CCGH 2013: Social Media 101

Canadian Conference on Global Health 2013 Social Media 101

Dave Heidebrecht

Research Officer, Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research

As the 20th Canadian Conference on Global Health (CCGH) draws nearer, you’ve likely seen or read something about the event online.  Many of us received invitations to the event via email, and in recent weeks you’ve hopefully had blog posts about the CCGH reach you through a variety of online mediums.  Though email remains at the center of most individuals’ online communications, social media—in the form of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to name a few—continues to grow as the omnipresent form of information sharing in the 21st century.  From sharing breaking news, to helping organize global protest movements, to facilitating conversations on any and all topics under the sun, social media is proving to be a game-changer in modern communications.

Given how rapid this change has come on, and the reality that everyone spends their days staring at Facebook walls or Twitter feeds, the benefits of social media have yet to be fully embraced or understood by many of us—the CCGH included.  In recent weeks we’ve made use of blog posts, Facebook and Twitter updates, and email reminders to build a conversation about CCGH that we hope to continue when we meet in Ottawa.  However, we also realize that for those there in person, it is impossible to sit in on every session, while there are also many people interested in attending who are unable to.  For both of these reasons, social media can serve as an excellent platform for communications and information sharing.

While some conference participants will fluidly use the conference hashtag—#CCGH2013—to share session information via their smartphone or computer in live time via Twitter and/or Facebook, we also realize that many of our participants have little or no experience with social media.  For many, this technological illiteracy can be daunting.  That’s ok, we’re here to help.

If you’re attending the CCGH (or not), and are interested in learning how to tap into the ongoing conversation that will be happening online, this post is for you. Below we’ve put together a few key lessons on Twitter, how it will be used at the conference, and how you can tap into #CCGH2013 during your conference experience:

  • Social Media is for everyone: You don’t have to Tweet, Like, or Hashtag everything to benefit from social media.  Moreover, you can access Twitter from your computer if you aren’t comfortable with (or don’t have) a smartphone.  If you want to use the CCGH to test out how social media can benefit you, we recommend getting an account at www.twitter.com and following the #CCGH2013 hashtag on Twitter.
  • Follow CSIH Online: Once you are on Twitter you can easily find the Canadian Society for International Health and start following them, or simply click on their Twitter name here: @CSIH_.  This feed will be constantly updated during the conference.
  • Learn about sessions you are unable to attend: Especially at a conference where there are multiple presentations and sessions, and many resources being shared, social media can help spread word about information that you might not otherwise learn about.  Whether you are a policy-maker, work for an NGO, or are a researcher or student, you can get a great deal of important and relevant information via social media.  The CSIH feed and other organizations and individuals will be sharing information throughout the conference using the #CCGH2013 hashtag.
  • Use the #CCGH2013 Hashtag: For those unfamiliar with hashtags (#), this is the easiest way for you to find CCGH specific information on social media.  Once you are logged on, simply searching for “#CCGH2013” will help you find a live stream of information directly related to the CCGH.  If you are new to social media, but interested in seeing how this works, we recommend you visit www.twitter.com and get an account for the conference to follow along and see what kind of information is shared.
  • Connecting with Others: By following the #CCGH2013 hashtag, you can easily see who else is at the conference and what they are talking about online.  Once you get more comfortable with social media (and if you decide it could be useful to you), you could use hashtags on topics such as #CCGH2013 and #globalhealth to connect with like-minded individuals and organizations.
  • Creating your own #globalhealth news feed: As you start to see the potential for social media to benefit your own work, you’ll realize that by following or liking organizations and/or individuals who post about global health, you can quickly create a customized information source that is constantly being updated.  Whether you decide to contribute your own information to this conversation is up to you, but even if you only use social media to follow others it can still be very beneficial.

There is so much to learn about social media that it is impossible to cover everything in one small post, but we hope that these first few steps will be useful to you over the course of the CCGH.  If you are interested in learning a bit more beforehand, some of the links below can provide more detailed information on the benefits of Twitter and how it can be used:

If you’re still unsure of whether Twitter can benefit your own communications and information sharing at the CCGH, we encourage you to at least sign up for an account, follow @CSIH_, search for the #CCGH2013 hashtag, and see how things go. Worst case scenario is that you’ll find it doesn’t fit with your own routine and/or comfort with technology.  Best case is that you may just find a completely new and incredibly useful resource for information on the CCGH and global health that you’ll continue to use for years to come.

To learn more about the CSIH’s social media presence at #CCGH2013 we encourage you to visit www.csih.org and click on CSIH’s Twitter  and Facebook links to follow along on whichever network you use.  Both the CSIH Facebook page and Twitter feed will be providing constant updates throughout the conference and beyond.

This blog has been written on behalf of the CSIH Public Engagement and Social Media Working Group.  The Group has been established as part of a strategic initiative to better engage CSIH and its partners in social media.  The volunteer group is drawn from members and partners of CSIH , and includes individuals representing universities, student groups, ngo’s, government departments and many other organizations from across the country.