How to help your doctors realize the power of social media

Try a conversational approach to convince your medical pros that they should be blogging and otherwise building an authoritative presence online.


Whenever I have an appointment with a new doctor, I like telling him or her what I do for a living.

Here’s how a typical conversation starts:

“I’m a health care social media writer,” I say. “I help hospitals figure out the best ways to reach their audience through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, you know—whatever all the kids are on these days.”

If the doctor says, “Oh, that sounds interesting,” here’s what I say next:

“My favorite part is when I teach doctors how to set up their own social media accounts. At first, they seem worried about it, but once they get the hang of it, they really start to like it.”

If the doctor replies, “Oh, that sounds interesting” again, I keep going. They start asking me questions, they share their concerns about social media, and soon we both forget why I came to their office in the first place.

If your hospital sees a doctor with social media potential, here’s how to start the conversation:

Do patients trust you over ‘Dr. Google’?

Patients come to doctors with crackpot ideas about ailments and treatments because there’s so much bad medical information online. They don’t know where to turn. That’s when blogging comes in handy.

“Imagine if you told me after this appointment that I have stomachtradistisorious,” I say. “The first thing I’m going to do after this appointment is Google it. But let’s say you specialize in treating that disease and you have written several blog posts about it—symptoms, causes and treatment options. If your blog posts show up on my search, I’d see you as the authority on it. I’d trust you.”

Do you want to be on TV, get quoted in a magazine or speak at a conference?

Most doctors like being in the spotlight—sharing ideas, connecting with other doctors and seeing their name in print. Social media helps feed their ego.

“The best way to get journalists and other news organizations to notice you is to go where they are—online,” I say. “Your hospital marketing department is always looking for doctors to go on TV or get quoted in a blog when something happens at your hospital or if there’s something they need an expert opinion on. If you’re on social media, you can be the voice for your hospital and your community.”

Have you heard of @SeattleMamaDoc?

Doctors are competitive. They want to know what their peers are up to. That’s when I tell them about Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson and her partnership with Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“Do you remember when Jenny McCarthy said on ‘Oprah’ that vaccines were linked to autism?” I ask. “After the episode aired, Dr. Swanson, a pediatrician, said her patients were really scared and asked her a lot of questions. She decided to start a blog to help alleviate their fears. Since then, the blog has become so successful that she’s had speaking gigs in Australia, she advises the CDC on improving pediatric/parenting messaging and has more than 30,000 followers on Twitter. And it all started because she wanted to help make sure kids got vaccinated.”

Jessica Levco is a freelance health care marketer.

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