Establishing a professional identity on social media

Creating professional social media profiles can help physicians showcase their skill set to prospective patients, provide factual health information to their communities, and connect with colleagues across the globe. According to PatientPop, 77% of patients utilize online reviews to choose a physician, making an online presence a critical part of today’s medical practice.

Getting started

The first step to establishing yourself online is to create your personal brand. You’ll need to decide how you want your brand to be perceived and then work to create that perception through your actions. For example, if you want to be seen by patients as an expert in cardiology, you should be diligent about sharing new research and treatment guidelines as they are released.

Establishing a personal brand acts as a form of protection as well, allowing you the opportunity to counteract any negative reviews or remarks that you find on the web.

Using your power for good

The internet has changed the way consumers find health information. In this day and age, a patient can find any information they’re looking for within seconds without realizing that it may not be reliable. But as a physician, the information you share holds weight. By interacting on social media, you have the opportunity to combat the myths and misinformation that are out there and make a difference for people around the world.

In order to make your efforts count, it is important to understand the audience you’d like to target and how to best reach them. According to Spredfast, the best social media platforms for the healthcare industry are Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s a quick overview of each one:

  • Facebook: More than half of internet users in each age group are on Facebook and 75% of users spend more than 20 minutes on the site each day.
  • Twitter: 86% of the site’s 317 million monthly active users are looking for news. Better yet, 64% of those users will share news on other social networks after finding it on Twitter.
  • Pinterest: Men represent 40% of new sign-ups for the site and 66% of women 25-54 are on Pinterest. Users average 14.2 minutes on the site per visit.

Each of these platforms can be used to quickly share relevant and accurate information, which is an essential step in creating your brand as a physician.

When to tread carefully

As you dive into social media, it is important to keep in mind that you need to abide by the same privacy and medical ethics considerations that you do in the real world.

If you plan to interact with people other than colleagues, you will need to be careful not to take any action that could be seen as giving direct medical advice. To be safe, it is recommended that you include a disclaimer in your profile to help set expectations for those who follow you.

As far as privacy goes, the usual guidelines for HIPAA compliance apply. Never share information that can identify a patient—you can be held responsible for breaching doctor-patient confidentiality if they can identify themselves.

Finally, it is important to maintain a professional demeanor while interacting online. Resist the urge to engage with trolls or people behaving in a hostile manner on your timeline. Once something is out there, it can’t be taken back so your best bet is to provide a polite, scripted response and then take it offline if it needs to be addressed further.