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How Are Physicians Using Social Media?

The time is approaching when businesses will want to capture the eyes and minds of physicians in the social world.  Throwaways and mailouts will give way to more current channels of communication.  Friends in the health
industry ask how they should connect with physicians using social media channels.

The rules really aren’t much different but here are a couple of things the consultants will never tell you:

I’m not on Sermo.  While Sermo and Ozmosis may seem like obvious targets, physician specific verticals are tricky.   The road to the successful physician network is littered with the skeletons of startups who went broke trying to capture our eyeballs.  While its hard to ignore Forrester’s bullish analysis of services like Sermo, I don’t
the enthusiasm to be sustained.  Look to the next iteration of IMedExchange to possibly be a game changer
in this area.  Until then, the connectors who are going to get you where you want to go aren’t necessarily hangin’
with other doctors.  They’re found in the wild.

We’re not talkin’ about pills.  If you listen to physicians on social platforms you may be surprised to learn that we’re not always talking about medicine.  Sure we chime in on healthcare reform and some are in it only to pimp their health sites and blogs, but the real conversations fall off center of traditional medical things.  While it’s
possible that the next generation of physicians will to use social networks primarily for the dissemination of professional information, I suspect that the way to a physician’s heart and mind is through the everyday dialog.

Remember the Law of the Few. In The Tipping Point (and long before Twitter) Malcolm Gladwell wrote about The Law of the Few which suggests that “the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent
upon the involvement of a few people with a particularly rare set of social gifts.”  These few are referred to
as Connectors – those with a special gift for bringing the world together.  Look for physician connectors.  Listen to them and watch what they do.  Most organizations fail to make the meaningful connections with the real medical influencers that bear fruit on the major social platforms.

Look at Scott Monty. The health industry doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to connecting with someone like me.  I have always asked:  “Where’s the Scott Monty of healthcare?”  When will United Healthcare or Pfizer replicate the success of Ford?  It isn’t complicated.  Watch Scott on Twitter.  See how he connects.  Get a sense of how he makes people feel.  Watch where he speaks.  And who ever heard of an automobile company appearing at SXSW to offer free rides?  He had apparently.

A few healthcare socialites who are making great headway:  Marc Monseau (Johnson & Johnson), Greg Matthews (Humana), and Lee Aase (Mayo Clinic).

“90% of social is just showing up.” I took a lot of heat when I posted this quote on Twitter a few months back.  But I think there’s something to it.  Everyone wants to believe that social success comes from deep, ‘meaningful’ relationships.  These descriptors are relative in the virtual world.  Social media isn’t rocket science and simple visibility has real value when you’re starting out.  Find socially active doctors.  Be present. Be real. See how things evolve.

We’re not there yet. Be wary of industry-driven surveys fashioned to make you believe the medical world is spending all its time on Twitter or physician specific networks. The numbers of physicians meaningfully engaged isn’t substantial at this point.  That’s because we’re busy.  Windows of online opportunity with physicians are narrow.  Despite the digital idealism of Health 2.0, the art of medicine still involves one individual touching another.  And it’s hard to do that on Facebook.

As the next generation of wired physicians grow into positions of power, expect real online engagement to evolve as a meaningful avenue for interaction.  Until then, scrappy, smart, creative strategy that genuinely understands and respects the behavior of the social physician will rule the space.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

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One Response to “How Are Physicians Using Social Media?”

  1. Mary K. flights says:

    If you listen to physicians on social platforms you may be surprised to learn that we’re not always talking about medicine. you take medicine if you are a bad condition?

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