Best Practices for Physicians on Twitter

Social media offers several benefits to healthcare practices. Facebook may be the social network of choice for many physicians, but if you are ready to branch out into other social networks, there are benefits to Twitter, as well.

You may find different demographics and different types of patients on Twitter than you would on Facebook, and that may be helpful if you are trying to expand your practice or appeal to a different group of patients. It also offers lots of opportunities to make professional connections with other influencers in the medical field.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what is best for you to share on social media. However, you’ll want to keep these best practices in mind as you decide on a Twitter strategy.

1. You can promote yourself, but don’t go overboard.

Most people are on Twitter because they want to hear the latest about their areas of interest and have conversations with people who have similar interests. You’ll lose your audience pretty quickly if all of your tweets sound like an advertisement of sorts. That isn’t to say that you should never use your Twitter account to promote yourself or your practice, but be judicious about when you want to promote yourself. Physicians Practice recommends that only 20% of your tweets should be promotional in nature. In other words, if you have a seminar or other big announcement to your followers, it’s ok to tweet about it. However, your followers shouldn’t feel as though you are bombarding them with advertisements for your practice.

The other 80% of your posts should be informational, inspirational, motivational, or conversational. The idea is to get a conversation going and give your followers information they can actually use. Those who find your information useful will more than likely want to learn more about you and may move on to your website to get more information. You don’t need to directly “sell” them on it.

2. Tweet a good mix of original content and content shared from reputable sources.

Again, you shouldn’t just be using your Twitter account to promote your own endeavors, even if they are informative. Patients want to know what you are reading and where they can go to find reputable information about healthcare topics. As you are probably well aware, there is quite a lot of misinformation on the internet, especially in the healthcare space. Patients are looking to you and your expertise to guide them in the right direction. You may also be able to get a conversation going with the creators of that content, and they may return the favor and share your content too, potentially putting your content in front of a new audience.

3. Make sure your profile looks professional.

The content of your tweets can certainly shape how your followers see you, but so can the way your profile looks. Your tweets could be very helpful and informative, but if your profile looks sloppy and unprofessional, people may assume otherwise. You need to convey professionalism and authority. A pixelated profile image, a poorly-sized (or missing) banner image, and a poorly-written Twitter bio don’t convey that to your followers. Yet, those are the first things your followers will see when they go to your Twitter page. Even if it’s not conscious, people will judge you based on that appearance. Failing to recognize that these elements matter could compromise how your followers view the information you send out–if they even decide to follow you at all.

Think about it this way–when you give your business card to someone you just met, would you hand that person a card that is all bent up and rough-looking? Probably not, because it looks sloppy. The same idea should apply to your social media profiles, including Twitter. Remember, first impressions are everything.

4. Be active.

It won’t do you any good to be on Twitter if you aren’t active. You will need to commit to posting regularly (at a minimum, daily) if you want to grab people’s attention. Tweets are only 140 characters long, so this network tends to be more fast-paced than social networks like Facebook. If you aren’t putting yourself out there, you might get overlooked. Try to start conversations with your followers and influencers in your field–it can lead to some good discussions.

It’s understandable that you’re busy with your practice, and time may be an issue. However, the great thing about Twitter is that the posts are short, so you don’t need to spend a lot of time writing up a post. You can also use a service like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts in advance and manage your responses.

5. Don’t give out medical advice.

We’ve talked about HIPAA compliance in social media posts before, but it bears repeating. Giving out any sort of medical advice can put you in risky territory, so it’s best to avoid it. You don’t need to ignore patients who ask you for medical advice on Twitter, but make sure that you make it clear that an examination is necessary to give medical recommendations. You can always direct patients to call your office with specific questions.

6. Pay attention to your audience.

What types of content do they respond to? Do certain types of content drive more engagement than others? Pay attention to what works. You might find that including images in your tweets works well, or that questions elicit more discussions than statements. You can review your analytics for your Twitter account to see if you can identify any trends in your most popular content, then use that information to guide your Twitter strategy in the future.

7. Find time to interact with others.

Social media is not meant to be used to broadcast your content. It is a means of interacting with other people. You need to do more than just share content to truly get any benefit out of Twitter. You need to take the time to respond to other people’s posts. You might respond to another doctor’s post or to a post by one of your followers. You should definitely take the time to respond if someone tweets you directly. If you don’t take the time to respond in a timely manner, those followers will more than likely quit taking the time to tweet you and share your content.

Twitter can be a great tool for your practice, if you use it correctly. Just remember, a Twitter profile, like any other social media site, is a representation of your practice. Keep it professional and informative, and you should see positive results from your effort.