Social media can be an effective tool for networking with colleagues, staying informed, or promoting yourself or your brand. But inappropriate behavior can be damaging. Here are some things to consider.
If you are a physical therapist, physical therapist assistant, or physical therapy student, here are some recommendations for successful social media use:
Ethical conduct: Use social media in a manner consistent with the Code of Ethics for the Physical Therapist and Standards of Ethical Conduct for the Physical Therapist Assistant.
Professionalism: Remember that errors and omissions in communication, harassing statements, and unprofessional language presented via social media may have long-lasting negative effects on others, you, or the physical therapy profession. As in the workplace, professionalism is the best approach.
Patient/Client protection: Remember that the principles of patient/client privacy and confidentiality extend to social media. Be cautious about when and how to interact with patients/clients on social media; consider creating separate social media accounts for personal and professional use.
Verification before amplification: Understand that social media is often prone to inaccurate information. Do your best to verify the accuracy of information before sharing it via social media.
Accountability: You should be knowledgeable about your employers', educational institutions', or clinical training sites' published policies on social media. Never misrepresent when you are speaking for yourself or your employer, or other organizations. It may be appropriate to consult legal counsel before engaging in social media. Remember, just because other people or organizations are doing something on social media doesn't mean it's appropriate or legal. (For example, stock photography is often downloaded from the internet and then inappropriately reused without licensing, permission, or credit.) APTA cannot provide members with specific legal advice.
Collegiality: Alert your colleague if you discover he or she has posted content to social media that appears inaccurate or unprofessional. Ask your peers to do the same for you.
Thoughtfulness and patience: Avoid impulsive social media behavior. While the constantly updating nature of social media platforms create the impression that speed and immediate responsiveness are important, harmful social media behavior can be avoided simply by pausing to be thoughtful. Don't post in anger. If you're in doubt about whether you should say something, the best course is to probably not say anything. Take a 30-minute break or get a second opinion. Remember that single social media posts are more likely to harm a reputation than strengthen it.
Building Your Brand
Many people engage in social media for personal use only. But if your goal is to use social media to promote yourself, your business, or your organization, here are some useful tips.
Identify specific goals: The more specific your goals (to generate new patients/clients, to raise awareness, to advocate, etc) the better you can define a strategy to meet them.
Be realistic about your social media investment: Typically, it's free to create a social media account. But successful social media use will require an investment of time and (potentially) money. Be honest with yourself about how much effort and money you are willing to invest, and then build your social media strategy accordingly. For example, some of the most successful social media users regularly engage with their followers-will you have the time and energy to maintain that level of involvement? Be realistic about your ability or willingness to engage.
Identify your primary audience: Social media thrives when it's based on shared interests. Knowing who you're trying to reach will help you create the right messages to appeal to them. Are you using social media to network with other professional peers or to interact with the general public? It's possible to do both via the same social media account-but it is more challenging. Likely the topics that are of interest to your peers will not be the same as those that are of interest to the general public.
Measure your success: If you dedicate time or money to developing a social media presence, you want a return on that investment. Create a definition of success based on your goals. Success metrics might include the number of followers you gain, the amount of engagement your posts receive, or the amount of social media referral traffic to your website.
Find your best social media fit-and consider taking a gradual approach: If you're not sure whether Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media platforms are best for your goals, you will need to better understand your preferred platform before you can create a strategy. Start small. A common mistake is to try to develop a social media presence across multiple platforms simultaneously. Instead, pick one social media platform, get comfortable with it, and expand from there, if necessary.