If you want to step out more on social media to network with fellow researchers or interact with new patients, which channel should you use?
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“It depends on your goals. Each channel really has its own unique audience and culture,” says Mark W. Schaefer, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions and a marketing consultant who has worked with physicians. Most patients will use Facebook, but LinkedIn is a better site for professional networking, he says. “Twitter has a smaller audience, but it’s a loyal and passionate group, and perhaps more likely to connect.”
Physicians who are new to social media use shouldn’t let their fears about negative backlash put them off, says Mr. Schaefer. In his experience, the rate of angry comments on social media by patients concerning a physician or practice is very low.
“And these were generally comments about not being able to reach somebody by phone,” he says. “In general, people are kind and supportive of the medical community. Of course, whoever is running social media for the practice needs to be smart, experienced, trained and alert to the specific issues of the patients and the community. But if you run a good practice, the benefits of connecting online far outweigh any risks.”
Mr. Schaefer offers a few tips for rheumatologists who want to try social media for professional networking or to market their practice:
- Pick one social media platform, such as Facebook, and focus on it;
- Content fuels your social media profile, so commit to creating content regularly or pay someone to do it for you; and
- Use content pieces in different ways, such as turning a video transcript into a blog post or slide for a presentation.
Although social media has a definite, strong marketing angle, rheumatology patients’ use of social media could prove to be an invaluable research database, says Dr. Venuturupalli.
“More and more people are going online. Researching social media feeds is a fertile ground for novel insights,” he says, and cites the networking site PatientsLikeMe, which also posts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, as a useful platform for dialogue with patients who may take part in studies or trials.
Professional networking via social media is also a great way to connect with like-minded professionals, he says.
“For example, it used to be hard to meet people who were doing similar research. Now, with social media platforms, it’s infinitely easier to keep in touch with your peers.”