6 Ways for Orthopedic Surgeons to Effectively Utilize Social Media

Just creating a Facebook page or updating your Twitter account once in a while won't increase an orthopedic surgeon's social media presence. Surgeons need a process or system that allows them to succeed. "Social media for business is a whole different thing and you have to have a process that allows you to succeed by doing it correctly," says John Luginbill, CEO of The Heavyweights, a marketing company. "Social media is the word-of-mouth of the 21st century." Here are six tips for orthopedic surgeons to successfully become involved in social media.

1. Have a clear strategy. Decide what you want to accomplish through social media and how you are going to get there. For example, orthopedic surgeons who are currently practicing general orthopedics and would like to be more subspecialized can attract more of their subspecialty through social media. "Put the message out there targeting the appropriate patient about why someone would be better off by coming to you," says Mr. Luginbill.

2. Make sure your strategy is comprehensive. There are many social media websites beyond Twitter and Facebook, and orthopedic surgeons should participate in those as well. "Participate in a comprehensive program where you are distributing information on different sites, such as Stumble Upon," says Mr. Luginbill. "These forums allow you to give information to different types of bloggers who will distribute it, which provides further channels for patients to contact you."

3. Promote other events online. Surgeons can promote their community outreach events through social media outlets. Remind patients about your orthopedic webinars or seminars to improve attendance. "There's 500 million people on Facebook, and 120 million users are in the United States," says Mr. Luginbill. "There's a whole lot more people gathering information from the computer than picking up the newspaper."

4. Automate your efforts. Participating in social media can be daunting because you have to regularly update regardless of your busy schedule. Use automation software that is simple and affordable to keep your audience updated. Using software like SocialOomph or HootSuite orthopedic surgeons or office members can input information ahead of time and the software distributes the updates at regular intervals. This way, surgeons don't have to remember to update every day.

5. Create metrics for social media activity. After launching your social media strategy, focus on measuring its effectiveness. "The beauty about social media is because you can do it in an automated and comprehensive way, you know exactly how many people are finding you," says Mr. Luginbill. "Target the type of work you want with social media and measure what is coming in. We've seen orthopedic spine surgeons who were doing one spine surgery per week grow to 20 spine surgeries per week using almost exclusively social media as a way to be found."

6. Invest in reputation management. Orthopedic surgeons must monitor their online reputation. "An angry patient can post venomous things about a competent, fellowship-trained physician, which could ruin the physician's reputation," says Mr. Luginbill. "Patients will do research on the Internet about surgeons before they even ask their friends for advice. You have to monitor your online presence." Programs such as Trackur or RepuChek can help surgeons keep track of their online reviews. If a libelist negative review is printed, the surgeon should take immediate actions to remove the statements.

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