Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


Ask not what you can do for Twitter, but what Twitter can do for you


According to a recent report, ten million people in the UK are active users of Twitter.

That is remarkable, particularly when you still get people questioning the value of social media - suggesting its a hobby or fad, and others who say they will never be convinced that social media itself is a valuable tool.

These criticisms and scepticism are never passive comments. They are always filled with a sense of superiority, a sense that those that engage in social media are wasting their time - and the time of others. Why is this? What don’t they get? Indeed, what’s not to get? Then it occurred to me that many of the naysayers misunderstand the value of Twitter. They are looking at it through a different lens, in fact the opposite direction of those reading this blog.

Maybe it just happens to me but whenever Twitter or use of social media in the workplace comes up in a conversation with a friend or colleague they always, and I mean always, say the same thing: ‘Why would anyone be interested in what I’m doing or thinking’. They believe they have nothing to say, that they have ordinary and relatively uninteresting lives (like most of us!)

But I think they miss the point. To me, the greatest benefit by far I get from Twitter and other forms of social media is listening to others rather than broadcasting. I want people to engage with me and to understand what we, as an employers’ organisation, do and what we stand for, sure, but I use social media as the most effective tool we have to get news, views, emotions, concerns, opportunities, disappointments, celebrations, anxieties, and pressures.

I do a lot of face to face networking but nothing is quite so rich and quite so timely as that which I get from social media.

On Twitter I follow managers and leaders, nurses and therapists, doctors and academics, think tanks and bloggers. People of all different political persuasions and views and a range of organisations that make up the NHS including trusts, commissioning bodies, FTs, mental healthtrusts, community trusts and ambulance services. These shape my opinions, my views and my understanding. They are brilliant resource investigators, analysing, digesting and sharing information.

Twitter doesn’t take any of my time, it saves my time, in bucket loads. I feel that I am more informed and in touch than I could ever be without it. That has to be good for decision making doesn’t it?

A few years ago, if a meeting adjourned for lunch or a break and directors and chief executives got out their Blackberries, there were a few who would see this as an indication of a lack of strategic insight. The appearance of the Blackberry was seen as operational, a tool to deal with the urgent rather than the important.

The key skill of a leader must surely be the ability to actively listen - to staff, stakeholders the public and service users? So can I suggest that you start being worried if you notice that people are not getting their Blackberries and iPhones out. Then they are not listening enough.

Dean Royles, director, NHS Employers


Readers' comments (5)

  • 10m people is about 16% of the population (i.e. not a particularly large proportion), about the same number also smoke, but about 60% of the population are overweight. My point is that millions of people doing something is not necessarily a valid indicator of whether something is of benefit or indeed will prove to be of long-term worth. One of the difficulties with social media as a means of gathering opinion is that those who use it are a self-selecting group. That is not to say social media isn't of value but if, as an employer, you really want to know people's opinions there is no good substitute for listening in more direct and varied ways - taking time to get alongside your employees, walking the 'shop floor' in person, having an approachable open door policy for example - otherwise you risk simply hearing the views (as sound bites in the case of twitter) of those who are most vocal and social media savvy. Bear in mind too that access to social media during work time is not an option for most NHS employees. I certainly cannot spend time on my phone whilst I'm working and if one of the managers happened to come by I would rather they interacted directly with me and my patients than got out their phone.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • tinkerbell

    Bridget Harris | 30-Sep-2012 3:30 pm
    I would rather they interacted directly with me and my patients than got out their phone.

    So would I. There is a kind of disrespect going on for the people you are in the room with.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I have yet to discover what twitter can do for me. doubt though i ever will though!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • tinkerbell

    there is a discussion on twitter tonight at 8 pm on whether or not nurses should be allowed to wear make up to work.

    Deep sigh.Can't they, whoever 'they' are leave us alone to get on with our job.

    Just off to put my makeup on before work before it's banned.

    Don't 'they' realise some of us 'need' makeup in order to look human.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • tinkerbell | 1-Oct-2012 7:06 am

    what about permanent make up?

    does this mean those who have it will be banned from nursing?

    what about those who have naturally rosy cheeks and very red lips? will they be banned too?

    How about those with false boobs, tattoos or anything else? will they be banned?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.