An IR's guide to social media use
By Aaron Shiloh, MD, FSIR, and Jordan Appleyard Winter 2018
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest . . . even SIR's enormously popular SIR Connect . . . The list of social media (or “so me”) platforms seems to grow every day. Social media platforms may have originally been constructed as venues for staying connected with friends and family, as well as for advertising, but their application has been adapted to fill a unique role in modern medicine.
Currently, our field, known in the social media universe as #IRad, is flourishing under the influence of these media outlets, in part because IR lends itself naturally to the sharing of pictures. Although some people may prefer one medium over another, social media platforms are more integrated than ever before. For example, the use of hashtags to create a running theme, which originated on Twitter, is now seen across programs, which allows large groups of people to access the same information from diverse interfaces.
In our opinion, there is no greater “free” resource currently available to advance physician and patient understanding of our field. There are many benefits to our field:
- Patients can better understand the role of an IR whose care they’ve entered and become more aware of the therapy options that we offer.
- IRs can enjoy an open forum between colleagues that facilitates collaboration on complex cases and sharing of technical achievements.
- It serves as a tremendous way to recruit medical students into the field. Social media will help IR pervade the undergraduate medical realm where most curricula lack any formal instruction in the subject.
Each of the many different social media platforms currently available offers something different. Facebook, YouTube and Instagram have the largest daily use. These are the most “patient-facing” applications; i.e., the images/videos that appear on a user’s newsfeed serve to pique basic interest and invite users to investigate, while assuming that those users have little medical knowledge. The material posted must be tailored to meet this expectation, and the goal of the poster can be financial, educational, or other. A Facebook business page is useful for direct-to-consumer advertising and offers robust options for targeting specific patient groups.
In contrast, Twitter and LinkedIn are more “doctor-facing” apps. They can be used to promote IRs to the medical community at large, as well as to foster a collaborative spirit between practicing IRs. For example, the hashtag #IRad has been used for years to create a single running conversation about IR topics. The upcoming SIR 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting is being trumpeted under the tag #SIR18LA, which can be used to promote topics, individuals of interest and keynote events that will be present.
The power of Twitter lies in the concept that, for each unique user who propagates the same tag, an ever-growing audience will be made aware of the event at some level. One drawback of Twitter is that posts can be anonymous, and the character cap on posts favors brevity and discourages lengthy discourse.
LinkedIn, which people generally perceive as an app useful only for job-searching and professional networking, has evolved to become much more. New analytic programming can identify important demographic data about who is viewing your posts. This includes, among other data, information on which types of industries are accessing your posts, the job titles held by individuals viewing a post, the geographical locations of followers and the type of program that people are finding your post from.
For social media in health care to reach its full potential, both existing practitioners and future physicians must embrace its use and continue to drive its development. Doctors wishing to stay abreast of cutting-edge techniques and new applications of existing medical science are obligated to participate in social media at some level. Other third-party websites are catching wind of the emerging trend of the use of social media to broadcast IR, among other medical specialties. For example, the website Symplur launched the Healthcare Hashtag project which, by their own account, allows patients providers and other groups to “connect to relevant conversations and communities.”
Social media use for professional purposes is constantly evolving but clearly is not going away and IR needs to remain in the forefront. Let’s get busy at #SIR18LA!