Friday, March 12, 2010

Randall Wong, MD: My favorite social networks

My favorite social networks are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. They differ by the demographic that uses them, but are great avenues for attracting attention to my Web sites or blog. While I am not able to tout all the advantages of social media in one post, these are a few ways I use the different sites.

I use Twitter to "tweet" about new articles I've written for my blog. It is a very common way to let people know about new items on my Web site, and thus, attract more readers.

Once an article is written for my blog, I will copy the URL, or Web address for my article, and go to (yes, that's all you have to type in). is a URL shortener and reduces the number of characters of the URL. (Tweets can be no more than 140 characters long).

I will then "tweet" about the new article just posted on the blog. I will usually write a short comment and then add the abbreviated URL. By clicking on the shortened link, a reader can go straight to the Web site and read the article.

At the same time, Feedburner will have been "pinged" that I have a new article and will automatically send a message, or "tweet," to Twitter. I have set this up automatically.
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Those who follow me on Twitter, and those looking for tweets about eye disease, will be alerted about a new article on my blog. Many people who use Twitter are in an Internet-related business and far fewer are related to healthcare.

Facebook is very popular among the younger generation. It is frequented by teens and younger (although they are supposed to be at least 18 years old), college kids (and the parents of all these kids). It is also becoming a very popular place to find...businesses.

I have a "Fan Page" on Facebook. A Fan Page differs from a regular social account in a few ways. First, people/patients may become a "fan" instead of a "friend." Fans do not have to be recognized by you, the owner of the page, for them to make comments on the Fan Page. This is different than becoming a friend on a regular social page where the owner has to "friend" each person in return to send messages, etc.

Many docs have found difficulty friending patients/visitors due to the fear of establishing a doctor/patient relationship. Fan Pages avoid all of this. Any person who chooses to be a fan may post messages and comments on your site. Fans might comment about what a great doc you are, the convenience of your office location, your neat Web site, etc.

Other differences? You can advertise your Fan Page by subject, by demographic, etc. Many, many corporations have started this method of advertising and have their own Fan Page on Facebook.

Lastly, I have set it up so that every new article I write on my blog gets transferred to Facebook. My fans may read my articles there and comment or share my article with others. My younger patients, who don't e-mail as much as the older generation, prefer to keep up with me and my blog via FB.

LinkedIn is very similar to Facebook although it really is a social network for the business world. It has some of the same advantages of FB, but has some unique attributes. While it is nowhere as social as FB, it relies heavily on FOAF (friend of a friend) business networks.

There are a respectable numbers of health related groups (interest groups) that have formed at LinkedIn. LinkedIn lists my excerpts of my blog. My readers via LinkedIn can click on the excerpts which take them right to my blog.

So what does this all mean? Each of the social networks, and there are dozens, seem to have their own demographic. Depending upon the personality of each media, you may choose to network.

For instance, FB appeals more to my younger patients. They don't seem to check e-mail as much as the older folks, so providing my articles and an information page about me (aka Fan Page) on FaceBook makes it more convenient for them. FB is becoming so large, it is becoming a "Web active" subset of the Internet, that is, most people using FB tend to be very active users of the Internet. Corporate America has noticed. My older, more business oriented patients, follow me on LinkedIn.

These are great ways to start using social media to get news out about your practice. You don't have to understand all the ramifications of each network before you begin. These are simple ways that I have found to be useful.


  1. Dr. Wong, I'm wondering how you feel about physician-only and physician-focused social media outlets. Do you use Sermo? Do you wish there were other social networks that allow physicians to talk to each other about professional and/or personal issues, knowing that the community is restricted to those qualified to be part of it?

  2. Dr. Wong,

    I have had similar experiences with social media and agree with your recommendations. I think that as time passes, more and more doctors will find the the educational aspects of social media (for both patients and themselves) outweigh the risks, if managed appropriately.

    Thanks for your contributions!

  3. Bob Keaveney,

    I do not use Sermo. I am more interested in using social media and the Internet to promote improved communication between doctors and patients.

    I am aware of a growing movement to have "private" forums for doctors, but I really don't understand the need, from a clinical perspective.

    From a practice management standpoint, I think it is worthwhile, although we are no longer talking about just doctors.

    My interest is to promote better doctor-patient relationships via social media and the Internet. Doctors have the ability to change the quality of "health information" available on the Internet.

    There are many ways that docs could use the Internet to improve public health, promote themselves and their practices.

    I could go on and on.

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. Dr. Bonilla-Warford,

    I think you and I are moving in the same direction.

    There are too many docs out there afraid of the perceived risks of the Internet. I think the biggest fear is liability. As I have written, writing educational material on the Internet, free of opinion, that is, medical advice, is pretty safe.

    Like you, I believe, with time, as more and more of the public migrates to the Internet, the docs will follow in one way or another.

    Thanks for your support.

  5. Dr Wong

    You've done an excellent job of helping physicians understand that there are many low-cost no-cost ways to promote one's services (and products!) to an audience that is eager to connect with a physician.

    These "educational marketing" strategies are perfectly aligned with physicians' natural desires to teach and help, and they remove the stress most doctors feel at having to "sell"!
    Their greatest value is in positioning the physician and his or her practice as someone/something that a prospective or existing patients can know, like and trust!

  6. Thanks for the positive comment. To me, it's like moving a rock. I, too, that the "soft sell" is no different than what we've traditionally, just a different, cheaper, more effective medium.

    Why lecture over and over again to special interest groups, when our audience can be...anyone and everyone!

    Thanks and have a great weekend.

  7. What I meant to say...

    Thanks for the positive comment. To me, it's like moving a rock. I, too, believe that the 'soft sell" approach is no different than what we've traditionally done. Now there's a different, cheaper and more effective medium.

    Why lecture over and over again to special interest groups, when our audience can be...anyone, anyone and everyone!

    Thanks and have a great weekend.