Editor's Note: This is an entry in our Scholarship Contest for Patients and Caregivers to attend the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit Oct. 17-21 in Rochester, Minn. See this post:
for more details on the contest, and please cast your votes by liking or commenting on the candidates you think would be best.
Here is Kelsey Therkildsen's Essay:
“The amount of sleep the average person needs is five more minutes.” While humorous, the amount of truth to this statement can be distressing. When we live in a culture where the ability to run on little sleep is admired rather than admonished, it is not surprising that about one in three American adults is suffering from a sleep disorder. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that out of every three American adults you may talk to, one of them is seeking treatment for a sleep problem. This is why, through Iowa Sleep Disorders Center, I created a presence in the social media world.
I tweet lighthearted observations, like the aforementioned quote, as well as alarming items, like techniques lifeguards use to sleep on the job. I attempt to cover a wide variety of topics that will evoke a wide variety of emotions in my followers. I believe this approach is the most advantageous when gaining followers and keeping them interested. Where I believe this tactic has succeeded is in obtaining a strong following from the sleep and health fields. Where I believe the tactic is lacking is in winning over the patient field.
I think I am suffering from “preaching to the choir” syndrome. I am singing the praises of getting a full night’s sleep to people who have made the study of sleep their lives’ work. While this is beneficial to Iowa Sleep’s position in our niche community, it is not helping the community of patients who are unknowingly plagued with sleep issues. These are the people who really need to know the dangers of sleep apnea and drowsy driving. These are the people who need treatment.
If we at Iowa Sleep could focus our social media efforts on the patient community, especially locally where we have the best opportunity to provide direct care, we could educate patients, as well as family and friends of patients, on the basics of sleep and why it is so important. And if by educating we could get these patients to seek treatment, we have the potential of preventing strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, and even fatal car accidents caused by drowsy driving. How to get this specific population active with Iowa Sleep’s social media is what I would hope to learn from this Mayo Clinic conference. However, I realize that if I were able to attend, I would not be there simply to take notes.
In the 321 days that Iowa Sleep Disorders Center has been active on Twitter, we have gained 384 followers, made 926 tweets, and been touted as “sleep experts” several times. Our comments are constantly being “retweeted,” and our followers mention us almost daily. We have an attractive and interactive Facebook page, and we upload videos onto YouTube as often as possible. While not as prominent, we also have a presence on foursquare and LinkedIn.
I am not a shy person. I am happy to discuss the methods that have helped us acquire these achievements with an assortment of people. Of course, I would hope those same people are willing to teach me how to accomplish the goals I set out for Iowa Sleep and myself. I believe the social media summit put on by the Mayo Clinic will be the best venue to open these lines of communication.
Although we’ve made a lot of progress, Iowa Sleep Disorders Center is still very new to the social media world. As a result, the budget devoted to this medium is limited. Being awarded a scholarship is my best chance to attend this Mayo Clinic conference, and attending this conference is my best chance to help the patient community through social media.