“I was trying to address the problem of teen pregnancy in our area,” he remembers. “There were a lot of pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. I was volunteering time at the local high school.”
“I came home one night, and my teenage daughter said, ‘Dad, you ought to get a My Space page.’” Livingston had no idea what that was, so he asked his daughter to help create the page for him. The next time he spoke to a group of high school students he put the page address on the screen. “The page went crazy,” he says. “Teenagers started asking all sorts of health questions about private things.”
Hooked on social media
Livingston was hooked on social media. “I’m trying to connect with these young people. They communicate one way, and I’m doing it in a traditional, old-fashioned way. If your audience is over there, you need to go over there.”
Today MacArthur OB/GYN is blogging and active on Facebook, Twitter, 4Square, Pinterest, YouTube and HealthTap.
“We have tried to always stay on the edge,” explains Livingston. “We just try to evolve.”
Physicians should take the social media lead
Although today Katie Barton doubles as the clinic’s IHER specialist and social media coordinator, she views that mostly as a coordination role. Livingston thinks it’s very important that physicians take the lead role in social media.
“Some doctors make the mistake of approaching social media as a marketing tool for the practice,” he says. “I always caution and advise against that. Use the internet and social media to help patients engage and learn more about their health. Nobody’s better at doing that than the doctor himself.
“The practice development will come naturally and accidentally because your voice will be real and authentic,” he counsels. “And your patients will appreciate it.” And that will lead to practice growth.
Some simple advice
Livingston’s first advice for doctors is simple.
- Start small.
- Pick one social media platform.
- Do it yourself.
- Do it well.
- The practice growth will follow.
“I don’t think there’s one answer for all,” explains Livingston. “Once you get a feel for how sites work, then you can diversify where you put time and energy.
Different tools for different specialties
For instance, if you’re a dermatologist or plastic surgeon, YouTube or Pinterest will be natural networks, since they provide such visual illustrations of what you do. OB/GYNs and pediatricians are looking to build long-term relationships, so Facebook and blogging are ideal. But if you’re a general or orthopedic surgeon, you want to showcase your expertise and help patients understand acute problems. For that, YouTube is a perfect fit.
“Divide and conquer,” advises Livingston. “Pick out different talents in the group. Maybe one doctor’s a great writer. She’ll be responsible for blog content. And look for technology to make things easier.”
In the end, Livingston emphasizes, “social media makes your life easier and the care you provide better.”
- Why physicians must use social media to correct misinformation online.
- People get it: Why you shouldn’t worry much about negative comments and HIPAA violations.
How we help
Hive Strategies helps health systems create HIPAA-compliant online communities for better health, lower costs and greater loyalty.