Getting the most out of social media means establishing your bona fides up front. You want your profile to demonstrate, at a glance, that you are an educated, reliable expert in your field. Of course, you also need to balance your patients’ safety with your goal of projecting an image of authority and professionalism.
Here are five concrete steps you can take to establish your credibility and knowledge on social media:
- Polish up your profile. Use a high-quality, professional headshot for your profile photos. To balance out your headshot, you can select a cover photo that shows a bit more of your personality — perhaps a photo of you with your colleagues, or a favorite photo you’ve taken on vacation. In your profile description (usually a short “About Me” field on most sites), state your title, place of work, and professional certifications. Follow it up with a brief, colloquial description of what you do.
- Create a coherent sense of who you are. Wherever you have a chance, create links between your social media profiles so people who follow you on one site can find you on others. And while it’s normal to tailor your voice and tone to each site, try to convey a consistent mindset behind everything you post across platforms. (Don’t, for instance, use Twitter just for vacation selfies and Facebook only for serious career updates.) Even the images you share help create a unified sense of who you are — your attitude toward your work, and what you find exciting enough to share with your followers.
- Make sure you’re posting top-quality content. Before you share a link or a post from someone else, do just a bit of digging to make sure it’s from a reliable source. If you’re unfamiliar with the source, try browsing their profile or clicking through to the “About Us” section of their site. Look out for sponsorships or corporate affiliations with which you disagree, and any kind of harmful anti-science agenda (e.g. opposing vaccination). Even when you’re posting your own content, double-check any factual details before you hit “publish.” This will help you establish your reputation as a reliable, trustworthy source, and fight the spread of “fake news.” And of course, make sure to check if your employer has written down any social media guidelines or protocols, so you can make sure you’re following those, too.
- Create community ties. Make yourself known by the company you keep online. Find and follow the profiles of your colleagues, your employer, and your professional organizations. (May we suggest @AASLDtweets?) After attending conferences and professional events, you can follow your new contacts on social media. That way you can stay in touch, expand your circles, and continue the conversations you started during the event. Check your feed or timeline regularly so you can share your favorite content or reply to it thoughtfully and helpfully. Stay active, because an empty or abandoned profile won’t reflect well on you. Updating even just once or twice a week only takes a few minutes, and it helps ensure you’re an active presence in your followers’ feeds. For more tips on having meaningful social media interactions in just five, 15, or 30 minutes, check out our Social Media Essentials infographic.
- Protect your patients’ privacy. What do you do if a patient contacts you on social media? What if someone asks about a specific case, or for medical advice? You already know that HIPAA compliance is a tricky matter, so we won’t dig into the details here. For tips on making sure your own social media is compliant, we recommend checking out HHS’ “Policies that Apply to Social Media” and Healthcare Compliance Pros’ blog post on social media and HIPAA compliance.
So to recap, here are a few quick things you can do right now to up your game on social media: Pick out a top-notch profile photo, write yourself a brief bio, create links between your different profiles, and identify and follow some sources you trust. Now all that’s left is to start posting.
Over the next several months, AASLDNews will feature a series of articles designed to encourage AASLD members to become familiar with and engage in social media.
To learn more about this effort, visit AASLD’s “Social Media Essentials” at aasld.org/SocialMedia.