Managing your social media presence

10 Dec 2018

By Lillian Erdahl

Social media is omnipresent in our modern society. According to the Pew Research Center, seven out of ten Americans use social media. Even those who do not actively use social media will have their pictures and words shared by others. There are many sites that may be used to comment on doctors and our practices. Since it is ubiquitous, physicians benefit from being savvy regarding social media whether they use it or not. Outlining why and how to use social media can allow you to use it effectively without being overwhelmed.


Defining your objectives

When thinking about starting or growing your professional social media presence, start by asking “Why am I on social media?”. Why are surgeons on social media? Wagner, et al found that 69.6% of surgeons surveyed reported social media as beneficial or very beneficial for professional development and 22% responded that social media is their preferred method of networking and communication. I use social media to connect with physicians, researchers, and advocates with similar interests. A few of my interests are the treatment of breast cancer; surgical education; and diversity, equity, and inclusion for physicians. Once you know the why, you can determine the how.


Choosing the platform(s)

Since we are having a tweetchat for this topic, it may be a little heavy on Twitter strategy. However, physicians are using many other platforms to cultivate an online presence including LinkedIn, Doximity, Researchgate, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Whatsapp. Many physicians also write blogs or produce podcasts. If you are new to social media or looking to refine your presence, talk to colleagues who are doing similar work and ask them which platform(s) they use and why the find them to be beneficial.


Building your profile

What should be in your social media profile? Again, think about your goals for social media. Who is your audience and what do you want them to know about you? Start with a relevant picture that is professional such as a headshot or a picture of you speaking at a conference. Use clear language to describe you as a professional and your relevant interests or expertise. Look at the guidelines provided by the platform for suggestions. For example, LinkedIn gives advice on how to build a successful network profile. Ask a colleague to review your profile and give feedback.


Making social media work for you

When I discuss building a social media presence with healthcare professionals, I encourage them to organize it to work effectively for their goals and life. Many applications send frequent notifications which can be overwhelming. Get to know the settings and decide how to make the alerts work with your daily life and social media goals. Many platforms allow you to curate the content you see by subject or using lists of users. Content on some platforms can be searched by hashtags. How do you know which hashtags are relevant? There are several sites and tools to help identify relevant hashtags. I recommend starting with the Healthcare Hashtag Project.


Avoiding the pitfalls

Effective social media starts with consistency. Set measurable goals for yourself and budget time in your calendar to complete them. Inconsistency in posting can cause your audience to disengage. Examples might be: one original tweet or Instagram post/day, participation in one monthly webinar or online journal club, or updating your online research profile monthly. Read published best practice guidelines for social media use in healthcare and be mindful about protecting patient privacy and maintaining professionalism when posting.


Join @womensurgeons with  Dr. Lillian Erdahl (@LillianErdahlMD) and Dr. Susan Pitt (@susieQP8) for a tweetchat on December 17th, 2018 at 8 pm Eastern on managing your #SoMe presence by following #AWSchat. If you haven’t participated in a tweetchat with us before, check out this tutorial written by Dr. Heather Yeo to know more.


Lillian Erdahl, MD, FACS is an Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Iowa where she practices Breast and General Surgery. She is also Associate Program Director in General Surgery; head of the Iowa City VA Breast Clinic; and Communications Director for @UIowa_Surgery. Her research interests include breast cancer prevention and treatment, faculty development, and surgical education. Her work for gender equity in medicine includes involvement in the Association of Women Surgeons as the new Vice Chair of the Communications Committee and work with @PROWDWomen.




Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.


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