by Heather Logghe, MD
More and more surgical departments (and departments of all medical disciplines) are realizing the value of Twitter and other social media to build their reputation, promote the treatment offerings and research of their department, and connect with potential patients, residents, and faculty. Given the recency of social media, particularly as a critical component of a department’s public presence, there is much uncertainty and limited research to guide best practices. The tips and resources shared here are based on my presentation at the 2018 Association of Program Directors in Surgery (APDS) Surgical Education Week.
#1: Be Likeable
Just as with in person interactions, niceness, gratitude, and positivity go a long way. The book Likeable Social Media by David Kerpin offers a useful pyramid representing the building blocks of a likeable business on social media. It should come as no surprise these qualities are a recipe for successful departmental social media accounts as they also align with the characteristics of a kind, empathetic, and impactful physician.
#2: Be visual
Eye-tracking studies on internet readers show users spend more time looking at relevant images than text: visual content generates increased engagement over posts without. Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than those without and Facebook posts with images generate over 2x engagement than posts without. Visual abstracts (graphic representations of research studies and findings) are particularly effective in increasing visibility of research findings.1
#3: Be educational
#4: Be listed
Twitter has an under-utilized list function that allows accounts to create multiple lists of users that can be viewed and followed by other users. These lists are an effective tool to showcase faculty, residents, and alumni of one’s department. For example, @JEFFsurgery has designated lists for all three. Thus, with just a few clicks, prospective faculty, trainees, and patients can see abbreviated profiles and easily follow of all users in the list. Note that lists appear more polished and welcoming when all users have a photo and completed profile as seen here.
#5: Be hashtagged
#6: Be smart, be respectful
Since the advent of social media, many have worried about physician professionalism and the potential for violation of patient confidentiality. It turns out that 1) physicians are as capable of conducting themselves professionally online as they are offline and 2) physicians have much to discuss without the inclusion of protected health information.4 That said, common sense and courtesy are essential. My advice is to consider whether something would be appropriate to share on a crowded hospital elevator. If not, it does not belong on social media.
1. Ibrahim AM, Lillemoe KD, Klingensmith ME, Dimick JB. Visual Abstracts to Disseminate Research on Social Media: A Prospective, Case-control Crossover Study. Ann Surg. April 2017. doi:10.1097/SLA.0000000000002277
2. Nikolian VC, Barrett M, Valbuena VS, et al. Educational content and the use of social media at US departments of surgery. Surgery. 2018;163(2):467-471.
3. Lamb LC, DiFiori MM, Jayaraman V, Shames BD, Feeney JM. Gamified Twitter Microblogging to Support Resident Preparation for the American Board of Surgery In-Service Training Examination. J Surg Educ. 2017;74(6):986-991.