It is good to see so many physicians jumping into social media venues such as twitter, facebook, and LinkedIn. However, few medical schools or hospitalizations are offering education in how to use these tools. I'm no expert but, as a physician, I'd like to offer my thoughts on this issue, especially with respect to twitter.
Before you open an account on twitter, or any other social media venue, think about what you will and will not do. Set your own personal ground rules. Then, check with your institution. Read their social media policy and talk with their CIO about the institution ground rules. If your institution doesn't have a social media policy, consider helping them write one. I also suggest you read the blogger code of ethics. Check with your specialty's governing body to see their recommendations. For example, the AAP has a nice piece entitled "Making the Most of Social Media." Also, think about what you want to say. What is your voice? Do you want to be comical or educational? Are you reaching out primarily to patients or to colleagues? Will your tone be negative or positive? It is much easier to answer these questions before you start posting information.
There are some basic things you should learn about twitter. First and foremost, don't tweet anything until you have followed for awhile. Follow others in your field to get a feel for what is being discussed and how to use the site. To find people to follow, search #health, #FF and join chat rooms. Also search for specific topics that interest you by using hashtags. Read the twitter rules on how many people you can follow vs how many are following you. To get others to follow you, post information that is interesting, and be polite. Remember, social media is social. Use your manners. Thank others for following you, for mentioning you and for retweeting your posts. I don't recommend you use twitter to blast your colleagues, your institution or your patients. While controversy is good for getting attention, this practice will cause you to lose followers in the long run.
One dilemma is where to find content. Of course, you can write a blog and create all your own content. That would probably a full time job. Many people repost things that they have read on other venues, found in articles or seen on the news. Some use a combination of these types of sources. You should use what feels most comfortable to you. Don't invest any more time than you have. Again, do what is comfortable. If it starts to feel like work, then cut back.
Don't forget that there are many platforms for social media in medicine. They play off each other. A moderate amount of exposure on several different platforms can be more effective than high exposure on a single platform. Twitter, facebook fanpages and LinkedIn can all play off one another. Facebook fanpages and personal websites may allow for more dialogue with your patients. HealthTap gives you access to potential patients outside your practice. Doximity and Google + can be great ways to connect with colleagues. Explore your options.
There are many benefits to using social media. One is search engine optimization, or SEO. This leverages your social media presence to make you more visible to patients and potential patients. Today, more patients go to the internet to look for a physician, than to the yellow pages. Utilizing SEO can make your name show up on the first page of their search. It is also an excellent tool for patient education. This can be done without violating HIPAA by discussing disease entities rather than case studies or individual patients. Information about a specific disease, disorder, or commonly asked patient question can be answered once and posted to several platforms. Patients can then go to these platforms and search for this information at a later time or at their convenience. Social media is also a great way to find and interact with colleagues. Some platforms, such as Doximity, are specifically for interaction among colleagues. Several of the twitter chat rooms are for colleagues more than patients, such as #MDchat, #hcsm and #hcsmvac. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with some of these and find your best fit.
Social media is a smorgasboard. Don't shy away from it. Learn you and your institution's ground rules, then sample a few things and see what you like. We will all be better for your participation.
~Dr Nan N~