The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Breast Cancer Special Interest Group’s (SIG) Facebook page represents its most successful online presence, results of a project to build an online presence for the Breast Care SIG that would inform and promote breast care nursing has found.

Despite the exponential growth of social networks, the power of new media to bring nurse specialists together has just begun to be tapped, said Julia S. Whiteker, MSN, RN, AOCNS®, manager of Breast Cancer at Indiana University Health, North Hospital, Carmel, Indiana. Nursing organizations such as ONS and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses have led the way, but level of interest specificity and limited barriers to leverage the Internet has opened the door for very specific subspecialties to create networks as well, Whiteker told those attending the Oncology Nursing Society 36th Annual Congress.

Specific goals of the project were to connect isolated breast care nurses, provide a space to share evidence-based practices and news, promote the SIG as the go-to organization for breast cancer nursing information, and bring new members, especially younger nurses, to the Breast SIG and ONS. The media venues chosen were Facebook, Twitter, and a blog on the Breast SIG virtual community site. The Breast Care SIG Social Media Editor (a new leadership position), and new social media policies were created and approved.

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A database of online sources of real-time information to inform the media streams and a process for providing regular updates was developed and implemented. Project goals were evaluated using the Facebook Insights tools, Twitter counts, response to calls for bloggers, and monthly SIG membership reports from ONS. Whiteker reported that between January 2010 and January 2011, Breast Care SIG membership increased 33%; Facebook membership grew by 2,6000% in 10 months. The membership is represented by more than 25 countries and 38% of membership is younger than 35 years. In March 2011 alone, more than 8,000 Facebook member activities were posted, including “likes,” demonstrating engagement.

While the Breast Cancer SIG’s Facebook page, which is still growing rapidly, has achieved many of the project’s goals, future challenges include bridging breast care nurses from Facebook membership to active SIG participation. Whiteker said that by sharing experiences, processes and results, the group may be able to help other SIGs better leverage the new media to grow their online presence. A plan to add a YouTube channel is underway.