LinkedIn, a professional social networking site, is somewhat similar to Facebook, except that profiles and interactions are oriented towards business. This makes it an ideal place to market your medical practice, as well as connect with other physicians and medical professionals, learn about conferences and symposiums, and share experience and information with colleagues. And though LinkedIn has over 75 million users worldwide, it can also be utilized on a local level. Your patients will find and connect with you, creating top-of-mind awareness for your services, which will result in more office visits. Here are the basics of getting started on LinkedIn.
Creating a LinkedIn profile is easy and fast – you’ll need your name and email address. You can flesh out your profile over time if necessary, but doing so should be a priority before you interact much on the site. People will visit your profile to learn more about you when they see your posts in discussion groups, so it’s important to provide something for them to view. Be sure to upload a photo to your profile; people like to have a face to attach to the name, and your colleagues and patients will know they have the right person when they look you up to connect with you (“connecting” on LinkedIn is the same thing as “friending” on Facebook). Your CV will help you complete the rest of your profile, which is a summary of your skills, experience, and education.
Once your profile is complete, you can connect with friends and colleagues; LinkedIn provides several tools that will help you do this (for example, by searching your email account). To get more out of LinkedIn, join some groups; groups provide a forum for interaction. Groups for physicians to consider include:
· Alumni groups for your college and medical school
· Groups associated with your specialty (for example, NAMI for mental health professionals; Oncology Pharma for cancer specialists)
· Biotech and Pharma Professionals Network
· Medical Devices Group
· Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
· Innovations in Health
After you’ve been accepted to a group, it’s good form to introduce yourself briefly. Then you can begin participating in discussions. Keep social media networking etiquette in mind as you interact; the written word can sound harsher than intended without the benefit of accompanying nonverbal communication. Disagreement is fine, but it should be done respectfully. Once you’ve gotten a feel for the group, initiating your own posts will help you promote your practice. You can post questions for feedback from other experts, links to online articles you’ve written or find interesting, and information about your upcoming offline publications. However, avoid direct promotion of your practice, which is frowned upon on LinkedIn; the object of your posts should be to provide something of value to your network.
As with any social networking site, you’ll be quickly forgotten if you stop posting status updates and interacting in groups. Try to post an update to your profile at least once per week, even if you don’t participate in any group discussions that week. To save time, it’s helpful to connect LinkedIn to your Twitter account. This way, your Tweets (many of which will be automated if you follow the advice in our last article) will appear as status updates on your LinkedIn homepage.
As with Twitter, patient confidentiality is a must on LinkedIn. Keep in mind that given the many thousands of LinkedIn users in your local area, it would be easy for patients you post about to be recognized or identified. You never know who is “lurking” in a group. Exercise due caution and be sure your posts are about healthcare issues in general, not specific patients.
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