• Social Media Training: Why You Need it and How It’s Done

    Social media is everywhere, and it’s being used for work and play. At a session during Mid-Year Forum 2019, ophthalmologists discussed how to harness the power of social media to benefit their medical practices and their patients.


    Social media is comprised of various forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and digital content. Originally created as tools to facilitate personal relationships, they have advanced to become as ubiquitous within a business context as the telephone and email, enhanced by their ability to extend the reach of communication like never before.

    The power of social media is increasingly being deployed within medicine to market physician services to the public as well as to provide a platform for physicians and medical organizations to advance their educational objectives. This session is a social media grand rounds, providing an overview of the major platforms and practical hands-on experience that will prepare participants to immediately enhance their ability to effectively engage with patients, the public and their fellow ophthalmologists.

    Background Information

    Social media is ubiquitous and should be part of physicians’ lives by now. The dominant social platforms in terms of user adoption are Facebook and YouTube. The fastest-growing platform from 2016 to 2018: Instagram. The typical American uses three of the eight major platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, WhatsApp).

    The Academy operates both member-focused channels (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn) and public-focused channels (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram).

    Summary of Comments from Guest Speakers

    Social Media for Ophthalmologists (Intro)

    Andrea A. Tooley, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

    Dr. Tooley started a blog to document her time in medical school, and it morphed into a broader social media offering with thousands of followers.

    Purpose of social media: Find your “why” and post with consistency. Learn to avoid pitfalls.

    Your why:

    • Educate
    • Inspire and mentor
    • Establish yourself as a leader in the field
    • Market your practice

    Post with consistency

    • Use a service for posting, like Hootsuite or Buffer

    Avoid pitfalls

    • Safeguard patient privacy and protect your patients above all else.
    • Obtain consent for ALL patient-related posts.
    • If “de-identified,” remove any identifiers of PERSON, PLACE and TIME.
    • Avoid posts containing negativity, controversy, anger, etc.

    Why You Should 'Like' Facebook, Google Reviews and Healthgrades for Your Practice

    Ravi D. Goel, MD, Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia and Regional Eye Associates, Cherry Hill, N.J.

    Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation, five minutes to ruin it.”

    Dr. Goel said he was afraid of his social media presence until 2012. That year, he Googled himself, looked at his results and ranked them. He saw that review sites like Healthgrades were prominent in search results. In 2014, 60% of his results were physician review sites.

    He asked people to review him but did not offer incentives. This was his optimization strategy.

    He offers this Monday morning action plan to claim your Google and Healthgrades profiles:

    1. Google yourself and manage your Google profile or Google places page.
    2. Use Google’s tools to build and manage your profile. Google will start giving you powerful data that can help.
    3. Go to Healthgrades and do the same.
    4. Got to Facebook and do the same.

    Continue to manage your social and web presence in other ways: For instance, during the 2017 solar eclipse, Dr. Goel created a blog post about eye safety. He spent $200 on a Facebook ad to promote that post, targeting men and women ages 60 to 65 in specific zip codes. That post received 7,000 engagements on Facebook and brought media interview opportunities.

    Instagram in Ophthalmology: A Pic (or Video) Is Worth a Thousand Words

    Sidney K. Gicheru, MD, LaserCare Eye Center, Dallas

    Dr. Gicheru talked about his practice’s Instagram account, launched in a competitive Dallas market for laser correction. The goal was to engage millennials as prospective patients through social networks.

    Patients like to actively talk about LASIK, sharing their experience and talking about who did the surgery.

    At their practice, Dr. Gicheru said, they learned to make engaging videos to bolster their Instagram profile. They now have 24,000-plus followers.

    Benefits include excellent return on investment and “social proof,” he said. A strong social presence also helps reach out-of-town patients. He said his practice’s market is now broadened to Houston, Austin and even reaches internationally.

    To do Instagram well, have an infrastructure in place, post regularly, vary your posts, monitor your performance. Experiment to understand the platform’s algorithm for promoting posts. Embrace influencers.

    Understand the barriers to entry: Make it a team effort, empower young staff to help you and share their tricks and tactics. Expenses are minimal, but you must understand the legal and aesthetic issues.

    Immediate action with patients: Take a picture right after you see them, use a phone if you must. The immediacy pays dividends.

    Videos: Music will help, pay attention to who reaches out to you, find your voice (don’t try to copy someone else) and have fun with it. It will grow.

    Professor or Student? You Can Be Both at ‘YouTube University’

    Andrea A. Tooley, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

    Dr. Tooley started creating YouTube videos during medical school and has published 70 to 80 videos. She said she kept the bar low and didn’t try to do anything special, but was able to be successful with some videos drawing hundreds of thousands of views. Her approach has been to post “day in the life” or lifestyle types of content.

    Reasons to publish on YouTube include:

    • Patient education
    • Mentoring
    • Teaching

    Your video content can be repurposed on other platforms.

    To be successful:

    • Pay attention to the thumbnail, the static image that displays before the video play button is clicked. Opt for images that appeal to the layperson, rather than physician. Free photo editing apps, like PicMonkey, helps you do this.
    • Text should have keywords in the caption and description box. This text makes the video more discoverable. Include a link to your other platforms, like Instagram.
    • Create an attractive landing page using a customizable banner. Include an introductory video.

    Music: Videos pop when you add music. Match the vibe of what you’re trying to portray. You can also add narration. Embrace YouTube’s free services.

    Big on Ideas, Short on Time? Tweet It in 280 Characters

    Usiwoma E. Abugo, MD, oculoplastic surgeon, Carolina Eye Associates, Greensboro, N.C.

    Why tweet? Ophthalmologists can have an incredible reach. Twitter has 335 million users. Interact directly with your audience and identify your brand. Embrace the community of professionals with whom Twitter helps you engage.


    • Consider your username. What are you there for? Make it succinct and easy to remember.
    • Pay attention to character count, add hashtags to increase your visibility on the network. Identify three or four hashtags on which you rely regularly. Hashtags for meetings and events are very important to see who you can interact with (a social media party!).
    • Tagging other accounts: Maximizes photos and content and engages and brings key people into the fold.
    • Generate content, relying on trusted resources. Academy material is vetted, reviewed and easy for patients to understand. Content from the World Health Organization also can be useful.
    • Pay attention to timing. People on Twitter are usually online in the afternoon or midday. Also Saturday at 3 p.m.

    Engage: Like others’ posts, comment on their tweets, and retweet to share with your followers.

    Case Study 1: Growing a Practice Through Social Media

    Drs. Gicheru and Goel

    Dr. Gicheru said data shows two-thirds of small businesses use social media to generate leads or drive people to their websites and listings. “Social media is the new Yellow Pages!”

    It’s important because of its impact on search engine rankings. Better rankings show your relevance. 75 percent of patients look at online reviews prior to choosing a physician.

    Social media helps establish your brand. Your brand isn’t just your logo. It’s your knowledge, breadth, patient experiences. Don’t be afraid to ask patents how they heard about you.

    Leverage Facebook’s capacity for engagement, but know what you’re doing. For example, most people expect a direct message response within an hour.

    Establish a broad marketing plan, which includes owned media, earned media and paid media.

    Dr. Goel said that in 2010, he stopped handing out video CDs to patients and instead posted them to YouTube. He started tracking YouTube views using link shortener bit.ly and grew annual views from 66,000 to 151,000 in four years. Bit.ly helps you track who pays attention, where they are and what actions they took.

    Case Study 2: Promoting Ophthalmic Knowledge and Professional Networking

    Drs. Abugo and Tooley

    Three strong platforms for education are Instagram, YouTube and Vimeo (another video-hosting platform).

    Twitter and Facebook are strong platforms for networking. They help you find job openings, gather career advice, discuss interesting cases and showcase the latest technology. They also help you seek collectives of like-minded individuals, which exposes you to the greater ophthalmology community on key issues, events and education. Check out the hashtag engagement on Twitter around #whyIadvocate.

    Using YouTube for education and mentoring can be low-budget and personal. The latter lends authenticity to your message. It helps establish you as a provider and expert in your field.

    Instagram can be “ophthalmology in real time.” It reaches med students and fellows directly to allow them to understand what they’re doing or could aspire to do.

    Summary of Audience Comments and responses to Q&A

    • How do you block time for social media? Use the free time between patients to edit a photo, craft a post, etc.
    • Gicheru, who has an online office manager at his practice, was asked how much of that person’s time was spent online. He said, 80 percent, all day long.
    • How do you deal with haters and trolls? You don’t have to be in social media if you don’t want to be. Take those people with a grain of salt. Handling bad reviews depends on the platform, so the best thing to do is address it directly. Start with “I’m sorry you had that experience/feel that way. Someone from our office will contact you to resolve this issue.” And combat bad reviews with good reviews. Ask your staff to help you find people who will post honest, positive reviews of how you care for patients. Positive feedback outweighs the negative. Dr. Gicheru’s electronic health records (EHR) automatically reaches out to patient to solicit a review.
    • When do you find time to replay to social comments/questions? Take five minutes during lunchtime and with your response be honest about your availability (“I’m really busy, but I can answer you later”). Dr. Tooley did an Instagram Live to go through questions from patients and followers, which she then saved and shared on YouTube.
    • What about SnapChat? It could be big, but not Instagram-big. But you need to respect and embrace all social platforms. User engagement on SnapChat is actually declining.

    Read the full Mid-Year Forum 2019 Report: View as webpages or as a PDF (360 KB).