Social Media for Doctors – On 30 Minutes a Day

November 16, 2010

Yes, I know.  The title conjures up images of schmaltzy business self-help books with happy stock photo models adorning the cover.

But this idea doesn’t need a book, just a few hundred words.

I haven’t met a doctor who didn’t have concerns about the time commitment that social media potentially demands.  So I tell doctors that they need a social media budget.  Limit your properties and limit your time.  You, after all, have limited space to think about this stuff.

If you’re into marketing yourself, 30 minutes a day will give you market advantage.  If you are passionate about sharing information with your patients, a half-hour will do the trick.

So here are 5 ideas that won’t hog your human bandwidth. Pick a couple, use them and be happy.

Follow 50.  Pick 25, 50 or 100 really smart people on Twitter and follow them.  Peek at it a once or twice a day.  Be selective about what you listen to and share back in a way that’s meaningful.  Grow as your time allows.  Follow and unfollow ruthlessly to get the human signal you want.

Make a Cinchcast.  A lot of doctors have an easier time dictating than writing.  Cinch is a micropodcasting platform that allows you to record mini, under-5-minute recordings for public dissemination.  And they’ve got a great iPhone app.

Write a 250 word post.  You can maintain a very successful blog on 1-2 posts per week.  Pick one simple message for your colleagues or your patients and boil it down into a simple post just like this one.  What are you passionate about?  What do you want your patients to know?

Read 5 blogs.  Hand pick 5, or 3 or 10 of the best blogs on what it is that drives you.  Pull them into Google reader, Facebook or the RSS of your choice.  Read them, forget the rest and be happy.  Remember to comment on occasion.  This is how people will get to know you and this is how your expertise will add to the conversation.

Touch Facebook.  If you maintain a Facebook page for your practice, one solid post per day will carry you.  Think about what might bring real value to your patient population.  What’s the one link they need to read and why?  Just one good bit of really good information every day will earn you a reputation as a Trust Agent and build a following that will allow you to message in any way you see fit.

How would you leverage social media 30 minutes a day?

Graphic via Deziner Folio


Gregg Masters November 16, 2010 at 10:58 am

Excellent post Bryan! Right on-point to needs of physicians…great counsel from one who’s been on the ground of this emerging cultural phenomenon.

Love the ‘Cinchcast’ citation.

News to mois.

Phil Baumann November 16, 2010 at 11:26 am

I think these are useful tips (I don’t have the physician perspective, but it makes sense for pretty much anybody on budgeted time).

One draw: Cinchcast – They have got to kill that “SSSSSSSSSSSSSSinch”. It’ll probably turn off a lot of people. (It’s pretty much a re-do of a service called Utterz that was around a few years back.)

Another tip: For anyone who wants to monitor a reputation: set up a Google Alerts for Updates (click the drop-down for Type). Updates limits searches to only updates on real-time services, including Twitter. Less overwhelming.

Also: I’d highly recommend Kent Bottles to follow : @KentBottles


Pam November 16, 2010 at 12:44 pm


Jeff E November 16, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Most of the really great doctors I know don’t need to do any marketing unless their goal is to travel around and give speeches.. Twitter seems to now consist of nothing but other bloggers versus the targeted audiences of high income clients that a marketing strategy would seem to imply.

DrV November 16, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Jeff – It depends what really great doctors want to do and how you define a really great doctor. If you believe that doctors have an obligation to be involved in the creation of the infosphere, marketing has nothing to do with it. But with regard to doctors strictly promoting their services, you may be right. But I see nothing wrong with a young pediatrician creating a presence with a blog and a Cinchcast in order draw the attention of young families looking for a doctor.

We will at some point move beyond seeing social media as a marketing gimmick and onto seeing it as a normal way of conducting dialog.

Kathi Browne November 16, 2010 at 4:13 pm

You missed another important use… education. OTHERS: Get a message out. Informed patients are more compliant, understanding… and healthier. SELF: Let others catch you up-to-date by following experts. I suggest @consultdoc (my husband and physician and healthcare consultant).

DrV November 16, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Yea on education. Earlier comment from Jeff assumes that SoMe is for marketing. But a common misconception.

And yes, follow the one and only @consultdoc ; )

Gail Zahtz November 16, 2010 at 4:18 pm

During the Health Care Social Media Canada (#hcsmca) chat last week, a number of doctors asked this very question: how do we find the TIME to engage in social media. I plan on passing the link around a number of medical chats within which I engage. I have already sent the link to this great piece to both social media (#sm) and health care social media (#hcsm) because your succinct advice is worthy for both medical and non-medical professionals balancing productive social media time within already over-booked schedules. Other’s agree as it’s been RT’d (grin) Thanks for the post @GailZahtz

Greg Smith MD November 16, 2010 at 5:32 pm


For me personally, right now:

1) Blog for fun, catharsis and to get the message out primarily to friends, patients and those they know and love.
2) Twitter to build new community contacts primarily in medically related areas, and to learn new things.
3) Facebook to keep up with family and friends through pictures, music, and other media.
4) Google Reader (or Reeder on my iPhone 4) to track a handful of good blogs (yours included, of course!)
5) A smattering of podcasts that I really enjoy, mostly Apple/Mac/iOS related.

That pretty much fills the day, with emails and other things fit in where and when they need to be.
Thanks for the post!


DrV November 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm

And just as we all observe: At best, physicians use public social for ‘soft professional’ communications only a fraction of the time. Thanks for clarifying. Reality.

DrGwenn November 17, 2010 at 4:55 am

Great ideas, Bryan, but I think this is a bit too overwhelming for most docs fearful of social media. For most twitter is just to over whelming. If most docs have a blog and Facebook, that’s a fantastic start. Once they get past those two huge hurdles and realize they can manage both without them adding much time to their busy days, twitter won’t be that difficult to add on.

Tejal November 17, 2010 at 9:42 am

Great article! I’m a physical therapist and have noticed a lag in our profession as well when it comes to social media. This is a great article to get healthcare professionals involved! Thanks for the post!

Kathy Kastner November 19, 2010 at 11:55 am

terrific direction and insight (post and comments)
Totally timely for me – as I head to the STFM/AAFP (Society of Teacher of Family Medicine/American Academy of Family Physicians) Conference on Practice Improvement – where there’s a lecture entitled: ‘To tweet or not to tweet?’ and round-table, ‘Facebook and Twitter: Friend or Foe? What’s their role in the Patient-Centered Medical Home.’
Thanks! I’ll take gr8 pleasure in sharing :)

DrV November 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Great. Send ‘em over. And don’t forget to tell them to sign up for our newsletter. First edition coming out very shortly.

Kathy Kastner November 20, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Look forward to first edition of newsletter.
BTW STFM/AAFP conference is in San Antonio. Would that it were closer to you — I could invite you to join table. No, wait – nevermind joining it’d be leading the discussion.

Eye Doctor Optometrist November 22, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I’m trying to use social media to brand my practice. As an optometrist, I have to be very careful about the image I portray. I can’t offend a lot of people and still grow a practice.

So far 30 minutes a day is about right.

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