Doctors & Social Media: Some Tips


Social media has added depth to the ways we communicate about practicing medicine.

I really enjoy this portion of the job— considering who we can reach and how we can communicate beyond the scope of clinical practice.

In January one of my personal sheroes, Esther Choo MD, gave truly sage advice about using social media.

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(Read the entire, brilliant thread here.)

Her insights stirred a few thoughts about healthcare professionals and social media.

Don’t fear engagement. Social media isn’t a minefield. It is an incredible way to connect, to give voice to important issues, and spread the word about stories we’re passionate about.

That said…

Remember: social media is forever. It’s important to realize that your social media footprint is permanent. Be professional and use common sense.

I’m a big believer in making mistakes. You learn from making mistakes. Be willing to put yourself out there. But before hitting that final “send” I ask myself, “Would I want my mom, daughters, or a lawyer reading this?  Will I be proud of this in the future?” If the answer is no, click delete.

Share helpful information. You have knowledge the world needs. Share it.

Set boundaries. If asked a medical question via social media, direct the inquirer to the proper channels for those types of communications.

For high-conflict social media interactions, I employ the BIFF response recommended by the High Conflict Institute.  

  • Brief: Keep it brief. Long explanations and arguments trigger upsets for High Conflict People (HCPs).

  • Informative: Focus on straight information, not arguments, opinions, emotions or defending yourself (you don’t need to)

  • Friendly: Have a friendly greeting (such as “Thanks for responding to my request”); close with a friendly comment (such as “Have a good weekend”).

  • Firm: Have your response end the conversation. Or give two choices on an issue and ask for a reply by a certain date.”

Consider making your personal pages private. Trolls exist. Protect your private information while maintaining a public, professional page.

Brag. Toot your own horn. Let others know what you’re up to! It’s a great way to connect with those with similar interests.

BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It by Peggy Klaus has some great advice, including tips like:

  • Recognize that the workplace is unpredictable. You may lose out on opportunities if you’re not putting your accomplishments front and center.

  • Don’t save self-promotion for performance reviews.

  • In the workplace, humility doesn't serve you. It makes you invisible.

  • Your work doesn’t always speak for itself. Be on the lookout for good opportunities and be ready to sing your own praises when they arise. Other people aren’t going to do it for you.

  • “Brag” is not a dirty word. Tell your story. Showcase your talents. Be proud of what you have to offer.

Share your experience. The truth of you ‘live’ is powerful.

Lastly, know what your employer says about social media. Many hospitals have social media guidelines for their employees. Familiarize yourself with and honor those guidelines.

Tell me your favorite ways to use social media to connect with the medical community and the public at large! Tweet me @TracySansonMD!

Tracy Sanson