Social media, when used strategically, can serve as an effective tool for health leaders. Through various platforms, leaders can stay current, share news, educate the public, reach customers, build a network, establish a presence, and expand their careers. They can also serve as brand ambassadors on behalf of their organizations.
Leaders must take care to avoid the pitfalls of social media, however. It’s prudent to avoid conflicts of interest, inappropriate posts, patient privacy missteps and more. These do’s and don’ts can aid healthcare executives in crafting a strategic approach to social media.
Do search for yourself online to evaluate your digital presence. Start with the top search engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo. If you find issues or personal information you don’t want online, contact websites directly to remove content or correct errors.
Do set your personal social media accounts to private, especially if you are in the public eye. Consider all platforms you have now or have had in the past: Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest, etc.
Do make your professional accounts public. Make your work profiles visible, but ensure everything you put out on your professional social media is carefully crafted and continually reviewed for accuracy and timeliness.
Do consider the following social media platforms to build a professional online presence (Influential Executive):
- LinkedIn for networking, sharing long-form content, contributing thought leadership, publishing your resume and being a brand ambassador for your organization.
- Instagram for sharing eye-catching images and videos, establishing a personal, authentic presence and building brand personality.
- Twitter for delivering short-form content, pushing out company announcements and news, keeping up with trending issues, connecting with industry experts, and leading conversations.
- Facebook for supplementing brand visibility, cross-posting content and reaching a wider audience, including older individuals.
Do leverage features within social media platforms. For example, join any of the nearly 500 healthcare executive groups on LinkedIn or Facebook, subscribe to verified healthcare leadership experts on Twitter or follow hashtags like #healthcareexecutive on Instagram.
Do join professional groups and social organizations designed for healthcare executives and leaders. Consider building an online presence within the following organizations, according to what fits your field and role:
- American College of Healthcare Executives
- HealthCare Executive Group
- MGMA Member Network
- National Association of Health Services Executives
- National Rural Health Association
- Physician Executives Community
- Women’s Healthcare Executive Networks
Do create and share valuable content for leaders, providers, patients, families, and the public. You can use your social media presence thoughtfully to contribute to the body of knowledge and establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. Consider writing and passing along blog posts, employee spotlights, colleague accolades, research articles, videos, podcasts, medical news, white papers, case studies, and more.
Do align with your organization’s social media strategy. In addition to refining your own social media strategy, you might also review your organization’s approach and make sure you’re aligned. Healthcare organizations can use social media platforms for advocacy and policy, disease awareness and support, virtual events and conferences, social audio, recruitment, connecting healthcare professionals and much more (Forbes).
Don’t engage in behavior that could be considered unprofessional. HIPAA defines unprofessional content as intoxicated appearance, unlawful behavior, possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia, and uncensored profanity or offensive comments about colleagues or patients. HIPAA defines potentially unprofessional content as holding or consuming alcohol, inappropriate attire, censored profanity, controversial political or religious comments, and controversial social topics.
Don’t strike back at negative reviews. If an individual posts a negative comment about you or your organization online, view this as an opportunity for improvement. Forbes offers tips on how to respond to negative reviews constructively:
- Carefully consider the complaint and whether the customer’s point is valid
- Respond calmly and politely, apologizing and offering to make the situation right
- Discuss complex issues offline to protect consumer privacy and resolve the situation
Don’t violate patients’ privacy. If you post anything related to patients or your facility be sure to follow all HIPAA, state, federal, professional and practice guidelines for patient privacy. Common social media HIPAA violations include posting images or videos of patients without consent or sharing identifying information. See the 2023 HIPAA social media rules at HIPAA Journal for details.
Don’t get involved in conflicts of interest. Consider the impacts of all information you share online. Understand all federal, state, local and organizational rules that govern conflicts of interest.
Social media can be an effective tool for communication, networking, professional branding, leadership, learning, and career growth. With some foresight and planning, executives can tap into this often-overlooked resource to build a successful online presence.
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