There's the obvious "WHY" a physician should participate in social media.
But perhaps even a more basic concern for a physician deciding whether to pursue social media or not is whether it may even be a bad idea.
Beyond the obvious medico-legal issues regarding private medical information (HIPAA, HITECH, etc, etc), there is perhaps an underlying fear of having their online persona hijacked by negative publicity, whether warranted or not.
In essence, as Sensei Marketing pointed out succinctly in a blog post, could social media actually create bad customers or in our case, patients???
It happened to McDonalds when their hashtag #McDStories was hijacked by a mob of angry trolls as well as real customers with negative stories.
Sensei Marketing's belief in the evils of social media was summarized quite simply:
"people deep down are bullies or at the very least indifferent to bullying."Assuming the general populace, which includes patients, are all bullies deep down, social media allows for (borrowing from Sensei Marketing):
- No Guilt - Easy to condemn or accuse
- The Mob - If lots of people are doing it, it just makes it that much easier for an individual to justify doing it too.
- Anonymity - Being unidentifiable allows for those who ordinarily would have exercised restraint, to vocalize (or type) without fear.
- No Accountability - With anonymity, there is no repercussion or punishment
- Streisand Effect - If an individual (or doctor) tries to combat a negative rating or comment, it just brings more attention to it. More on this effect as it pertains to physicians here.
Could social media be just another further extension of doctor rating websites, except now the physician is doing it to himself inviting another avenue for public ridicule or even attack?
The answer is yes...
BUT, a physician should not avoid social media for fear of risk. In fact, a physician should pursue social media not just for (free) marketing or informational purposes, but also to control risk! I also have a more optimistic view of human nature (we are NOT all bullies deep down).
Unlike doctor rating websites where a physician has little recourse to combat negative comments justified or not, social media CAN be controlled, shaped, and monitored by the physician.
Bullying or negative comments will occur online whether a physician likes it or not. Whether through a doctor rating website or not. Whether there is a social media presence or not.
As such, the absence of a social media presence may in fact promote physician brand negativity given there is no public competing positive voice... namely, your own.
Furthermore, even if you are a wonderful doctor without a bad word anywhere online, in this day and age... an absent presence is increasingly becoming interpreted by the public as a negative, especially when a google search, which takes into account social media presence, often decides who a patient ultimately decides to see.
Is Social Media Bad For Business? Forbes 11/11/12
Social Media is Creating Bad Customers. Sensei Marketing