Information is only a click away, and like other business-minded professionals, physicians must actively cultivate their online reputation. An online presence allows seamless contact with patients, networking with colleagues and dissemination of timely and accurate medical information to the public.
Read on to ensure you are following the steps needed to nurture your practice's online reputation.
1. Provide valuable and content aligned information
You chose your profession because it aligned with your values. Whatever your specialty, your online presence must reflect those professional values. As you keep abreast of advances in your specialty, it makes sense to share this information with your patients.
Just finished reading your specialty's go-to journal? Tweet or blog about it! Just keep the language simple. Avoid medical jargon and speak as you would with your non-medical friends.
2. Consistently upload content
I know - you are already stretched thin with back-to-back appointments, administrative duties, and patient call backs. It is ok to start small! Upload content once a week and schedule it into your calendar to maintain consistency.
Alternately, delegate this task. Do you have a medical assistant who is tech savvy? Approach him or her and see if this can be added to the job description. Of course, if you have the budget and want to be more aggressive, you can hire a website manager.
Whichever route you choose, it is a worthy investment to keep your clients engaged online. This is essential to building your reputation as an expert.
3. Use all social media platforms (but it's okay to have a preference!)
While your practice's website may be the home of your online presence, maintain accounts across social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Even if you personally don't enjoy these sites, your patients may frequent them regularly.
Don't be alarmed. You can recycle information across these platforms. If you attended your national conference, post a picture of yourself next to the organization's banner on Instagram, tweet 280 characters about a late-breaking abstract and post a video collage of the conference on Facebook.
You can focus on one site, updating it (at least) weekly, while uploading content to the others more sporadically. Identify the sites your patients engage with to determine what works best.
4. Google yourself
The internet has a long memory. Google yourself (also utilize other search engines, public forums and social networks) to monitor your online reputation. Search nicknames, alternate spellings of your name and include keywords, such as your medical school, for a full evaluation. Ask your colleagues and employees to do the same.
You don't want an unflattering picture from your college days or an unscrupulous person with a similar name to show up prominently on searches. If something materializes, you have several options. If it is on a personal account, delete the content or strengthen privacy settings. Untag yourself from unflattering pictures and ask friends and family to remove such content from their accounts.
If you do not own the content, such as on a public forum, you may utilize an online reputation manager like reputation.com or build your online presence to bury the negative. Start a professional blog, register your first and last name as a domain (www.drjohndoe.com) and strengthen your (professional) presence across social media.
5. Keep business separate
Nothing is truly private on the internet (case in point: the Congressional hearings of Mr. Zuckerberg). Your online presence is often your first introduction to potential patients so make sure you are proud of it.
Create a blurb about your professional background on your website and LinkedIn page but sprinkle a few personal tidbits such as your love of scuba diving to ensure you seem human. Invest in a professional headshot in which you are smiling to put future patients at ease.
Still, keep personal things personal. Pictures of your partially naked toddler or your sister's bachelorette party should be kept personal. Use an alias for personal accounts, like your middle name, so this does not come up when a future employer or patient searches for you online.
Your online presence is an extension of your professional reputation. Post content that is valuable and important to your professional image. As they say, put your best (online) face forward!