Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and EHR for FREE!

Review of “Patient Engagement is a Strategy, Not a Tool” by Colin Hung

Posted on November 24, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Colin Hung (@Colin_Hung), Co-Host of #hcldr and SVP of Marketing at Patient Prompt.
Colin Hung
If Leonard Kish’s new eBook – http://www.hl7standards.com/kish-ebook/”>Patient Engagement is a Strategy, Not a Tool was a song, it would be categorized as a “mashup” – and that’s a good thing.

Never heard a mashup song before? Just go to youtube.com and type it into the search bar and you’ll find thousands (or try this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbrWu8XyAcM). Mashups are a unique form of music. To make one, DJs will take snippets (called samples) from other songs usually from different artists and combine them into a single piece and in so doing create a whole new song in the process.

When done properly a mashup is both familiar and fresh. It has elements which you know and love yet the composition as a whole feels new. That is exactly what Kish has done in his eBook. He expertly weaves together numerous ideas, themes and approaches from different people and different industries into a single cohesive arrangement.

Kish starts by laying down a central idea that is carried like a melody from page 1 through to the end:

“The key to [patient] engagement in early stages is to get people’s attention and to let them see what’s possible by using the tools available to improve their health. It’s a process and a strategy, not a data set or any one tool”

With that idea track locked in, Kish proceeds to mix in concepts from:

  • Marketing – target audiences, key messages and clear calls-to-action
  • Product Management – inclusive design and agile development
  • Behavioral Science – Maslow’s hierarchy, social interaction and motivation

The eBook starts off strong with a nice definition of patient engagement – a rather amorphous term in healthcare right now –  and gets stronger with examples of successful “attention grabbing” marketing campaigns that could be adopted by healthcare organizations.

One particular statement that stands out:

“Engagement requires what marketers know very well: motivation, context and messaging.”

As a person who works in HealthIT Marketing, I’m tickled by this statement…but I think Kish is giving those of us in Marketing a bit too much credit. Although it is true that marketers should have a good grasp of our target audiences (their needs, wants, motivations and fears) – we are not seers. In fact, it is common for marketers to be a little “off key” when approaching new markets or when working with new products.

Truly successful marketers are the ones who are open to being wrong…and who can quickly adapt their messages/approach based on real data and feedback from the target audience. Like a good DJ, you must read the reaction of the audience and change the tune in order to keep things hopping.

The idea of iterating, fitting engagement into the world of the patient (context) and using feedback are the themes that fill the middle portion of Kish’s eBook. Using anecdotes, quotes and statistics from a wide array of leaders he encourages readers to draw parallels with healthcare and to think critically on how that wisdom from outsiders can be applied successfully in their own organizations.

Fittingly there is a section that draws a parallel between healthcare and music. Kish quotes former Talking Heads singer David Byrne in a particularly memorable and interesting chapter.

The finale is where “Patient Engagement is a Strategy, Not a Tool” shines. Having laid the ground work in the prior chapters on why getting patients’ attention is so critical and how difficult it can be to turn that attention into meaningful behavior change, Kish closes by giving readers 10 concrete steps to follow to “win the attention war” in healthcare:

  1. Know what health problem you are trying to solve
  2. Know whose attention you’re trying to get
  3. Use social tools
  4. Know behavior models and behavioral economics
  5. Focus on goals and narratives
  6. Start Simple
  7. Try something and measure results
  8. Understand context
  9. Take an open approach
  10. Follow an analysis-driven implementation plan

I was hoping for a little more depth from Kish on the Agile approach, especially as it relates to A/B testing, iterative design and high reliance on real-user feedback – something that I believe could DEFINITELY be used in healthcare – but perhaps he is keeping these concepts for his next composition.

Overall, Kish’s eBook is a solid mix of familiar theories/approaches from other industries and new ideas/success stories from within healthcare. It offers insight and practical advice on how to change from a tools-based approach to patient engagement to a process and strategy based one. If you work in healthcare and are involved in your organization’s patient experience, access or engagement initiatives this eBook should be on your reading list.

I am looking forward to Kish’s next release – which I hope drops soon.

“Patient Engagement is a Strategy, Not a Tool” can be downloaded for free courtesy of the good folks at HL7 Standards (http://www.hl7standards.com/kish-ebook/)

6 Physician Website Tips

Posted on October 30, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was asked to write an article for gMed users about Building a Better Physician Website. It’s an important topic that often gets overlooked by clinics and doctors and something I’ve worked on building physician websites. Here’s the intro to the article:

In this ever changing world, a physician’s website is how a new patient is going to judge that physician’s skills and capabilities. Whether they find their doctor on their insurance list, Google, a physician rating site or from a friend, a large majority of patients are now reviewing websites before scheduling an appointment. What does your website tell your patients about you? Does it portray a doctor who’s still stuck in the 90’s and hasn’t stayed up-to-date with the latest changes in technology? Does it allow a visitor to your website to easily become a patient? Does it make the patient feel like you are the best doctor for them?

I also offer the following 6 tips for physician websites:

  • Make Your Website Beautiful
  • Mobile Optimized Website
  • Engage Potential Patients
  • Engage Existing Patients
  • Online Payment Options
  • Regularly Updated Content

Be sure to read the full article where I go into more detail on each tip. What have you seen with Physician websites?

Full Disclosure: gMed is an advertiser on this site.

Facebook in Healthcare

Posted on October 6, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A story on Reuters reported late last week that Facebook is making an entry into the healthcare space. Here’s an excerpt from the article about Facebook’s plans for healthcare:

The company is exploring creating online “support communities” that would connect Facebook users suffering from various ailments. A small team is also considering new “preventative care” applications that would help people improve their lifestyles.

In recent months, the sources said, the social networking giant has been holding meetings with medical industry experts and entrepreneurs, and is setting up a research and development unit to test new health apps. Facebook is still in the idea-gathering stage, the people said.

This move is especially interesting when paired with the announcements of Apple Health, Samsung Health, and Google Fit (and a few other Google health initiatives like Calico). It’s not the first time that big corporations have seen an opportunity in healthcare (See Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health). However, we have yet to see any of these big corporations really make a dent on healthcare.

The reality for many of these large corporations is that they don’t realize the crazy complexities that exist in healthcare. Many like to site the healthcare privacy argument as a reason for their failure. No doubt, HIPAA and privacy are a challenge for these organizations. In fact, I can already hear the outcry of people talking about Facebook and privacy of their health data. Many don’t trust Facebook with privacy and with good reason. However, privacy is the least of the reasons why these big corporations have a challenge entering the healthcare space.

Remember that healthcare is a complex beast with the largest customer being the government (ie. Medicare and Medicaid). Healthcare is not a rational market. The government, employer owned health insurance, health insurance plans, etc etc etc all make healthcare extremely complex to navigate full of perverse incentives. Plus, how do you do an ROI on the value of saving someone’s life?

While I’m skeptical of any large corporation entering healthcare, I’m actually quite interested in what Facebook could do to help healthcare. No doubt, a lot of healthcare already exists on Facebook.

Just a few weeks ago I was running up an escalator to catch a flight and sliced my big toe from top to bottom (you should see the pics). Luckily TSA was really helpful and I made my flight. Once I got home, I assessed the damage and wasn’t sure if I should go get sutures or not. I turned to Facebook where I posted a picture of my toe and tagged a few of my doctor friends. Long story short, my doctor friends told me I should go to the doctor and quickly, because if I waited until the next day they wouldn’t be able to suture it.

This is a small example, but Facebook was really effective for me. In fact, I posted a follow up picture a few days later (you know how men always like to show off their scars) and a doctor friend told me it was healing well. Of course, many might say that it was a small flesh wound and so that’s not as big a deal to post on Facebook. Would I post me health details if I had some chronic condition?

The interesting thing is that chronic patients are more than happy to give up all privacy in search of a cure. Unfortunately, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s part of the reason why Patients Like Me has been so successful. Plus, Patients Like Me has proved that we want to take part in online support communities for our conditions.

We’ll see if Facebook can really execute on online support communities like they have on Patients Like Me. It will be a real challenge for them because it’s not the focus of the company. However, they’re obviously well connected to a lot of people that could and would benefit from these types of healthcare communities. No doubt many people on Facebook don’t visit or even know about sites like Patients Like Me.

I’ll be interested to see what Facebook does in this space. I think they’d be smart to roll it off into a separate product that focuses on things like privacy and security. Being tied to the Facebook brand is a huge liability in this case. Plus, the value of Facebook to a Facebook created healthcare community is not in the Facebook brand, but in the Facebook audience and reach.

Besides creating various healthcare communities similar to Patients Like Me, I think Facebook has a huge opportunity to use social pressure to influence healthcare decisions. Changing behavior is an extremely hard thing to accomplish. However, never underestimate the power of positive peer pressure. Peer pressure can be one of the most powerful ways to change people’s behavior. Unfortunately, it works for good and bad. Facebook has all of your peers mapped to you. Can Facebook use that to help you become healthier? If they can, they’ll be on to something.

What do you think of Facebook possibly entering healthcare?

10 Health IT Rockstars and Their #NHITWeek Happenings

Posted on September 18, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

It’s National Health IT Week and so I thought it would be fun to take a quick look at what some health IT social media rockstars are doing to celebrate #NHITWeek.

Mandi Bishop (@mandibpro) is sorting through her petabytes of #HITHeroes selfies and creating a t-shirt that says “I Heart Big Data.”

Farzad Mostashari, MD (@Farzad_MD) is sending out bow ties to prospects for his new company Aledade.

Charles Wesbter, MD (@wareflo) is programming his Google Glass controlled robot to improve EHR workflow.

Wen Dombrowski, MD (@healthcarewen) is practicing to break the World Record for most tweets sent during a conference session.

Gregg Masters (@2healthguru) is reading the latest Flex-IT act and Final Rule on meaningful use flexibility from his surfboard in the ocean.

Cari McLean (@carimclean) and Michael Gaspar (@MichaelGaspar) are fighting over which Health IT meme is more likely to go viral.

Geeta Nayyar, MD (@gnayyar) is making medicine fun and meaningful.

Regina Holliday (@ReginaHolliday) is painting a Walking Gallery jacket for a statue dedicated to the patient that will be put in the CMS lobby in Washington.

Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) is creating a new conference dedicated to Health IT buzzwords. Sessions include #HealthAnalytics, #HealthcareSocialMedia, #ACOs, #PatientEngagement, #HIE, and many more.

Keith Boone (@motorcycle_guy) is doing an HL7 crossword puzzle.

What are you doing for National Health IT week? Feel free to add what other people are doing for #NHITWeek as well. Bonus points if you write what I’m doing for #NHITWeek.

Rise of the Digital Patient Infographic

Posted on September 17, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The social people behind CDW Healthcare are doing a good job putting out some great content on social media. A great example of this is this Digital Patient Infographic that they recently posted:
mHealth_DigitalPatient_Infographic_0914_1000

I recently took part in a webinar with Dodge Communications (I’ll add a link to the webinar once it’s available) yesterday and I made the comment that telemedicine is more efficient for the patient, but I wasn’t sure telemedicine was more efficient for the doctor. There might be a disconnect of benefits there that needs to be reconciled.

As I look at the infographic above, I’m reminded of something similar. The stats in the infographic and just some basic common sense says how much patients would love to do an eVisit. If this is the case, why is it that healthcare hasn’t filled this customer demand? I think the answer is the disconnect of benefits.

What are your thoughts?

Also, since CDW created the infographic above, It’s worth mentioning that CDW also listed this blog on their list of Top 50 Health IT blogs for 2014. I’m not sure I agree that it’s the top 50 health IT blogs since EMR and HIPAA and a number of other Healthcare Scene blogs aren’t on the list, but there are a lot of great bloggers on the list just the same.

#20HIT Comments on Health IT by HL7 Standards

Posted on September 16, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Many of you know that I’m extremely active on social media (see @techguy and @ehrandhit to start). I love the way it can connect people. It’s so powerful. One of the companies that’s done an amazing job with social media for their company is Corepoint Health and their HL7 Standards blog. The blog is most notable for being the home and birthplace of the #HITsm chat. If you haven’t participated in an #HITsm chat, then you’re missing out. Lots of great health IT discussions every Friday.

Along with being the home of the #HITsm chat, the HL7 Standards blog is a great place to find blog posts from voices throughout the #HITsm community. Plus, they recently started doing a series of “20 Questions for Health IT” with responses from a variety of health IT professional. Check out an example tweet and question that was answered by Mandi Bishop (better known as @MandiBPro):

I love the work their doing and I love hearing perspectives from across the industry. I’m going to think about ways I can do something like they’re doing to bring and amplify more of the interesting voices in healthcare IT. Nice work HL7 Standards.

What Are You Doing for #NHIT Week? Does It Matter?

Posted on September 15, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today is the official start of National Healthcare IT Week (#NHITWeek). Do you have any plans for #NHITWeek? Are you doing anything special? I personally don’t have any huge plans, but I do have one post for #NHITWeek that I hope people will enjoy. Watch for that coming later this week on one of the Healthcare Scene blogs.

If you want a full run down of official #NHITWeek activities, EHR Intelligence has put that together. HIMSS seems to be the real driver behind the week from what I can tell. I’ve never been to Washington during #NHIT Week, so maybe that’s why I haven’t ever seen the impact of the week. I guess I’m skeptical about what it really accomplishes.

What I have enjoyed is following the #NHITWeek hashtag on Twitter. There’s a lot of activity on the hashtag. You just have to filter through the #NHITWeek fluff and marketing. From the looks of Regina Holliday’s tweet, there are quite a few people attending the event she’s attending:

Plus, you get to see other craziness like this QR code connected to Casey Quinlan’s health record that she had tattooed on her chest:

Not to mention, you get links to great resources like this one from Steve Sisko:

I think that Steve has the right spirit for what #NHITWeek is for me. It’s about connecting people in the space. It’s always great when we can share the work that’s being done across the spectrum of health IT. I’m always amazed at how many people are working so hard day in and day out to make healthcare IT work.

If I Were AHIMA and Wanted to Ensure ICD-10 Wasn’t Delayed Again

Posted on September 12, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been working on my schedule for the AHIMA conference happening at the end of the month (officially I think they call it the AHIMA Convention). As I’ve looked over the various meetings and topics that will be discussed, I’m once again faced with the ICD-10 discussion.

I’ll admit that the ICD-10 discussion feels a little bit like the movie Groundhog Day. A little reminder of the movie (man I need to rewatch it):

Much like Bill Murray, I think we’re entering the same ICD-10 cycle that we were in last year. People warning about the impending implementation of ICD-10. People talking about the need to train on ICD-10. The impact of ICD-10 on revenue, productivity, software, etc etc etc. If it feels like we’ve been through these topics before, it’s because we have.

I previously posted an important question, “What Would Make Us Not Delay ICD-10 in 2015?” Unfortunately, I think the answer to that question is that right now nothing has changed. All of the reasons that someone would want ICD-10 to go forward and all of the reasons that ICD-10 should be delayed are exactly the same. I’d love to hear from people that disagree with me. Although, so far people have only come up with the same reasons that were the same last year.

That doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause for organizations like AHIMA that really want ICD-10 to go forward. They could do something that would change the environment and help ensure that ICD-10 actually happens in 2015. (Note: When we’re talking about DC and congress, nothing is certain, but I think this strategy would change the discussion.)

If I were AHIMA and wanted to push forward the ICD-10 agenda, I’d leverage your passionate community and be sure that the story of ICD-10 was told far and wide. The goal would have to be to create the narrative that delaying ICD-10 would cause irreparable harm to healthcare and to millions of people.

I imagine a series of videos with HIM people telling their stories on the impact of ICD-10 delays. These stories aren’t hard to find. Just start by looking at the AHIMA LinkedIn thread about the 2014 ICD-10 delay. Then engage the AHIMA community in social media and provide them the tools to spread these videos, their own stories, and other pro ICD-10 messages far and wide. Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling.

Also, you have to change the conversation about the impact of ICD-10. Far too many proponents of ICD-10 just talk about how it’s going to impact them individually. These individual stories are powerful when creating a movement, but the people in Washington hear those stories all day every day. They don’t usually change decisions based on a few heartbreaking stories. So, you have to illustrate to those in Washington that the impact of another ICD-10 delay is going to cause some harm to the healthcare system. This is not an easy task.

A well organized effort by AHIMA and other organizations could really gather steam. Enough calls, messages, and letters into Congress and they have to take note. It’s a feature of the way their systems are done. Although, a few responses won’t work. It has to be a real grassroots wave of people talking about how delaying ICD-10 is going to cause major issues. The biggest challenge to this is that it was delayed this year and what was the impact?

Of course, the other option is to hire a lobbyist. They’re going to tell the same story, but in a much more direct way. If AHIMA and other ICD-10 proponents don’t work hard to change the narrative of ICD-10 through a lobbyist or a grass roots campaign, then I don’t see any reason why ICD-10 won’t be delayed again. The good part is that any effort to do this will likely be supported and amplified by organizations like CMS. The bad part is that other organizations like the AMA are fighting the opposite battle. However, being quiet means that the other side wins by default.

Top 5 Most Influential People in Healthcare

Posted on September 8, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

There are a whole bunch of top 10, top 50, and top 100 lists going around right now. It’s always interesting to browse through these lists. If you’re on the list, you love seeing your name or organization’s name in lights. When someone makes a list, you can almost always disagree with something on their list, which drives a good conversation.

As I was thinking about all these lists, I saw one that listed the 100 most influential people in healthcare. As I looked through the list, I didn’t really agree with the list. I knew where they were coming from, but everyone on their list was on a macro level. While those people have influence over the healthcare system as a whole, I think there are much bigger influences over the healthcare we receive.

Here’s my list of the top 5 most influential people in healthcare:

  1. The Patient
  2. The Parent of a Child
  3. The Caregiver for a Senior
  4. The Spouse of the Patient
  5. The Patient Advocate

That’s right. The patient and the people who care about and advocate for that patient are the most influential and powerful people when it comes to the healthcare you receive. There is literally nothing more powerful in healthcare than this.

This applies to patients getting care from the existing healthcare system, but also applies to the broader terms of health and wellness. Nothing is more powerful than a patient that cares about their health and wellness. The only thing that comes close is a loved one who cares about that patient. It’s a powerful force and one that we haven’t leveraged enough in healthcare.

Sure. The big names in healthcare that make huge sums of money in high profile roles have an impact on the overall state of healthcare. However, even they aren’t stronger than an empowered patient.

Trying to Regulate Twitter

Posted on August 26, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently saw a bunch of people tweeting about a conference in Milan which was supposedly trying to regulate the use of Twitter at the medical meeting. It turns out that the post about what you should tweet about at the meeting was mostly a joke and the comments that were highlighted were largely taken out of context. Plus, it wasn’t the organizer of the event that did the post, but just a participant in the conference. Because of the stir up, the post was taken down, but Dr. Bryan Vartabedian captured a piece of the post in his commentary:

The social side of any conference is important, and Twitter, being part of the social media, will naturally show that side. There is, however, a danger that the orchestra’s symphony will be drowned out by foot-shuffling, program brandishing, and a general clucking and chattering.

Ironically, this story ends up being a case of where Twitter can go wrong. It’s easy to misconstrue what people mean in a blog post or on Twitter. I have it happen all the time with the blog posts I write. I’m often amazed at people’s responses to my blog post since they either miss the point of my post or they think I’m making a point which is definitely not the case. Over time I think I’ve gotten better at this, but with thousands of readers over thousands of blog posts there’s bound to be a miscommunication. The great thing is that once I engage them, there’s usually clarity. But I digress…

Regardless of the particular situation at the medical meetings in Milan, the discussion of regulating Twitter (feel free to insert other social media as well) is a really good one. Although, it doesn’t just apply to meetings. I’ve seen many people try and regulate what’s done on all sorts of hashtags or other social media. I find the efforts people make to control other people on social media entertaining.

I’m sure this says a lot about me, but when someone tries to regulate what’s said or done on a hashtag on Twitter (meeting or otherwise), it just makes me want to do the opposite. While I have that innate need to not be controlled (some might call it rebellion), the reality is that I take a much more pragmatic approach to people’s suggestions about what should be said or done with a hashtag. I use a simple measure: “Will their suggestion make me a better part of the community?” (Yes, communities come together around hashtags) If I think that someone’s suggestion is a good one that will make me a better part of that community, then I usually listen. If I don’t think their suggestion matters or actually detracts from the community, then I ignore. Do I make mistakes? Absolutely, but this is my approach to it.

My personal approach aside, the reality is that even if you want to control what happens on Twitter and with certain hashtags, you can’t! If someone wants to be a bad actor in a hashtag community, then they’re going to do it. Bad community actors aren’t usually listening to the other people in the community anyway. So, trying to police it usually just leaves you dirtying the conversation stream even more.

Personally, I love the diversity and freedom that’s seen by participants in a Twitter stream. It tells me a lot about the person or company. Plus, I like the human elements of Twitter as well. I love to see that someone’s excited about a conference, their puppy, a great meal, a certain vendor, etc. Those that only talk about these things I can easily block if needed, but the reality is that a tweet is so easily consumed I can skip over any that don’t interest me.

I know many people hate when a Twitter stream is overwhelmed with vendor tweets at a conference as well. This doesn’t bother me much. It tells me a lot about the vendor as well. If they don’t care enough to be thoughtful in their tweeting, do they also not care enough about their product? Plus, if they’re spamming the stream with sales tweets, is that how I’ll be treated as a customer? This is good for me to know and so I don’t mind seeing their true form on Twitter.

With that said, I have found that the quality of a hashtag Twitter stream is directly proportional to the number of humans that are tweeting on that hashtag. Social media is about connecting people and so it makes sense that when more people (as opposed to no personality companies) are participating, then it’s a better experience.

I’m sure many will still try and influence what’s done on a Twitter stream. More power to them, but it’s a losing battle. Instead of trying to regulate Twitter, I think we’re better served encouraging and promoting those people and tweets that are adding value to the hashtag community. Plus, we can contribute value to the stream ourselves. There are bad actors in every community in the world. However, if enough good people are on board adding value, then the bad actors fade into the background.