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Social Media Tips from a Busy Surgeon

Guest post by Diane Radford, MD, FACS, FRCSEd

Diane Radford, MD with Julie Silver, MD at the Harvard Medical School CME leadership and publishing course this year.
Diane Radford, MD with Julie Silver, MD at the Harvard Medical School CME leadership and publishing course this year.

In April 2015 I was delighted to talk at the Harvard Medical School course Achieving Healthcare Leadership and Impact Through Writing Publishing and Social Media. I have attended this course (directed by Dr. Julie Silver) previously, and it was there that I met some of my talented mentors, including Lisa Tener and Rusty Shelton.

My topic was Social Media Tips from a Busy Surgeon. I joined social media in late 2011. Twitter is my favorite social medium — it is robust, global, and interactive. Lisa invited me to share the highlights from my lecture, which can be applied to many fields and interests. I use my experience and specialty (breast cancer surgery) as an example.

In 2013 Pauline Chen MD wrote an article for the New York Times on Doctors and Their Online Reputation. Her piece featured the recently published book by Kevin Pho MD and Susan Gay. The authors conclude, “The biggest risk of social media in health care is not using it at all.” How then, can the novice to social media gain some traction and direction in the dizzying barrage of information and opinion in cyberspace?

Tip 1: Participate in Tweetchats

Tweetchats are virtual meetings usually held on a repeating basis organized around a specific topic and hashtag. The chat I join most often is #bcsm — breast cancer social media — which was founded by Dr. Deanna Attai @DrAttai, a breast surgeon, and two breast cancer advocates Alicia C. Staley @stales and Jody Schoger @jodyms. It takes place every Monday night at 9pm Eastern Time and has grown in participation and breadth of interaction since its inception in 2011.

The Healthcare Hashtag Project lists health-related tweetchats, conferences and diseases. The Project has made finding topics related to one’s field of interest much simpler. For example enter “writing” in the search field and you will find the hashtag for Julie Silver’s course #HarvardWriters2015.

A boon of Twitter is the presence of numerous writers, agents and editors on that medium. Numerous writing related tweetchats exist. Debbie Ridpath Ohi @inkyelbows lists writing chats on a page of her website — The Writer’s Guide to Twitter. Thanks to Jane Friedman @JaneFriedman for sharing that resource with me.

Tip 2: Live Tweet Conferences

As a breast surgeon my major conferences are the American Society of Breast Surgeons and the Society of Surgical Oncology. Live tweeting meetings is an excellent way to interact with peers, share the latest data, and disseminate information to the wider global community. The Healthcare Hashtag Project lists meetings by hashtag, will let you know what’s trending, and lists major influencers. Even if one cannot attend the meeting, following the hashtag is way to participate and stay up-to-date.

Tip 3: Promote your Specialty’s Journals

Your specialty’s journal no doubt has a presence on Twitter. Annals of Surgical Oncology @AnnSurgOncol is the journal for both @ASBrS and @SocSurgOnc. Because of my growing Twitter following, I was honored to be asked by @AnnSurgOncol to be a member of their editorial board, and co-write (with @NirajGusani and @sandrawong) a Twitter guide for fellow board members.

Tip 4: Don’t Buy Followers

As Guy Kawasaki says “. . . My theory – there are only 2 kinds of people in social media. One wants more followers and the other is a liar. . .”

We all want to be popular, to be influencers. However, buying Twitter followers is not the way to do it. Buying followers is cheating. Followers should be earned through honest engagement — by being both interested and interesting.

And one way to be more interesting is to……

Tip 5: Write Effective Tweets

In their article titled Who Gives a Tweet? Evaluating Microblog Content Value, P. André et. al. describe their analysis of 43,000 tweets. They concluded that the most valued tweets were information sharing, links to personally created content, and questions to followers.  Appropriate use of @mentions and using fewer hashtags in tweets was preferred. Above all…..don’t whine on Twitter. It’s not becoming.

Adding an image to a tweet will increase engagement five times.

Happy Tweeting!

Notes: This writer cares about typos. If you find one, click here to be part of the EditMob – it’s anonymous.  To follow Diane on Twitter: @dianeradfordmd

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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