Why I recommend LinkedIn to physicians

Why I recommend LinkedIn to physicians

When I talk to physicians about dipping their toes into the social media waters, I advise starting with LinkedIn.  Spend about 45 minutes or so and create a LinkedIn profile, which is essentially a digital translation of your CV.  LinkedIn profiles get ranked highest among the social media platforms, and can push down the influence of negative news stories or physician rating sites.

Howard Luks is a social media thought leader, and whose opinion I respect tremendously.  He wrote an insightful piece explaining why LinkedIn may not be right for doctors:

As a physician on LinkedIn, not only do you have a virtual “please sell to me” sign on your forehead, most will perceive their presence on LinkedIn as a huge waste of time.  Unless you are an aspiring entrepreneur, etc you will find that the connections you make on LinkedIn are weak at best. In addition, while your patients are looking you up online, for the most part they are not looking at your LinkedIn profile.

He goes on to suggest doctors spend their time on physician rating sites like Vitals or Healthgrades, Google+, or Yelp.

When it comes to establishing an online reputation, there are essentially two ways of doing it.

  1. “claiming” a profile on an existing physician rating site
  2. creating your own online presence, either with a website or through a social media platform

While I generally recommend the second approach of proactively defining yourself with social media, the first option of utilizing existing sites is viable.

First, much of the information in Vitals or Healthgrades is inaccurate, and can lead to the so-called Google Maps problem, where Google may use the information on these sites.

Second, physicians can leverage the high search engine visibility that these sites generally garner.

The downside of this approach is that these sites are for-profit and generally don’t have physicians’ best interests at heart.  Their physician profile pages are littered with ads, which can subtly imply a physician’s endorsement.

Also, consider the terms of service of one of these sites, which are heavily skewed against the doctor:

You acknowledge that your Physician-Provided Material may be used without restriction for any purpose whatsoever, commercial or otherwise, without any compensation or obligation to you.

Because of those reasons, I prefer doctors create social media profiles instead, where they have more control over how their online identity is controlled and presented.

Howard also recommends Google+ and Google Places for Business. However, there is more friction in taking this approach, namely the cumbersome way Google verifies your business address.  If this can be overcome, this does indeed have the highest search engine impact, as seen below:

Why I recommend LinkedIn to physicians

But any friction whatsoever prevents the majority of physicians from defining themselves online. From talking to doctors across the country, many are petrified of taking even minimal steps to be visible online.

Which brings us back to LinkedIn.

While it isn’t perfect for the reasons Howard mentioned, LinkedIn is a low-threat, low-resource, high-yield action.

I acknowledge that there are tradeoffs involved, and after considering those, continue to recommend it as a reasonable first step to establish a physician’s online reputation.

Why I recommend LinkedIn to physiciansKevin Pho is an internal medicine physician and co-author of Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. He is on the editorial board of contributors, USA Today, and is founder and editor, KevinMD.com, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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  • http://www.doctorbase.com/ Zach Landman, MD

    Great article and well stated with regards to the growing importance of social media presence and motives behind 3rd party review sites.

    The problem of reviews on these sites actually goes back to our medical school courses on statistics. Basically, sampling bias is occurring because the high activation energy required to leave a review on yelp or healthgrades purposefully samples strong and emotional experiences which tend to be largely negative. It’s also well known in our industry that negative reviews actually generate significantly more traffic and therefore improve ad-revenue which incentives this process further.

    In full disclosure as its Chief Medical Officer, DoctorBase was started 3 years ago for this main purpose of providing doctors a proactive way to manage their online reviews and social media presence. By significantly lowering the activation energy required to leave a google review (4 stars, which is a much more accurate representation of how most patients feel about their doctor.

    Until the priorities of patients and doctors are placed first (not ad revenue or web traffic), we will continue to observe this occurrence.

  • http://www.howardluksmd.com/orthopedic-social-media/ Howard Luks MD

    Well done… and well presented. I agree with you.. signing up for LinkedIn is relatively frictionless… But since making the decision to enter the social space is the hardest and consumes a significant amount of time for most docs… the time it takes to receive their postcard from Google should pale in comparison :-) The upside from a presence on Google and Google +, as we both know will benefit them far more in the end … especially if they start to build out their own presence via a blog or website.

    Good discussion this morning… I enjoyed it :-)
    Howard

  • http://www.bryantsstatisticalconsulting.com Donald Tex Bryant

    Linkedin is certainly the go to place for businessmen and businesswomen. I am beginning to see more groups that focus on healthcare and there are a few docs in them.

  • Ron Smith

    Hi, Kevin.

    I am not sorry to disagree. LinkedIn was nothing more that a technical resource looking for a need. It could all go away in one day and no one would miss it

    All I got was LinkedIn spam. It is worthless as a reputation tool and I wouldn’t consider anything listed there any better than an “Jobs wanted” ad in a local newspaper. I don’t pay attention to either of them.

    Respectfully,

    Ron Smith, MD
    www (adot) ronsmithmd (adot) com

    • http://www.kevinmd.com kevinmd

      I agree that networking using LinkedIn isn’t useful. What is useful is that their profiles get ranked high on Google searches, and you can fill LI profiles with professional information. Set it and forget it.

      If you want to engage further in social media, FB, Twitter, and Google+ are better options.

      But the “set it and forget it” LI option is for those who are hesitant or scared of an online presence. Which currently comprises of the majority of physicians.

      Kevin

      • Ron Smith

        Hi, Kevin. The Linked profiles are not even close to as important is substantial article publishing. I created both my own web practice web site and one called www (a dot) thepediatricguide (dot) com where I’ve published a ton of articles for my parents’ benefit.

        Those stand out no more than a candle on a sunny day to the recommendations between friends who engage in word of mouth or social networking on Facebook. I constantly hear from new patients that its when they asked all their friends (on Facebook or in person) that they found out about our practice. I’m do not have a Facebook page either.

        Note that I said our practice, because they are coming not just because of me. The reputation of the practice comes from all of the staff and myself.

        No one has ever said they found out about me on Linked In, Twitter, or any such place where talk is cheap. No one ever said they started coming to me because of my ebook The Pediatric Guide for Parents on iTunes, and its not that its a bad book either.

        Warmest regards,

        Ron Smith, MD
        www (adot) ronsmithmd (adot) com

  • buzzkillerjsmith

    If business types are there, I don’t want to be there. Just say no to fooling around with this stuff. Keep it anon. You heard it here first.

  • Rginsberg2

    A very sensible, well- reasoned approach to the online profile and reputation!

  • Victor Trismegistus Lyc-Vamp D

    Personally the only place on the Internet where I put my real data is Linkedin. The other social media I use mainly on a “friends only basis” and therefore use the fictional data of my “alter ego” Draman. They serve me well as a means of keeping contact with old and new friends.

    Politico-social reasons keep me from advancing too much on Linkedin, though. To be sure, up to now it didn’t serve me much.

    If I would keep a site I’d rather program it myself. Haven’t much time for that, tough.