Branding & Exposure

What Doctors Can Learn from Twitter

What Doctors Can Learn from Twitter

Social media platforms are a great way for doctors to spread awareness on health-related topics, manage their own reputations, market their practices, and attract new patients. Over 40% of individuals are using social media to read health-related information and reviews on doctors. 60% of individuals say that they trust the information posted online by doctors. Young individuals are 2x more likely to use social media for discussions on health-related topics. By becoming more involved online, you can control what patients say and see about you. You have the opportunity to set up an active online presence and drown out or respond to negative reviews.

When it comes down to it, instead of sitting back and letting others form opinions of you, doctor marketing allows you to create your own image and take control of your brand and reputation. Dr. Christian Sinclair, a physician from Kansas City Hospice, stresses that doctor social media has the potential to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship. “One way I see that power is through education. I can help inform the public, I can put the knowledge I have out there. And if there are patients or families who need this knowledge, I can help them because of this network.”

A majority of doctors are connecting with current and prospective patients, as well as other referring doctors on social networks such as Twitter. With over 319 individuals on Twitter, this social media platform is growing in popularity and offers huge potential for you to market yourself and your practice’s quality. However, because Twitter is its own world, it can be easy for a doctor such as yourself to get caught up in it. If you are on Twitter for your patients, your goal should be to lead them to more reputable information online. “By choosing a good mix of these medical profiles, especially those that tweet links to high-yield content, you are able to create an individually tailored and constantly updated curated source of medical information, freely available at any time” wrote Brian Secemsky, internal medicine resident.

A few takeaways from Twitter is finding out about conferences and joining them virtually, as well as joining health-related campaigns to spread the good word. Yet, as a doctor, what can you learn from Twitter?

  • You can learn to target the right demographic – Depending on your medical specialty, surely you have a target demographic. Twitter can guide you in targeting the right demographic and researching what this group is interested in reading. With this wealth of information, you can understand how to analyze it and focus your efforts on creating content that sticks.
  • You can learn what type of content attracts your target demographic – As an expert in your field, you are aware of what kind of topics attract different patient groups. For instance, dermatology patients may be interested in tips on skin care while dialysis patients may be interested in low-sodium diet plans. If you have a target demographic, post the type of content that will spark their interest.
  • You can learn to compare followers – All information on your followers is available on Twitter. It can help you compare your followers with different interests, demographics, and consumer behavior. This way, you can understand how your brand measures up and determine if there are any areas that require improvement.
  • You can learn to share health-related information with a larger audience – If you have a moderate-sized following on Twitter, you can help spread information on diagnoses, treatments and prevention. Engagement among your tweets can potentially reach a larger audience and impact countless individuals.
  • You can learn about popular topics discussed among the public – Reading different tweets can show you what current and prospective patients are talking about. This can give you the opportunity to research popular topics and respond to them appropriately and intelligently. Not only can you help provide reliable information and spread awareness, but you can also show off your expertise and attract patients.
  • You can learn to network with others – There are hundreds to thousands of individuals who work in areas similar to your area of expertise. Twitter can help you network with others and obtain connections that will become invaluable to you as you continue to expand your reach.

“I’ve been on Twitter for five years now and it’s now hard to imagine getting together with a group of people at a public event, such as a conference or a lecture, and not using Twitter to get to know more about the people who are there. When at events it’s a great idea to have a tweet-up, the chance for those using the conference hashtag to get together and put a face, body, and voice with the avatar. The good news is that when you meet people you know from Twitter face-to-face there are usually few surprises—we can communicate a lot of our personality in 140 characters,” said Anne Marie Cunningham, clinical lecturer at Cardiff University’s Institute of Primary Care and Public Health

When building your Twitter profile to reflect your brand, it is important to be aware that this social media platform is about individuals connecting with one another. You should not post emotionless content because you won't be doing yourself any favors. Instead, you should incorporate your personality into all of your posts.

  • You should tweet on a regular basis, but not all the time.
  • You should share important health-related information as often as you can.
  • You should create a good following strategy.
  • You should create a solid Twitter biography.
  • You should include URLS and high-resolution images on your page.
  • You should include interesting and unique hashtags.
  • You should emphasize your qualifications.
  • You should promote your Twitter profile both online and offline.
  • You should respond to your audience.
  • You should participate in tweet chats.

Show those on Twitter the ‘human side’ of your profile and why they should consider reading the information you post and why they should consider coming to your practice to see you. “I encourage patients to go online and inform themselves about their medical conditions. Patients deserve to be well-informed, and the transparency of the Internet allows them access to information that used to be gated by a provider. The problem, as previously mentioned, is the quality of the information on the Web. There’s too much information available. Physicians need to act as curators of that information, and help patients sort out what’s helpful and what’s not,” said Kevin Pho, internal medicine physician.

In today’s day and age, it can be tricky to dodge the power of the online community on your medical career. Like it or not, your professional reputation will likely end up on the Internet. This can either happen through reviews from patients on doctor rating websites or your own display of your professional profile and achievements. Engagement on Twitter can be a bit difficult, but if you know what you are doing, it can help you in so many ways. This platform can help you stay in touch with existing patients and attract new patients. It can help you promote local health news and events and virtually participate in medical conferences happening around the globe. It can help you enhance your online reputation and streamline online engagement. It can help you collaborate with other healthcare professionals and spread better understanding and awareness. “A lot of physicians say to me, why do I need to participate in social media? And I say, because that’s where the patients are. This is a new generation of informed patients, who are going online to get information, and the bigger the disconnect between us and them online, the harder our job is going to be in the exam room,” said Dr. Pho. Most importantly, Twitter can help you build the type of following you need in order to influence patients, gain credibility, and grow a profitable practice. The more followers you have, the more outreach you will have.

Key Takeaways

  • Social media is a great way for doctors to communicate with their patients, disseminate news, and market themselves.
  • Twitter can teach a doctor how to find the right demographic and learn what kind of content attracts patients.