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Whether they like it or not, physicians are in the public space. Physician and social media pro Dr. Bryan Vartabedian says it’s important that physicians shape their own online conversation, rather than letting others shape it for them. Here are three tips to get started.
“Should I create a presence on social media and enter the public space?” – For practicing physicians, that may no longer a relevant question.
Bryan Vartabedian, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine, who writes the blog, “33 Charts,” on the convergence of social media and medicine, says physicians are in the public space, whether they want to be or not.
“The moment we lay a hand on a patient we become part of the public conversation,” says Vartabedian. “We’re in patient reviews and physician reviews. We’re in public dialogue. Rather than letting other people shape how you look and how you are seen in public, one of the arguments for being an active participate in content creation and dialogue is you get to create the reality that other people see.”
While some physicians view social media as potentially dangerous territory for their career, Vartabedian says physicians should see the potential that social media provides.
“Our online presence and digital footprint are the new resume,” he says. “People will go and see what you’ve said and what you’ve created. A lot of doctors see that from the risk perspective. But we have to move from viewing our public presence from the risk perspective into the opportunity perspective. Visibility creates opportunity.”
For many physicians, creating and managing social media accounts may seem daunting and time-consuming. But here are three steps Vartabedian recommends to help you get started:
1. Set a goal – “I always encourage doctors to think about what they want to accomplish,” Vartabedian says. “Are you there to promote a practice? Are you promoting something of your own? You need to have a sense of what you want to achieve.”
2. Find a role model – “Rather than reinventing the wheel, look for a great role model, who is currently doing what you want to do on social media,” he says. “You might want to find two or three practices that have amazing Facebook pages and study them. See how they conduct themselves. Find what you like and what you don’t like. Spend time watching and listening. It’s important to know and understand what the standards are in an online community before you jump into a conversation.”
3. Pick your platforms – “One of the biggest challenges is physicians have a limited amount of time, so what’s really important is to decide where you want to live,” he says. “In other words, you need to pick your platforms and decide where you’re going to focus your attention. It may depend on the demographics that you want to hit, but the biggest ones are obviously Twitter and Facebook.”
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