Physiatry Forward: Social Media 101
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Should We Be Social in Rehab? Social Media 101

Author: Neal Rakesh, MD
Resident Physician, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia/Cornell
Vice Chair, the AAP's Resident/ Fellow Council (RFC)

When you look around the world, on busy streets, in the hospital and even in your own home, you will undoubtedly find someone tethered to their phone scrolling through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. We rely on social media daily to communicate with each other, learn about current events and acquire new information. Why should medicine and the specialty of physiatry be any different?

Social media is an almost immediate method to communicate new ideas and network with large groups of people.(1-3) Educational content can enhance the medical student and resident learning experience through videos, virtual classes and question/answer sessions.(3-5) Social media provides an easily accessible forum for users to provide opinions and knowledge. This may allow for greater visibility of an organization or open up new clinical opportunities for individual physicians.(2) The emergence of social media has also allowed for the rapid dissemination of new research and assessment of its impact on the field of medicine.

However, social media can also be a double-edged sword. While allowing you to reach a large audience, you are also opening yourself up to criticism and one misunderstood statement can detrimentally affect your reputation.(2-3,7) Additionally, posted content is unapologetically permanent and can affect future endeavors.(2) The quality and reliability of the information is also a concern given that anyone can post content without adequately supported data.(2-3) Finally, there are legal and ethical concerns such as breaching patients’ protected health information, using proprietary hospital branding without permission or promoting corporate sponsorship within your content.(8-9)

If used properly, social media can be an effective tool to increase awareness and provide consistent engagement within the specialty of physiatry.(4,10)

Here are some simple steps to get you started on using social media:

  • Set a goal and define your brand/content - What do you want your presence to add to the social media terrain? Do you want to share exciting new changes in the specialty? Educate regarding current practices? Or show aesthetically interesting photos?
  • Identify your target audience - Is your content geared towards medical students, residents, practitioners, patients or the entire specialty?
  • Generate consistent content - Content is the most effective way to draw users to your social media. The more you post new and exciting content, the higher chance you have of attracting followers. Identify consistent content that can be posted to keep your audience engaged. Some of the most prolific users on Instagram post content on a daily basis.
  • Capitalize on your interface - Understanding your interface is as important as creating content. Content not posted in the most effective method can be easily missed or difficult for followers to interact with. Additionally, utilizing tools like hashtags appropriately will help to expand the number of users who are able to find your content.
  • Engage your social sphere - Social media is a two-way street and is contingent on you not only creating new content, but also engaging other users. Identify other influencers and pages in your particular area of interest. Follow their accounts and participate in discussions on their pages. This not only generates interest on their content, but also draws users to your content.
  • Analyze and assess your progress - Many social media platforms provide analytics on users who are viewing and engaging in your content.(11) It is important to assess what types of posts draw in the most and least views/comments. This will help direct the types of content and themes that you should include in the future.

The AAP is actively involved on social media to engage the entire specialty of physiatry. As a member of the Resident/Fellow Council, I have helped to create compelling content, events and ideas that add to the educational experience. We are always looking for new ideas and I encourage any interested trainees to get involved in AAP’s Resident/ Fellow Council. You can find us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


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