The ecosystem of social networks for healthcare professionals is incredibly diverse. For the massive number of physicians in the United States, there is no epicenter for online dialogue like Facebook, nor anything with the meteoric promise of SnapChat or Instagram. The industry is quickly maturing and a highly specialized web of social media destinations, groups, aggregators, and content providers are readying new channels to serve physicians, nurses, pharmacists, residents, and students.
For savvy agencies and brands that plan to engage with physicians and healthcare professionals this presents an opportunity to hone channel mixes create programs specifically targeted for their specialists and audiences.
Although it is easy to fall into a trap asking “why do we believe there are any differences in the way that healthcare professionals use social media for their work as does anyone else”, it is important to remember that in the US, HIPAA and privacy issues remain a challenge for healthcare professionals. A study from the US National Library of Medicine1 shows that although 90% of surveyed physicians use social media for personal use, 65% are engaged in social media for “professional reasons”. This survey also points to steady growth in both personal and professional adoption of social media in their responders. It is this gap that leaves a chance for both dedicated physician, healthcare professional, and specialist communities to provide a venue for exchanges and peer-to-peer engagement.
The highly fragmented environment is what agencies and brand leadership need to be cognizant of to build relationships. Before engaging with a single physician, there needs to be a consideration: What do I have permission from this group or community to discuss? What do I have the authority to discuss? With the answer to both of these questions, you can have a meaningful relationship with any community.
The first: What do I have the permission to discuss is relating to boundaries. Whether this is a massive primary care community or a niche group, knowing the dialogue, tone, and role that you have is critical to knowing if you will be welcomed. Many brands, professional communication or otherwise, make the mistake of applying a foreign culture to an already active community and become shunned. It is also critical to understand if you will be an outsider welcomed in as a guest or a bonafide member of the community.
The second: authority. This is a close second to permission and related. For many drug manufacturers, brand leadership, or agencies, this is simple: The product. Be sure that you are not introducing a powder keg topic or opinion that will polarize the community or have members question your purpose in being present. It is also critical to tie your authority to your intended outcome (this last point is a lynch-pin concept for Content Strategist).
Consider the healthcare professional, specialist, or nurse that you are trying to reach—do you know where they are online, the sources they visit and trust? How can you augment their search for information and provide value to their day? Answering that question and doing so aware of the tapestry of media and personalities they are going to come across can help find new and committed pundits for your brand.