Social media is an incredibly powerful tool, but when it comes to utilizing it in the medical field, certain rules apply. Here are some best practices for successfully using social media as a doctor:
DO be on multiple platforms.
Different audiences are on different platforms, so having active profiles on the most popular ones (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, and others) offers opportunities to reach more people and post different kinds of content.
DO engage with patients - make it about them.
It’s a harsh truth of social media: nobody cares about you - people care about themselves. Especially as a physician, not many people will follow you or engage with your brand if you make it all about you. Engage with patients, offer questions, and post amusing or inspiring things, but don’t just make it about you!
DO educate and offer value.
Patients and industry players will be more likely to follow and engage with you on social media when you offer value through education and interesting content. Because their visits are infrequent, patients are unlikely to follow physicians on social media…unless you make it worth their while. Posting interesting stories, photos, facts, and news can increase the chances of new people engaging with your practice online.
DO post often.
Nothing is worse than a business’s social media profile that hasn’t been utilized in three years (or three months, for that matter). If you’re going to be on social media (which you should), it requires commitment - you need to post often (daily for Twitter, weekly for a blog, at least weekly for Facebook, etc) and get people interested in what you have to say. Dormant accounts don’t do any good, so keep up with it!
DO post “behind the scenes” updates.
Let’s face it: people LOVE being on the inside. If you can offer insights, photos, and stories about what goes on behind the scenes, you will reap the rewards. But these updates have to be good - show the world what you’re working on, what exciting new thing is coming next, what surgery really looks like, or what your office staff is up to. Get people excited about what’s happening at your practice
DO make it abundantly clear that anything offered on social media is not medical advice.
A disclaimer is an important part of a social media profile for any physician. Make it clear to followers that tweets, postings, and other content offered online is not medical advice, and encourage patients to come in for a visit if they are looking for medical attention.
DO NOT post medical advice.
I’m guessing that you don’t want to get in trouble for violating HIPAA regulations, so the best idea is to never post medical advice online. Education is good, but nothing can replace a face-to-face interaction between a medical professional and a patient, and social media isn’t likely going to be an avenue for accurate diagnosis anytime soon. Save yourself the headache of potential HIPAA violations and don’t offer advice online.
DO NOT post specific information about patients or medical cases.
If you feel the need to share information about a particular case online, never use real names or identifying aspects of the patient - always preserve anonymity. For instance, rather than discussing a case about John (real name), a middle-aged investment banker with a complex white cataract and a history of smoking, talk about a male patient you saw with a complex white cataract - it’s much safer.
DO NOT engage with naysayers.
If you’re on social media for any amount of time, you’re likely to encounter some naysayers and pessimists. Unfortunately these types of people are all to common online, but it’s important to remember: you can’t control what will be said by others, but you can always preserve your integrity and professionalism by controlling your response…and in these cases, it’s often best to not respond.