There are a number of philosophies on how to successfully use Twitter as a business or networking tool, varying from carefully curating content to re-tweeting and following absolutely everybody. Some people focus on following those in a specific industry, others will literally follow tens (or hundreds) of thousands of people. Each of these philosophies have their merits (and downfalls), but when it comes to medical professionals using the social network, a few key items are in play.
In the medical community (and specifically in ophthalmology), there are a few personalities that stand above the rest. While some of their success can be attributed to being on the platform for longer than most, the most successful physicians on social media have a few things in common. Here are a few:
They provide value to followers
The number one rule of using Twitter as a professional is that you must provide value to your followers. It’s that simple. If you’re not sharing content that people are interested in (whether it’s your own or that of others), followers will be transient and not stick around.
The most successful physicians on Twitter know this, and that’s why they provide value to their followers at every turn. It could be through blog posts, new research, inspirational quotes, amusing memes, inspiring photography, or just about anything you can imagine - but you have to provide content that your audience will find valuable.
They ask questions
Another common hallmark of the most prolific Twitter personalities is that of asking questions. They understand that Twitter is not just a platform for their voice to be heard (however large their following might be), but rather a tool to facilitate communication among everyone, from those with hundreds of thousands of followers to those with just a few.
Asking questions is a great way to create conversation around topics that matter to the audience (see tip #1) - it can spur collective conversations about new research, controversial issues, or simply thought-provoking opinions. Twitter is one of the most wonderful places to encourage such conversations...so start asking questions!
They use hashtags wisely
Ah, the hashtag… Created by Chris Messina, the hashtag has become a social icon representing so many things, from social changes to inspirational challenges to downright mockery that comes from overuse. However it may be overused and/or mocked, the hashtag is an incredibly useful tool for disseminating information.
The most influential physicians on Twitter do use hashtags, but they choose them carefully. Research shows that tweets with more than three hashtags perform more poorly than those with fewer than three. Hashtags may be used to categorize information (such as tweets tagged #ophthalmology), but they also may be used to join in on conversations happening around industry conferences (such as #AAO2015).
Don’t be afraid to throw in a little humor with your hashtags, either, but use your judgment and focus on quality rather than quantity.
They conduct Twitter Chats
Often centered around a hashtag to collect information and organize conversations, Twitter chats are a useful way to facilitate conversation around a topic you possess specialized knowledge about. Twitter chats help those who follow you understand a certain topic or issue you know about, and they’re a great way to attract new followers.
They use images when sharing content
If you’re on Twitter, you’re familiar with the 140-character limit, but images can be an incredible useful way to communicate additional content in the confined space of a tweet. While including images in your tweets will take the number of available characters down slightly (for a link to the image), text can be added in the image to convey additional information.
The most successful physicians utilize images, especially when sharing content from their own websites. Using Twitter’s Cards can be a valuable way of displaying a short preview of the website or blog’s content.
They engage with patients and industry professionals
Successful physicians on Twitter don’t just use it as a platform to raise their voice - they carefully engage with other leading voices and industry professionals to connect and network. For many, Twitter is an easy way to quickly get in touch with leaders in their respective fields, especially when one may not have another’s contact information.
However, this isn’t just for industry professionals and the big whigs on Twitter - it’s a valuable resource for average, everyday patients as well. Twitter represents a fantastic opportunity to connect and engage with patients who are interested in what you have to say as their eye surgeon.
By encouraging patients to follow you on Twitter (keeping in mind that you must add value to their feed - be sure to communicate this!), you can easily add another channel through which patient communication can happen - just be sure to include in your profile that tweets are never medical advice.
They follow back
The most successful physician personalities on Twitter follow back everybody. Why? First off, Twitter shows you whether a user follows you or not, so there’s more transparency than other social networks, like Instagram.
The best physicians on social media are patient-centered – they put the patient at the heart of everything they share and do.
Secondly, followers who experience the gratification of you following them back are more likely to share your content and be more engaged. In general, those whom you follow are likely to follow you back, and vice versa. In psychology, this is called the principle of reciprocity, and it’s as important to practice online as it is in person.
But what happens when your timeline gets clogged with so many voices saying so many things? How do you keep track of it all?
Twitter lists are a useful way of curating followers and keeping track of everyone’s voice. You may not be interested in the everyday tweets of everyone who follows you, but you can separate those whose voices are especially important to you in a Twitter list.
In short, if someone follow you, follow back.
They direct patients to schedule appointments online
Online scheduling tools are another useful tool for ophthalmologists who are active online, as it eliminates a hurdle to patients coming in for a visit. Potential patients can come from anywhere, especially on the Internet, so lowering the bar as low as possible is a great way to increase your patient flow.
It may seem like this tip is designed to benefit you (and research suggests it certainly should), but it should be primarily focused on the patient. The best physicians on social media are patient-centered - they put the patient at the heart of everything they share and do.
While this is most applicable for ophthalmologists and others running a medical practice, industry professionals can certainly utilize the power of links like this. They may connect their Twitter profile to published work, scholarly articles, or other initiatives they are involved in.
Twitter: A Massive Opportunity
In short, the most successful Twitter personalities leverage the power of Twitter as a platform to facilitate conversation and direct followers to engage with them elsewhere, whether it be online or in person.