Determine your goals before choosing social media platform
ElizabethMeade, M.D., FAAP
Mastering the Media
Seventy-five percent of adults use social media of some type, and 80% of users search
for health information, according to the Pew Research Center. Among those ages 18-24,
more than 80% would share health information on social media, and 90% would trust
the information they see. Yet only 24% of physicians are using social media daily
to post or seek medical information, a 2012 survey by PwC’s Health Research Institute
As social media expert Charlene Li said, “Twitter is not a technology. It’s a conversation.
And it’s happening with or without you.”
We must meet our patients and families where they are by becoming active in the digital
space. Only then can we help ensure that they will find evidence-based information
when they turn to the internet for medical advice. Yet the variety of platforms can
be overwhelming, and it can be hard to know where to start.
When considering which platform or platforms are right for you, ask yourself these
questions. Are you hoping to connect with colleagues or with patients and families?
Are you more interested in curating and disseminating existing information or communicating
nuanced personal thoughts and experiences? Will you check in for a short time every
day or post less frequently but in more detail?
After you determine the approach you want to take, consider what each social networking
platform can offer. For most people, tackling all of them at once is not recommended.
Being thoughtful about your ideal social media experience and intentional about your
approach can make your digital life easier, more fulfilling and best convey the authentic
Facebook remains the most popular social media platform overall, with 79% of online
adults in the U.S. using it and over 2 billion users worldwide. Therefore, it is the
easiest place to start getting name and face recognition in your community.
Facebook allows for discussion/dialogue with other users. You can create longer posts,
share visual material (photos, videos, infographics) and link to other content. You
can schedule posts ahead of time and/or post spontaneously. It also is relatively
easy to curate your posts so that viewers get a clear snapshot of your point of view
Facebook may be more suited to interacting with patients/families than with colleagues.
As with all social media accounts, your professional Facebook page should be separate
from a personal account or page.
There are more than 320 million active users on Twitter, but the number of those seeing
content may be higher since tweets can be viewed without having an account. About
6,000 new tweets are posted every second. That’s 500 million per day.
Users can share the same type of material as on Facebook (visual media, links to content,
etc.), but they are limited to 280 characters. Therefore, context and detailed discussions
You may be more likely to interact with colleagues, health care systems and media
here than on Facebook. Non-medical users engaging with you on Twitter are more likely
to be strangers than people in your community or patients/families.
Twitter is ideal for real-time, rapid dissemination of information. It’s a great place
to track current/active topics and share timely content such as public health information
with a wide audience.
However, it’s not the platform for you if you want to check in once a week and schedule
posts ahead of time (you can do this … they’re just less likely to be relevant when
they finally post).
Each month, 56 million blogs are posted on WordPress (a website platform) alone.
Blogs allow for longer posts than other social media platforms. Therefore, you can
express your point of view in a more complete, nuanced way. They can be a good forum
for thorough discussions of heated/complicated issues (vaccine hesitancy, circumcision)
or personal perspectives.
However, blogs require more setup than Facebook and Twitter accounts.
These platforms are largely pictorial/image-based with less opportunity for written
discussion. They are less useful for professional purposes, at least as a starting
Wherever you start, don’t forget to frequently reassess what’s working for you and
what isn’t. Pay attention to what gets good engagement vs. what content just sits
on your page. Evaluate whether your platform of choice is playing to your strengths
and allowing you to engage with your intended audience. Take a digital detox whenever
you need to.
Most importantly, have fun and spread the evidence-based information you are so expert
Dr. Meade is a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media.