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8 Social Media Tips for Physicians

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   May 03, 2012

This article appears in the April 2012 issue of Healthcare Marketing Advisor.

  1. Develop a social media policy. This is true for all institutions no matter their size—even a small mom-and-pop clinical ­practice with one provider needs to have a social media policy. Remember, your employees will be on social media, and unless you have policy for behavior, you can't define how they are going to engage, says Mayo Clinic's Farris K. Timimi, MD. The AMA offers a set of guidelines.

  2. Be clear that the thoughts and views expressed are yours and not the hospital's or group practice's.
  3. Stay professional. A good rule to follow is that the same conversations you can have in a public elevator or Starbucks, you can have online. Something that you would not do in ­public—such as using unflattering language or discussing personal patient information—shouldn't be done online either.
  4. Determine what level of personal information you want to share. Dana Lewis's advice for doctors is if they state on their physician profile that they enjoy skiing and ­hiking with their family, it is fine to post a picture of them ­hiking or talking about that. That type of information can make ­doctors more approachable, says Lewis, interactive ­marketing specialist for Swedish Medical Center. But it's up to ­physicians to figure out what they are ­comfortable with.
  5. Start small. Physicians who are interested in social media should start with Twitter, suggests Timimi. "There is utility in claiming your Twitter username—names are not recycled—and it should be suitable across multiple platforms, so I'd use the same name across LinkedIn and Facebook, and then decide whom you want to engage with and engage."
  6. All content doesn't have to be created and posted on the same day. A lot of content is still relevant months later, so bring it back up, says Lewis. "If you do anything like live stream videos, definitely package your efforts and show them off because they are still great resources after they happen."
  7. Be cautious of how you use Facebook. "A practice or department can have a Facebook page, but if a physician has one, they should be cautious about friending patients," says Timimi, explaining that there are always tags that occur that extend beyond the physicians themselves.
  8. Putting a "like me on Facebook" or "follow me on Twitter" icon on a Web page is not social media, Timimi says. "If your goal is truly engaging consumers to improve healthcare and achieve brand recognition for your institution, there has to be more conversation than that."

This article appears in the April 2012 issue of Healthcare Marketing Advisor.

Carrie Vaughan is a senior editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

Follow Carrie Vaughan on Twitter.

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