Whether you are an avid tweeter, write a blog, or are a novice to professional social media, your online presence has the power to connect you with potential patients just down the street or colleagues working on similar research across the world.

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Social media platforms allow doctors to connect with colleagues and patients.

Having a strong online voice is part of your brand. Any communication by or about you, such as your name being listed on your practice’s website, is part of your brand.

Taking control of how you are perceived by others helps to build your professional reputation. Whether you want to expand your practice, find colleagues to collaborate with, or are looking for career opportunities, your reputation is key to achieving your goals.

In a recent article on branding, we brought you tips on how to define and establish your brand. Here, we delve deeper into how to capitalize on the most useful professional social media platforms for physicians.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, with more than 500 million registered users worldwide.

Half of these users are college graduates, and 45 percent report household incomes of $75,000 or more per year.

Kevin Pho, M.D. – an internal medicine physician and co-author of the book Establishing, Managing and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices – sees several benefits from having a LinkedIn profile. “LinkedIn is a low-threat, low-resource, high-yield action,” he said.

Unlike physician rating sites, a social media profile offers more control over how you are presented, Dr. Pho explained. Also, LinkedIn profiles are ranked highest out of all social media platforms, reducing the impact of negative news or physician rating sites.

After registering at LinkedIn.com, create the most thorough profile possible, recommended Jeffrey Benabio, M.D., in an article published on Medjobnetwork.com.

The more complete your profile is, the higher it ranks. The basic information to share is your education, medical expertise, areas of interest, professional experience, the address and phone number of your practice, and links to your website (if you have one).

To make the most of your LinkedIn profile, follow these simple steps:

  • Upload a picture of yourself looking professional but approachable.
  • Personalize your headline.
  • Add keywords, including the name and location of your practice.
  • List at least five of your strongest skills as a physician.
  • Search for colleagues already on LinkedIn and invite them to connect.
  • Join LinkedIn groups that match your interests.
  • Be active by commenting on others’ posts and sharing articles of interest, including your own.
  • Finally, customize your profile URL, and include it in your email signature.

LinkedIn allows you to build up a substantial network of connections, communicate directly with other members, post updates, share stories from other outlets, and importantly, track who has viewed your profile.

While LinkedIn is low in physician resources, Doximity is high.

Similar to LinkedIn but exclusive to healthcare professionals in the United States, Doximity connects more than 800,000 of them – 600,000 of which are physicians.

“Doximity has emerged as the core professional profile for doctors and one that’s totally within the physician’s control,” said Bryan Vartabedian, M.D. – director of community medicine for the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition for Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston – in his blog. “It’s the first place I go to update my professional status as it changes.”

Creating your profile is easy; you can automatically upload your CV. Conveniently, Doximity keeps your CV updated by scanning the web for information about your latest achievements.

It doesn’t stop there. Doximity profile updates are also immediately reflected in U.S. News & World Report physician profiles.

Including your clinical interests allows you to receive the most relevant referrals and news from their DocNews newsfeed. The site also lets you know when your work is being discussed in online conversations.

In addition to connecting physicians with job offers, the site offers CME/CE credits, a residency navigator, and an annual salary survey.

For communicating with your patients, a free digital fax and messaging service provides HIPAA-secure communication from any mobile device. Another tool displays your office number when you call patients from your cell phone.

Between its far-reaching network and well-conceived resources, Doximity expands your influence while boosting your practice on the most practical levels.

With 328 million active users, Twitter is well suited to physicians who want to network, learn, or teach.

The microblogging site lets you make an impact in 140-character posts called “tweets.” Quotes and attached media are excluded from the character count. While anyone can read tweets, only registered users can post them.

Tweets often include photos and links. Hashtags (such as #cancer) identify terms and help to organize information. The names, or “handles,” of other users are preceded by the @ symbol (such as @mnt).

Physicians usually follow other physicians, allowing them to interact with colleagues interested in the same news, advances, or advocacy.

“On Twitter you can follow thought leaders in any area of medicine and healthcare,” Dr. Pho explained. “I have a Twitter list that has 40 healthcare thought leaders that I follow dozens of times a day. To me it’s one of the most powerful ways to stay up to date in my area of medicine and healthcare.”

Twitter can also bring you the latest news from major medical journals, including pre-published articles as well as policy updates and educational events.

The platform is especially useful for getting insight into patients’ perspectives, as many patients and advocacy groups tweet regularly.

Through Twitter, you can even attend medical conferences virtually, by following attendees’ tweets. Sharing research findings is easy and can lead to new collaborations.

In 2015, the California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP) took to Twitter for vaccine legislation.

Up for debate was a bill that would end personal belief exemptions for vaccines. Going up against thousands of Twitter comments opposing the bill, the CAFP formed a coalition with pediatricians and public health officials, tweeting to educate patients and the media.

The result saw California become the third state to ban personal belief exemptions for vaccines.

To add your voice to Twitter, sign up for a free account on Twitter.com. Then, create a profile that includes your name, credentials, and a picture. Search by using hashtags to find the topics most pertinent to you.

Begin by following the physicians and thought leaders who interest you, and “retweet” the most insightful ones. Once you start tweeting your own thoughts and links to original articles, be ready to field the responses.

A record of all your tweets is conveniently stored on your home page.

While Twitter plugs you into the latest research and gives you a forum to share yours, YouTube can be even more personal.

A short video introducing yourself allows potential patients to start getting to know you before even making an appointment.

YouTube videos can also be a way to educate patients about your services, without any overt marketing.

Orthopedic surgeon C. Noel Henley, M.D., uses YouTube videos to put patients at ease about their upcoming surgeries.

On his blog, he said, “This week, my patient requested a specific procedure. We agreed it should be done, and […] I fired up my iPad in the office and showed him a 2-minute video of the procedure I created and uploaded to YouTube using free software […] He was crystal clear on the procedure and prepared for what will happen in a few weeks.”

In addition to educating and reassuring existing patients, a YouTube channel can also bring new clients to your door. Using video clips, you can explain illnesses, perform exercises, or demonstrate early detection techniques.

Dr. Henley wrote, “YouTube sends my practice website a large percentage of my best monthly traffic. Last month, the visitors from my YouTube channel stayed on my website longer than most people, and viewed more pages than average.”

“This makes sense: a person who watches one of my videos is already interested in my information and wants to know more – before they arrive on my website. If you want to be found by patients, you need to be on YouTube before your local competition figures this out.”

To get started, sign up for a free YouTube account. Search for channels relevant to your field, and see what the competition is doing.

Once you’re ready to try your hand at it, invest in a high-quality camera. Ensure that you have enough lighting and excellent audio. Choose a setting appropriate to the topic. Videos can be edited with a free tool such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker.

To get the most out of your channel:

  • Add a professional profile picture to help legitimize your channel.
  • Link back to your practice website, to your other social media accounts, and to similar YouTube channels.
  • End the video by encouraging viewers to subscribe to your channel and directing them to your website.
  • Take advantage of YouTube’s free tracking tool to see which videos are most popular. This shows you what additional videos and web pages your viewers might like.

When using multiple social media platforms, one simple tool can make you much more efficient: Hootsuite.

While both free and paid versions are available, the free version allows you to manage three social media profiles and track follower growth.

It also shows you which content you post is most popular, lets you schedule content to post, and integrates two RSS feeds that find and share content from sources you choose.

Dr. Pho turns to the tool to monitor Twitter conversations, as well as any mentions of his handle and his name, and to manage pages and posts on various social media platforms.

“The free version is powerful enough for the majority of physicians,” said Dr. Pho. “It’s an essential social media tool and I highly recommend it to any physician using social media.”

As you ease into social media, start small. Dr. Vartabedian noted, “It doesn’t take much. Share your successes and tell some stories on a LinkedIn page and a Twitter account, and you’re off to the races.”