Physicians: Use social media to make your voice heard

Recently, I attended a conference on social media. The conference was geared towards health care professionals who had a product they wanted to perfect and promote. In speaking with some of these participants, many of whom were physicians, I realized they had no clear marketing plan.  Although a clear and concise marketing plan would help sell their product, I understood that they were working full time and their product was more of a “side gig.”

A marketing plan is essential to promoting yourself as well as your product. Social media is an easy way to connect with others. I inquired about the social media platforms that these physicians were using, and I was amazed to find that these physicians were not on social media.  I asked, “What do you mean by you are not on social media”? I was perplexed. I thought everyone was on social media!  I heard various responses to my question. Some of these physicians were concerned about HIPAA violations and patient privacy; there were also concerns about being targeted with slanderous comments. These are all reasonable concerns but here is my is my concern. While we sit back others push forward!

One of the participants of this conference who I will refer to as  Dr. Bob wanted to start a weight loss program outside of his full-time employed position. Dr. Bob mentioned his credentials; he had additional training in weight loss management. I have no doubt that he is well versed in weight loss management and can offer sound, safe advice on this topic. Unfortunately, Dr. Bob had no social media presence. I know I will cause some controversy here, but I am OK with it. While many successful “health coaches” with no medical training offer weight loss programs, Dr. Bob, who has expertise in this subject, is struggling to get his voice heard. Dr. Bob has the knowledge to safely assist a patient who is interested in weight loss, but he has no way of reaching out to offer his services.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand there are other traditional ways such as print advertisements to promote yourself and your product, but without a social media presence, it is really hard. Have you wondered why printed newspapers throughout the country are losing readership? Potential new patients and your current patients are on social media.

Think of social media as a way to engage others. You are not treating a patient; you are educating.  I would suggest providing quality content that adds value. People do not like spam. Sell 10 percent of the time and provide valuable information 90 percent of the time. People will spend more time on your site if there is something in it for them. Video, polls and colorful images get the most engagement. Consider a pinned post that sits at the top of all your other posts that describes how you can help someone. This can be a video made with your phone. I believe that social media posts should be made in good taste and I recommend staying away from controversial topics.

A large following will not happen overnight, this may take some time but at least get started and try it. If you do not know how to get started look at what others are doing. Notice what type of posts get engagement. My advice would be to start with one or two platforms and see what is working. You may have to modify your technique or move on to another platform. Take a few minutes every day, every other day or a couple of times a week but do something! There are plenty of physician groups that can help get you started. Comment below if you would like some suggestions. By the way, “Comment below if you would like some suggestions” is a call to action and you should be using them in your posts.

Physicians, you are the expert! Show others what you know. Social media allows you to display your authority; if you are not on social media, you are missing out. As you sit back and wonder why no one listening, “health coaches” will continue to push forward.

Sharon McLaughlin is a surgeon who blogs at her self-titled site, Sharon McLaughlin, MD.

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