By Kristina Dzara, Ph.D., M.M.Sc.
August 17, 2017
[The third post in a three-part series exploring the use of social media by medical professionals seeking greater academic impact.]
Remember, once you make the decision to embrace social media, move forward not backwards!
Although Twitter is the social media of choice for academic medicine,1,2 more and more individuals and organizations working in healthcare have Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts. Although lesser used, newer social media platforms specifically related to academic medicine – for example, Doximity and Medshr – are emerging.3,4
In my previous posts, I wrote about embracing social media in academic medicine, and social media’s educational purpose. Here, I offer some ways that those of us working in academic medicine can maximize our social media impact.
The three sites I see used most often in academic medicine are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Twitter allows users to interact using ‘tweets’—brief posts restricted to 140 characters—as a way to share information with others. Users register a handle—for example, mine is @KristinaDzara—which allows others to follow them. Generally speaking, the more followers you have, the more impact your tweets can have on Twitter, in the form of likes, retweets, and overall impressions. Unless you have a private account, any other Twitter user can follow and interact with you.
Facebook allows users to ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ other individuals or organizations. Facebook users are able to control who follows them by accepting or declining friend requests. Although Facebook is more often thought of as a way to connect with family and friends, it can also be effective for professional networking. Many organizations have Facebook accounts and share information about upcoming conferences, events, and opportunities. More recently, Facebook Live has been utilized as a way to broadcast from live academic roundtables and events.
Consider LinkedIn your digital rolodex for professional networking. In many ways an online curriculum vitae, on LinkedIn you can clearly indicate your educational and employment history, as well as publications, presentations, and certifications. Like Facebook, you can request to connect with others and have the power to accept or decline connections. Some prefer to connect only with those they know in real life, while others utilize it as a way to connect with those outside their close professional network. LinkedIn also allows users to post updates—for example, new publications or blog posts—which may be of interest to connections. Another feature is groups, which allows professionals in the same field to make contacts, post and view jobs, and share information.
Regardless of platform, there are a few general principles which can help you maximize your social media impact:
1. Tell a clear and consistent story about who you are and what you do.
Make sure your social media profiles use the same high-quality professional headshot across all platforms. Keep your social media bios up to date, especially if you have had any recent transitions, promotions, or new duties. It is important that if someone views more than one of your social media profiles, the information is similar across platforms.
2. Follow and be followed.
Growing your professional social media networks requires cultivation! Start by connecting with colleagues you already know – they are likely to accept your request and follow you back. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn all recommend people to connect with, which is a great place to start. Scroll your social media newsfeeds and look for posts of interest, see who posted them, and consider following them. However, never feel obligated to follow or engage with another user for any reason. For the most part, I reserve LinkedIn as a way to connect with those I have met or worked with. However, I am more flexible with those I follow on Twitter, provided they have some connection to academic medicine, healthcare, or my discipline, medical education.
3. Share what you are doing.
There is a small part of social media that feels like a bit of self-promotion. Although this may feel boastful, offering professional updates may help you connect with others who have shared interests. You may find that this transparency sparks new conversations about scholarly collaboration or mentorship! When sharing articles or resources, include your opinion or a one liner about what you learned (use a URL shortener like goo.gl or bit.ly to keep the link brief).
4. Use social media to your benefit.
One of my favorite purposes for social media is to follow broad trends in academic medicine. Twitter is exceptionally useful here, as hashtags are a way to quickly identify and find content of interest. Identify a few hashtags based on your interests, subspecialty, or conferences you attend. Some of my favorites include Medical Education (#MedEd), Free and Open Access to Medical Education (#FOAMed), and Healthcare Leadership (#HCLDR). #AcMed (Academic Medicine) also seems to be gaining some traction. Identify a few journals and professional organizations that align with your interests and check their posts. Within minutes you’ll be updated about new articles, conferences, and topics of interest.
5. Be a social media leader!
Utilize social media when at national, regional, and local academic events. This is a quick and easy way to be recognized by both colleagues and experts. When posting, tag an organization, event, or individual by including them in your post to increase your visibility. Provided it is acceptable to the conference and/or speaker, contribute to the conversation by tweeting or retweeting take-home points from the session or links to articles discussed. This can be a powerful networking tool, and you will be recognized by others for it. Don’t forget to have a little fun by posting a photo with colleagues you know or new followers you meet in person. By actively posting to social media during academic events, you will be viewed as someone who is not only approachable, but also savvy to social media.
Remember, once you make the decision to embrace social media, move forward not backwards! Don’t be afraid to engage with others and share the good things you, your colleagues, and your organization are doing. Your social media engagement may lead to opportunities for scholarly collaboration and professional growth – it certainly has for me! Social media has a strong foothold in our community of practice, a trend which shows no sign of slowing anytime soon.
For an example of how one doctor uses Twitter to impact his practice, HMS Postgraduate Medical Education recommends the Ted Talk: Twitter Has Made Me a Better Doctor.
- Gallo T. Twitter is Trending in Academic Medicine. 2017. https://goo.gl/grJz1w.
- Choo EK, Ranney ML, Chan TM, et al. Twitter as a Tool for Communication and Knowledge Exchange in Academic Medicine: A Guide for Skeptics and Novices. Med Teach. 2015; 37(5):411-416.
- Doximity. 2017. https://www.doximity.com/.
- MedShr. 2017. https://en.medshr.net/.
Kristina Dzara, Ph.D., M.M.Sc. (@KristinaDzara) is a medical educator and researcher with 5+ years of experience in academic medicine. She is a recent graduate of the Harvard Medical School Master’s in Medical Education program and serves as Harvard Macy Institute’s Social Media Strategist. Her areas of professional interest include evaluation and assessment, faculty development, and social media in medical education.
*OPINIONS EXPRESSED BY OUR GUEST AUTHORS ARE VALUABLE TO US AT LEAN FORWARD, BUT DO NOT REPRESENT OFFICIAL POSITIONS OR STATEMENTS FROM HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL.