Social Media Options


There have been four revolutions that have fundamentally changed the way we communicate, according to Clay Shirky, a New York University professor and social media theorist: the printing press, the telephone and telegraph, television and radio, and social media.

On rating sites, such as Yelp and DrScore, and social networking sites, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, patients are connecting and sharing information about their health and about you. You have a choice: You can participate in that conversation, or you can let it happen without you.

In a survey of 4,000 physicians, QuantiaMD found that nearly 90% of physicians reported using Facebook for personal use and 67% used it professionally. So what about the other 33%?

Physicians cite many barriers to using social media. The most common include lack of time, failure to see return on investment, concerns about patient safety, and not knowing where to begin.

While there are scores of social media options available to physicians, I recommend starting with the following: having a website or blog and using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube or Vimeo. These sites will help you to engage with and educate your patients and prospective patients, market and build your practice, gain professional clout, and protect your online reputation.

Website/Blog. Having a static practice website that is never updated is passé. Sure, your website should include information about scheduling, hours, and products, but it should also be regularly updated with new information. In this way, your website can also serve as your blog, a place where you can post articles on topics of interest to your current and prospective patients. It’s best to start with a website/blog so you can create relevant content to share on social media sites.

Facebook. The rock star of social networking sites was launched in 2004 and recently reached over 1 billion active users. Your patients, current and prospective, as well as your competition, are on Facebook. And you should be, too. Facebook allows for you to have both personal and professional pages, to add friends, to categorize friends, and to even "unfriend" friends. You can exchange both public and private messages, and unlike Twitter, you have the ability to monitor what others post on your page; and you can delete inappropriate material when necessary.

Twitter. This online social networking site allows users to create messages that are up to 140 characters, known as "tweets." As such, it can be challenging for a newbie to know what to say, how to say it cleverly enough to get "retweeted" or shared, and how to get people engaged long-term. Benefits for physicians, however, include engaging in real-time conversation, sharing breaking news, and discovering hot topics.

LinkedIn. This social networking site is used primarily by professionals and is effective for making business contacts, hiring, and networking.

Video. You should consider having a YouTube or Vimeo account because a video post is 50 times more likely to get picked up in a Google search than is a written post, and because 3 billion videos are watched on YouTube every day. Video also allows prospective patients to get to know you and increases your visibility as an educator and expert in the field.

You can ignore all of this and hope it goes away, but the younger generation of physicians entering the field today isn’t. Or you could contract out your social media work to a professional company. Or you and your staff could do it. I’ll speak about these options in future columns.

DR. BENABIO is in private practice in San Diego. Visit his consumer health blog or connect with him on Twitter @Dermdoc and on Facebook (DermDoc).

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