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Health Innovations through Social Media

August 1, 2011

KEYSTONE, Colo. - The Colorado Health Symposium wrapped up this weekend, after looking at new and innovative methods in health care. But the symposium also experimented with new ways of moving beyond the conference walls: It's called "Symposium University." Six college students received scholarships to the symposium - with the idea they would blog and tweet about what they saw.

Mannat Singh, who just received her Master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver, raced to the front of the line when she heard about the scholarships.

"For me, conferences always felt like it was a secret club that I couldn't wait to be able to get invited to. And now I'm invited. I love the fact that I'm able to share it with a lot of people."

Singh wrote a daily blog about her experiences. Symposium U also included live streaming of plenary sessions. It started as a pilot program between the Colorado Health Foundation (CHF) and the University of Colorado, and this year was directed to students who weren't able to attend the live sessions. It was such a success - reaching more than 18,000 Twitter users and getting more than 250 views on the live video stream - that next year they're hoping to expand it to other universities and institutions.

Chuck Reyman, vice president of communications with CHF, says social media may have their mundane side, but can also be an important way to share information.

"You can put quality, substantive, deep content into social media, and that's our charge, to do that. It opens up all kinds of communication channels for us."

Singh says the bloggers were taking in some of the same sessions, but all offer different perspectives.

She tried to capture the excitement she felt.

"I gave it a little disclaimer on the top of my blog saying I couldn't possibly do this justice. And I said that there was a buzz in the room: it was like a humming, like people's ideas were coming out, people were talking about it, people were excited."

And she has some advice for organizations worried about how to engage with social media: target your audience, put your message out there, and expect feedback.

The Symposium's social media channels are at bit.ly/COhealthsymposium

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO