5 Big Mistakes Physicians Make with Social Media

social media

Social mediadana corriel is a confusing, strange, and often dangerous arena to be in.  There are myriad pitfalls and perils.  However, we are increasingly seeing the world going digital.  As physicians, we are going to have to interact in the online world, if for no other reason than that our patients expect it!

Personally, I have learned a ton about social media in the last year.  Ever since I started my website, I’ve realized that social media is an incredibly powerful tool.  You can leverage it for great influence, build your brand, enhance your authority, and meet new people.  However, there are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes, especially as you’re first getting started in the process of building your social media platforms.

Let’s explore some of those mistakes so we can try to avoid them.

Social media mistake #1: Avoiding social media altogether

Social media can be a horrible place to be.  Twitter especially is home to a lot of hate, fear, and bullying.  It’s easy and frankly very reasonable to want to avoid the social media mob completely.  I get it!!

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But, it doesn’t have to be all bad!  There are a lot of great things that you can get out of social media interactions:

Moreover, if you’re not on social media at all, you don’t have a lot of control over your “digital reputation.”  Your digital reputation is the agglomeration of what is written about you online.  People who search for you in Google may form their first impression of you from what they read online, and you want that to be a good impression!

Deliberately cultivating your social media presence is good for creating a positive image of yourself online.  Along these lines, it’s valuable to consider how you keep your personal and professional life separate in the online world.  How you interact with your patients may have impact on your family, depending on what is written about you.  I recommend you be sufficiently active on social media to at least know when there’s something wrong with how you are perceived online.

Social media mistake #2: Trying to be active on too many platforms

When I was first venturing into social media, I read a lot of blogs advising me to pick only one or two platforms to be active on.  I think this was sensational advice, and I’m glad I saw that.  Trying to keep up with posting regularly on 1-2 platforms is plenty of work if you also have a separate full-time career.

If you try to throw 3-4 platforms into the mix, you find that your attention is diluted very quickly.  You’ll often get lackluster engagement because you have a hard time being consistent posting on that many platforms.

I think picking 1 platform at the beginning is a good idea.  For simplicity’s sake, start with the one you’re already the most familiar with.  For me, I was only active on Facebook prior to starting the blog.  I had a small LinkedIn profile that I decided to expand as well, and I’ve stayed active on only those two platforms.  That’s plenty of work for me to be doing since I don’t have an assistant or social media coordinator to help with that.

It’s a good idea to go ahead and get registered on all the major platforms and at least claim the handles (online names/pseudonyms) that you want.  Even if you don’t end up using them all, you should claim them all.  This is called “digital squatting.”  It’s an opportunity to synchronize all of your social media accounts before you need them.  It’s valuable to have the same handle across all platforms so it’s easy for people to find you.

Social media mistake #3: Not figuring out your brand before venturing into social media

Before you start randomly creating your Facebook and Twitter accounts, consider how you want to brand yourself online.

  • What is your purpose for building your digital footprint?
  • Are you going to be talking about medical or non-medical topics?
  • Will this be part of your clinical practice?
  • What’s the personality of your “online self”?

You should take some time to consider what you want your brand to be about before launching your online push.  This will help you create a unified personality that is easy for people to follow.  It’s also a lot less confusing for your readers/followers.  They should be able to go to each online platform and have the same basic experience in each place.

Social media mistake #4: Not picking the right handle

What’s your online name?  This is called a “handle.”  It’s important to put some real thought into this because this is how people will find you.  There are a lot of considerations for picking the right handle.

  • Will you be anonymous or do you want to use your real name?
  • Adding “doctor” or “MD” to your handle may give you opportunities to create medical-themed content in the future.
  • Try to pick a handle that is available on all the major platforms so you can have the same handle everywhere.

Spend some time thinking about this.  Remember to create handles that line up with your personal brand.  The handle and the brand should support each other.  It’s like picking a name for your kids – be intentional and put some real thought into this.

Social media mistake #5: HIPAA violations

HIPAA is valid online as well as in the “real world.”  You’ll definitely encounter times when people post information that could be a HIPAA violation.  There are significant fines and penalties that accompany HIPAA violations, so be sure to avoid this!!

You may not even realize that what you’re writing would constitute a HIPAA violation.  You could be posting something exciting like a patient who lost a ton of weight.  That’s a great thing for them, right?  But, what if they’re embarrassed that they had to lose so much weight and they don’t want that blasted across the Internet?

Be very careful about this!  As a general rule, you should probably avoid any posts that have anything to do with identifiable patient information.  It’s too easy to accidentally post something that violates HIPAA, and you don’t want to get entangled with that.

Final Thoughts

Your digital reputation is important!  This is the first impression you give to thousands of people.  Your interaction with the various social media platforms can definitely help you create a great digital footprint that reaps many benefits.

Be intentional and avoid some of these common mistakes.  Remember, this should all be fun!!  If it’s just work and drudgery, something’s wrong.  Enjoy the ride, and have a good time!

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Further Reading

Please leave a comment below!  What are your top tips for physicians who want to be more active on social media?


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