How physicians can use social media like a business card

Social media is the new business card, and it may be one of the most effective ways for physicians to market themselves.

Matthew Harb, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics in Washington, D.C., with over 360,000 followers on TikTok, spoke with Becker's about why physicians should hop on the social media train.

Editor's note: This piece was edited lightly for brevity and clarity.

Question: What made you decide to start using social media for medical work?

Dr. Matthew Harb: What I've found is that social media accomplishes a bunch of different goals. The first one is it opens lines of patient communication, meaning you have a new way to interact with your patient population. You can target them directly because instead of paying for direct-to-consumer marketing and things of that nature, the algorithms that are built into social media engines basically have the patients who are on these platforms find your channel. It's providing that specific niche of patients with your content.

Q: What is the benefit of physicians using social media?

MH: [Surgeons] get to spend so little time in the office with our patients that social media is a tool to connect in a different manner that patients almost feel like you're speaking directly to them. You build patient rapport better, and I think you develop a deeper and more trustworthy connection with the patients as well.

Q: Do you think physicians should use social media more or less?

MH: I think they should definitely use it more. I think the full power of social media … we're just at the very tip of it. In the same way that businesses or most providers are listed on Google Maps, the surgeon presence will be on social media. It will basically almost be a required extension of your practice and you can look at other specialties that do this. You can look at plastic surgery doctors who have a huge social media presence. You can look at the dermatologists, and yes, it's a lot easier for them to do it because they're dealing with cosmetic stuff. It's a little bit tougher to accomplish in orthopedics, but the same kind of thought that went into it when the plastic surgeons and dermatologists started their social media channels is where you're going to see the other specialties go.

Q: Advice for physicians looking to get into social media?

MH: The hardest step of social media … and I'm not going to say it's hard because it's really not actually that difficult, but it's this mental barrier that you have to overcome of turning the camera around and filming yourself saying something and then posting it online. Most people don't like to hear their voice or see their own face on camera, but the easiest thing is you start out slow. You can start with some educational content, record a 15 second video talking about a diagnosis and a pathology. You gotta start somewhere and you start posting a couple videos and it'll grow from there. It's not an instant overnight process that happens, but you gotta start from somewhere and the easiest way is just by posting a video or a picture.

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