Social Media/Writing/Blogging

Ten things I recently learned (and sort of knew) about social media

I am prepping for an upcoming talk on using social medial to improve health care delivery. The thing about these sorts of lectures is that canned talks have no shelf life. What does in the digital era?

It is strange that I get asked to talk with other doctors about digital media. I am hardly an expert. I have zero background in computers. I do not know HTML. I could not explain either side of the net neutrality argument. And, although I have a good number of followers on Twitter, it is nothing compared to real public figures.

As I tell my family, all I have is me. “It is I, John.”

And this may be the key feature. At least that is what I am learning from a dive into the realm of famous marketers and entrepreneurs in the social media space.

A young friend recently pointed me to Gary Vaynerchuk. Doctor V often references Seth Godin. A Twitter acquaintance sent me to a recent Thomas Friedman editorial. I found Mr. Praiser on my own.

Here are ten things I have learned in the last week about healthcare social media (#hcsm) from unconventional sources. The good news for doctors is that it is mostly good news:

1. There has never been a better time to be a good person. The tired old clichés are real. Authenticity, empathy and kindness do great on social media. Since everything is connected, it pays to be nice, and real.

2. Social media has heightened the collective bullshit meter.  Frauds are exposed faster than ever.

3. Providing something of value brings success. Lead with something that helps people. I find it cool that this modern-day marketing message sounds a lot like what Mark Twain said about writing without pay for three years.

4. You are in the media business. You are in the media business—and you are a doctor. You are in the media business—and you are a researcher. Innovation and the Internet does not care about us. It surely does not care about pay-walled content (e.g. medical journals) and vertical structures of influence.

5. You do not need permission. Enough said.

6. It is still about the story. If you can tell a story you are a leader.

7. Storytelling is different now. We live in an ADHD culture. You may not like it—the Internet does not care—but you have to learn to tell a great story in microbursts. When there were only 30 channels on the TV, you could keep a person’s attention. Forget about that now.

8. Context is more important than content. This is terrific news for regular doctors. What else can I offer you but context. I do not make the medicines or catheters and I do not do the research. But I can tell you how we roll in the real world. I can tell you the truth.

9. Patience and persistence pay off. In the digital space, willingness to fail is rewarded. Mistakes create opportunity. Vaynerchuk remarked that he once recommended to a client they purposely make an error on social media just so they could apologize. Saying sorry is sticky because social networks thrive on humanity.

10. Privacy is dead. It is hopeless to think we can keep our lives private. We are sharing more and more, especially young people. And this is okay, because, contrary to the message of news stories, humans are mostly good.

Here are a couple of reasons for pause:

Medical privacy is a problem. From a caregiver standpoint, protecting patient privacy dates back to our ancient oaths. Every time I write a medical post, I think about privacy. Still, though, I ask–because I do not know: will any e-patient be able to keep his or her medical history private? Perhaps it is the cost of being digitally connected. If people can know your address and likes and what stories you may tend to read, surely they can know you have high blood pressure.

The filter bubble bothers me. “Hi, John…See what you missed on Twitter…Here are some stories you may like…Here is who you might want to follow.” This echo chamber creates a potential problem. Why, for instance, do two people who search the same topic on Google get different results? Is this good for a free society? I am not so sure.

Let me know what you think.


3 replies on “Ten things I recently learned (and sort of knew) about social media”

Medical privacy will thrive as patients become stewards of our own health records as well as our own implantable cadriac defibrillators. The essential enabler is open source software because it allows for peer review in patient and physician communities working together without secret snake oils.

(1) For anyone who provides professional services, your name is your brand. People WILL google you. Many will form their first impression of you this way. It might be a patient, a co-worker, or a prospective employer. Being active on social media means you get some control over what others see. Leaving your internet presence to your institution or a doctor rating site is foolish.

(2) You don’t have to write general information for everyone. Write for a specific audience and that audience will find you. You’ll feel good when you see new patients who have sought you out because their needs match your skills and interests. You’ll never know it, but some patients will look elsewhere because your philosophy doesn’t meld with theirs. Think of it as doctor-patient matchmaking of sorts. A good match makes everyone happier.

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