job.

Proficiency in 21st Century communications has to flow.

Click on the image at the top of this post and come back here. Continually striking the right balance between Challenge and Skill is a universal need in productivity, learning, entertainment…virtually anything.

Flow is an idea developed by a Chicago professor of psychology. You’ve probably have heard about it before, but it’s perfectly apt for our discussion. For more background, you can go here.

Basically, the theory goes as follows.

If the challenge ahead of you is high, but your skill level needed to take it on is low, you’ll be anxious and ineffective.

If the challenge ahead of you is low, but your skills are highly refined, you’ll be bored – in which case you might be either effective, or burnt out and become ineffective.

Therefore, finding a balance between challenge and skill is key to keeping in the flow. It’s that place in between that provides the requisite feedback of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards needed for accomplishment.

But here’s the thing: once you’ve reached the right mix of skill and challenge, you have to keep on taking new challenges and acquiring new skills in oder to stay in the flow.

If you think of this in larger economic terms – and in historical context – it’s been those businesses that continually invest and re-invest in getting better (or which have the wisdom to quit and take on something new) that survive and thrive in the long-run.

In other words, the same basic principle of continually taking on new challenges and acquiring new powers are involved at the macro level as they are at the individual level.

So: when it comes to mastering online communications, marketing or general web presence, it’s critical to take on new challenges and hone new skills in order to remain profitable – either financially or otherwise.

Social media isn’t really the problem confronting organizations. It’s business design.

It always was about business design: it’s just that now, social media is revealing the disconnections and pathologies that plague many businesses: if an organization doesn’t appear apt to communicate in today’s world, it’s apparent to others that it’s probably not supple enough to be adaptive and visionary.

With the Internet, nothing stays the same for very long. Developing staff that develops itself is one of the most valuable and enduring processes any organization can acquire.


Given the pliancy of the various kinds of social and other media, they can have a surprisingly wide array of re-purposing potential.

Some of the things you can do with these media range from low-cost, low risk to high-cost, high-risk.

Low-cost, low risk: Publishing general content on Twitter.

High-cost, high-risk: International branded Pharma marketing.

As you move from publishing general content on a simple medium with 140 characters to blogging about more business-related content and building community, the needed time and effort needed to do well increase.

If you have no experience with online communications – never blogged, never had any experience in actively responding to comments or commenting on other blogs – then you’re opening yourself up to the business equivalent of anxiety – the cost of failure at the point is much higher than the cost of ramping up your skills over time.

So if, for example, Pharma spends years figuring out how to do Branded Marketing without going through the baby steps of rudimentary online communications, all of the fears’ of the industry will be made dutifully manifest.

Which do you think is a sounder plan in the face of 21st Century communications?:

  • Hire an intern who knows how to tweet and blog but has zero business experience?
  • Develop existing staff with years of hard-won experience by giving them the training and perspective and strategic vision needed for contemporary communications?

Now, the reality is that both of these are extremes: some staff with brilliant experience in traditional methods may be too reistent to learning new ways of doing things. Some interns may be useful in supporting roles under the tutelage of the experienced and therefore may have important roles to play.

My point is: you may have to accept that no solution is perfect – that you may have to invest in hiring and training staff who don’t have everything you need, but have the intelligence and ambition and open-mindedness to do the work involved in matching challenges and skills.

The Age of the assembly-line framework of doing business may not be dead, but it is being fundamentally challenged.

Social media doesn’t matter. The cultural, social, economic, personal, organizational, historical, geopolitical, cognitive, psychological, neurological, health-related, creative, technological and very human disruptions which these media are insidiously invoking do matter.

Rather than spinning wheels trying to copy and paste some how-to manual of social media, organizations are much better off investing in professional development of their most powerful resource: their network of (happy) human brains.


Join our Webinar this Thursday, featuring Angela Dunn from Odom Lewis. Learn more and sign up here!

Webinar – Healthcare Social Media: Perspectives in Practice

Health Is Social is excited to deliver its first Webinar on Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 1:00pm – 3:pm EST, 10:00am – 12:oopm PST, 6:00pm – 8:00pm London:

Healthcare Social Media: Perspectives in Practice will showcase the practical perspectives of four pioneers in healthcare social media.


If you’ve decided that Social Media is here to stay and you’re either planning or implementing your social media strategies and presence, but are still figuring out what to do or what more you can do, then you’ll want to attend this Webinar.

The purpose of the Webinar is to expand on the theoretical bases of healthcare social media with specific examples and views. Health Is Social believes that social media offers a robust array of possibilities within healthcare, requiring different perspectives on what can be done.

In this Webinar, we cover four of these perspectives: the patient’s, the provider’s, the healthcare organization’s and the professional’s (internal staff):

Hospitals, healthcare associations, practitioners interested in developing their online presence are encouraged to attend the Webinar. We believe Social Media goes deeper than just public relations – these new media offer opportunities to improve collaboration, help redesign internal processes and provide novel ways of adding value to all of an organization’s information customers.


We have four terrific presenters whose collective knowledge and experience offer a unifying blend of themes in healthcare social media:

Dave deBronkart – Patient Perspective

Dave deBronkart

Dave deBronkart, author of Laugh, Sing and Eat Like a Pig, will provide the Patient Perspective.

An accomplished speaker and writer in his professional life before his illness, today Dave is actively engaged in opening health care information directly to patients on an unprecedented level, thus creating a new dynamic in how information is delivered, accessed and used by the patient. This is revolutionizing the relationship between patient and health care providers, which in turn will impact insurance, careers/jobs, quality of life and the distribution of finances across the entire spectrum of health care.

Dave blogs regularly at and actively participates in community discussions on empowering patients. You can follow his wisdom on Twitter by following @ePatientDave.

Bryan Vartabedian, MD, FAAP – Provider Perspective

Bryan Vartabedian, MD

Dr. Vartabedian is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and attending physician at Texas Children’s Hospital, America’s largest children’s hospital.

Beyond practicing as a pediatric gastroenterologist, he has an interest in the evolving role of social media in health care.  Since 2006 he has been active in the health blogosphere and currently blogs at 33 Charts.  As an active speaker, he has addressed the AMA, American Telemedicine Association and the Texas Medical Association on the issue of MDs in social media.  He maintains an active presence on a variety of social media platforms and in between patients you can find him on Twitter.  In his free time, he serves as a strategic thinker for the next-generation physician social network, iMedExchange.

Erin Macartney : Healthcare Organization Perspective on Partnering Patients with Healthcare Team

Erin Macartney

Erin is a public affairs specialist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, where she coordinates the social media program, and is responsible for PAMF’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and online newsroom. She is also a regular contributor to Ragan’s HealthCare Marketing and Communications News. PAMF uses a variety of communications tools to create relationships with patients and further health education – helping people become active partners in their own health and health care team.

Previously, Erin was corporate communications manager at Quintiles, an international bio and pharmaceutical services provider; worked in corporate communications at Amgen, a pioneer and leading company in the biotechnology industry; and as a freelance writer and communications consultant. Erin is active in the #hcsm community and co-founder of HCSM Silicon Valley (@hcsmSV). You can follow her on Twitter at @emacartney.

Angela Dunn, Odom Lewis – Professional Development Perspective

Odom Lewis

Angela Dunn, Dir. of Social Media & Recruiting for Odom Lewis, helps you navigate social media for your personal and professional brand in healthcare and pharma marketing.  Angela has more than twenty years of experience in marketing communications.

In addition to helping place top leadership in healthcare and pharma marketing communications, Angela also helps coach CEOs and senior leadership on social media. She was recently featured on the American Express OPEN forum and interviewed by MSNBC at TWTRCON in NYC.

Angela was also among the top 12 bloggers asked to participate in “Best Strategic Learning Investment for 2010” for pharma and healthcare marketers. Angela blogs for Odom Lewis and is responsible for their Twitter account @OdomLewis and their newly developed Resource Hub for Healthcare and Social Media professionals on Facebook.


Order tickets below or visit the event page here.