Posted in social spotlight

Social Spotlight: Nora Cutcliffe (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of my interview with BioPharma Consultant, Dr Nora Cutcliffe.

In Part 1, I spoke with Nora about the role social media plays in her work and she shared some super tips on getting the most out of Twitter and LinkedIn. In today’s interview, we pick up our conversation again.


Hi, Nora, I’m excited to learn more about how you use social media in your work. Can you tell us which topics hold your interest online?

NC: On Twitter, I try to stay focused on topics related to pharmacy-based immunization, i.e. within the ‘common ground’ of the 2 circles/fields I described in Part 1 of this interview. For example, if I see a detailed report on the future of pharmacy, I check to see if immunization is mentioned. Or if I come across a new update on immunization practice, I try to confirm if the role of pharmacists is acknowledged. If yes, then I’ll tweet about the topline conclusion(s), but if not, I may ask the organization, “Why not?”, i.e. by Twitter, private email, or other means – perhaps in person at a conference.

Nora, this is such an important step – and not one everybody takes. If, as healthcare communicators, we are to build our credibility and trustworthiness we should always check our sources before we share or re-share them. Tell us more about the next step once you’ve established credibility.

NC: Recently, I’ve been pleased to notice a new trend for continuing education (CME) modules, in that CME immunization topics are include pharmacists on their panel of key opinion leaders (KOLs), alongside physicians and nurses (e.g. via @mdBriefCase). Other CMEs are also being  created specifically by and for pharmacists on vaccine topics (e.g. via @PharmacyU). I like to share these on Twitter too, since many PAI and other immunizers might not otherwise know such cross-functional resources exist.

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For a newly published report or CME, my usual approach is to ask: “Which organization needs this info and/or would be proud to RT this to followers (since it casts them in a positive light)?” Then I re-direct the piece to the association(s) at their Twitter handle(s), i.e. as a pre-packaged gift, if you will. Sometimes I tactfully add additional or more current resources in an attempt to achieve a win-win-win outcome – i.e. for the initial tweeting organization, for the group posting the Retweet (RT), and for myself, as I gain credibility as a specialist who is able to connect the dots. I also like to cross-pollinate by tweeting updates from Canada, US, EU, and AU, i.e. to provide for broader context for international experts with an interest in the field of Pharmacists-As-Immunizers.

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Even within Canada, where each of our 13 jurisdictions has a different scope of pharmacy practice, along with variation in immunization recommendations and/or funding, I find there is significant engagement for tweets that summarize local (provincial/territorial) and national data.

Again another important step Nora. The wonderful thing about Twitter is that it’s a global conversation – it’s important that we acknowledge this in our work. Learning from others and sharing best practice is critical. Do you think organizations are doing enough in this area?

NC: A key observation I’ve made is that several organizations in health care (particularly including public health associations that oversee immunization) appear to handle their social media (SM) activities with very limited budgets and/or staffing. Many such associations may tweet only 1-2 times per week. In these cases, account administrators may be actively looking for relevant content to RT (to help keep their feed alive) and may tend to be more receptive to retweeting general news updates. At the other extreme, some other Twitter accounts may only post their own association materials, according to a pre-scheduled calendar, and might not post RTs of any kind. However, it appears that most accounts will post RTs to supplement their own tweets, and these accounts typically have greater engagement with followers overall.

This is something I’ve seen repeated across many organizations and it’s so interesting that you’ve observed it and stepped into the breach. Have you observed anything else when organizations use social media to disseminate key information?

NC: Another phenomenon related to scarce resources is that some organizations tend to send out email blasts, but do not simultaneously post the same info on their existing Twitter accounts (or ditto for LinkedIn). In these cases, it’s easy for me to repackage the info from an email notice into a tweet which can then be readily sent as an RT from an official/association Twitter account, again gaining visibility for both of us. It’s surprising how many such gaps exist, even just considering my own daily email alerts, so I see this as an excellent opportunity for me to leverage resources by helping such organizations reach a broader audience.

You’ve clearly demonstrated your social media savvy and one of the things that strike me most forcibly about you is how you are so thorough in your approach to social media. For someone who is newly starting out on this path, what advice would you offer to them?

NC: Thanks Marie!I think the most valuable learning approach is to identify a few SM ‘gurus’ in your specific area and follow them as gold standards for your own practice. By paying close attention to the nature of individual posts and replies, there is so much to absorb and apply.

For me, several leaders and/or organizations jump to mind when I think of who is rocking SM, at least on Twitter, both in Canada and abroad (and considering 3 different content streams):

That’s a great mix – tell us some more about why you chose these leaders.

NC: It’s readily apparent that these top influencers have several skills and approaches in common; they demonstrate knowledge, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm, while also expressing gratitude, courtesy and a personal touch in their individual replies – all of which encourage engagement and greater sharing among followers. So I believe these are essential elements of a winning formula for SM leaders.

Absolutely! Any other suggestions for social media newbies?

NC: Apart from following experts, I would also suggest attending a live workshop in your local area on at least one SM platform of interest. For me, it was very reassuring to learn during (or after) the main presentations that others had similar questions to get off the ground, or that even those with significant experience had more advanced questions that allowed me to take a test-drive on the road ahead.

That’s a super point Nora. I know from my own experience way back when I started I was afraid to ask many questions for fear of appearing stupid. I thought everyone who was using social media had it sussed. It’s easy to forget that we all had to start from scratch at some stage.  Any other tips to share?

NC: To look at a few simple mechanical tips (for Twitter), I would suggest the following:

  • Aim to include a graphic or video with as many tweets as possible.
    • A super-easy way to begin is with an image from a Google search (or other source of free stock photos, as recommended by @JBBC), and then copy this image into Powerpoint by creating a single slide in ppt format. Then, convert/save this to jpeg format to post on Twitter. This allows you to add eye-catching borders, which you can customize to create a signature look for your brand. Even better, Powerpoint allows you to insert additional text (in a text box), so you can extend your message well beyond 280 characters. A font size of at least 24 (in ppt) seems to work well for the final tweeted image, e.g. as viewed on a mobile phone.
  • In cases where you would normally send out a quick RT, consider the option to “RT with comment”, which allows you to add your opinion, set the tweet into context for your specific audience, and/or send it directly to another follower (so they receive a notification) by inserting their Twitter handle.
    • In your own comment, avoid repeating the same headline or text from the original tweet, but insert new wording to add relevant detail. In this way, you can provide further ‘bait’ for followers to open and read the original tweet, and to understand your take on the story.
    • If urls are included in the original tweet, I like to open the link(s) to read the full story, and potentially get a quote. Where possible, I try to directly acknowledge the relevant expert (or author and/or publisher) by looking up their Twitter handles (using the Twitter search function), so I would end up with some of the following pieces in the comment for the RT: “text text text @expert @author @publisher @organization #hashtag #hashtag”. This allows these folks to see that you are promoting your work, so they are much more likely to engage with your subsequent content in terms of follows/likes/RTs.
  • To save characters in your tweet (i.e. to claim more ‘real estate’ for critical text/hashtags/handles), be sure to use https://bitly.com/ or some other URL shortener to condense URL links.

This has been a fascinating interview – I’ve even learned a thing or two from you! So I like to finish these interviews by asking folks to share a favourite quote. Do you have one you’d like to share with us?

NC: In my case, I’ve made very gradual progress with SM over the past few years, with lots of upside potential still ahead. So the following quotes really resonate with me, particularly since trial-and-error can be the best teacher, and since the goal of ‘conquering’ SM continues to be a moving target. Also, it’s fascinating that while these quotes were penned long ago, they are still remarkably applicable in our modern-day digital world!

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. (Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, born 1835)

You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. Just take your next step. (Unknown)

The expert in anything was once a beginner. (Helen Hayes, Actress, born 1900)

And for final inspiration, if I may, here’s one last quote that popped up on Twitter as I’ve been wrapping up my thoughts – must have been Karma!

If you never stop LEARNING you’ll never stop EARNING. (tweeted by @jerryacuff Jan. 19, 2019.

That’s a perfect quote to end our interview on – in social media we never stop learning and that’s what I find most rewarding about working in this space. Thanks so much Nora for sharing your insight with us – this has been a super interview.

You can follow Nora on Twitter @NoraCutcliffe and connect with her on LinkedIn.


This post is part of an ongoing conversation that explores how patients, healthcare professionals, and researchers use social media to communicate their work. For more interviews, click here

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