Education

Your Doctor Will Tweet You Now


By Christine Hall | September 12, 2017

For doctors who want to create a social media presence or engage an audience, JLABS @ TMC brought in two experts Tuesday to offer guidance, as well as tips to help them become sources for health care journalists.

Steven Cutbirth, operations lead for MDigitalLife, which helps clients understand, engage and activate the online health ecosystem, and Meredith Owen, senior analytics director at W20 Group, which leads insights and measurements for health care clients.

“Journalists are looking for information, so there is an opportunity to receive significant press from having active online presence,” Cutbirth said.

He gave some examples of doctors who have positioned themselves as influencers on social media. Nationally, one of the top influencers is Eric Topol, M.D., professor of genomics at The Scripps Research Institute, and the founder and director of the
Scripps Translational Science Institute. Topol (@EricTopol) has more than 112,000 followers and has sparked activism on Twitter. For example in April, when the American Heart Association came out with new guidelines for statins, medication that lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, Topol was one of the first to question them, Cutbirth said.

Locally, Cutbirth called out Bryan Vartabedian, a gastroenterologist with Texas Children’s Hospital in The Woodlands. @Doctor_V has gained a following of more than 31,000 people, many of them health care providers.

“He has a strong media following, and has even publicly said he is someone willing to talk to people about their initiatives and work,” he said. “That is a great way to earn press about yourself.”

Health care providers (HCP) are increasingly joining the party on social media. Cutbirth and Owen presented statistics that showed more than 8 million tweets came from HCPs last year. Doctors often take to social media, they said, to address misinformation. A recent tweet was posted about the length of time the flu shot is viable, for example, and many doctors took to Twitter to correct that information.

To get into the social media game, use a professional photo of yourself and include a cover photo that is relevant to the work you do, Cutbirth and Owen instructed. Also, have a link to a more detailed bio where people can get to know you.

Set up process or plan, like putting together a content calendar, to help you develop a curated feed of content. Then begin to follow individuals and influencers who are like minded.

“When identifying influencers, your goal is to work with them, so you have to build a relationship,” Owen said. “Building online relationships is similar to offline—it is basically getting on someone’s radar. That happens when you follow someone. From there, be included in the conversation by listening or figuring out how to become relevant in the conversation.”

They also addressed the importance of staying active on social media, but refraining from posting more than a few times a day or targeting the same people too often. Reach out sporadically and with content that is specifically relevant.

To comb for relevant content that you can share on your social media channels, try tools like Feedly, which sets up reading lists based on favorite media outlets or blogs. They also suggested Nuzzel, which shows top content being shared among social network connections. For posting, they said Buffer is a way to schedule posts, track their performance and manage all social media accounts in one place.

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