Why doctors need to take reputation management seriously
I wasn’t surprised by the results of my search. There are plenty of grievances being aired daily on social media sites like Twitter. Since I believe the issue of reputation management for health care providers and medical centers is unique among all other industries, I decided to dig around for examples of such grievances. The images contained in this article are captures of individual tweets I quickly uncovered by using the Twitter search function at Bing.com.
Note: This article is part 1 in a 3 part series regarding social media risk and strategy for health care professionals. Please read the entire content of this post as the images do not tell the whole story.
- Part 1: Why doctors need to take reputation management seriously
- Part 2: The mobile phone can be mightier than the sword
- Part 3: Implementing an effective healthcare reputation management strategy
What you should know about my search:
When I heard that Google and Bing had struck separate deals with Twitter to include individual tweets in their search results, I was immediately struck by the potential for reputation management issues. Although individual tweets are almost always public, accessing them in the past required the use of Twitter’s internal search function.
That’s about to change. The tweets being featured here were collected in a span of about 5 minutes on October 23rd by doing a few simple searches at http://www.bing.com/twitter. Bing’s Twitter search tool is currently in beta testing, but many expect that they will integrate it into the their primary search functions soon.
Exactly how Google would present Twitter search was a little known mystery until today (12/07/09). The official Google blog has a video that shows you how Twitter posts will be integrated into their new real-time search. Although you should probably view the video yourself, I can summarize it for you quickly. Tweets mentioning your name or business can (and likely will) show up in Google real-time search.
Yes. It’s true that I went digging for negative tweets regarding health care professionals – specifically for this article. However, a search on the names mentioned in these tweets would generate the same result. I tested it to be sure. That means a patient or potential patient searching for a doctor through a major search engine could come across this type of damaging search result.
Why I chose to post these tweets without blocking the names:
I waited over a month to post this article partly because I had not decided how to handle the personal names included in these tweets (both the doctors and the twitter users). After careful consideration, I settled on the notion that this was publicly available information accessed through a major search engine. It’s important for people to know that these examples are being indexed and they were easily accessed in a very short period of time.
Please note that I am not posting these for shock value. The purpose here is to demonstrate just how important the notion of reputation management and social media engagement should be for medical professionals. Whether you are a decision maker at a medical practice or in management at a medical center, it is imperative that you have a strategy to address these issues.
Why this issue is not limited to Twitter:
Both Google and Bing have plans to include content from other social networks. In the aforementioned Google blog post, they announce similar search agreements with Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Indenti.ca and Jaiku. You should expect more of the same from Bing.
Although it’s true that Twitter has made a huge impact on social media communication, Facebook is the by far the world’s largest social network. There are also many other social media sites that have millions of members. Combine that with the fact that there are over 2 dozen sites that exist solely to rate doctors and you have a tremendous platform on the Internet for patients to relate negative experiences.
Some social media statistics you should know:
- 24% of e-patients (those connected to the Internet) have consulted the rankings or reviews online of doctors or other providers – The Social Life of Health Information
- 24% of e-patients have consulted the rankings or reviews online of hospitals or other medical facilities – The Social Life of Health Information
- The median age of Twitter user is now 31 – Twitter and Status Updating, Fall 2009
- The median age of a Facebook user is now 33 – Twitter and Status Updating, Fall 2009
- The median age of a LinkedIn user is now 39 – Twitter and Status Updating, Fall 2009
- The 2 fastest growing Facebook age demographics are those 35-54 years old and 55+. – iStrategyLabs
I’m hoping these tweet examples do not generate a fear of social media. In fact, that would be contradictory to the point I want to make. The important thing to remember here is that whether or not you are engaged in social media, people will continue to find a voice . Obviously, that voice is not always negative. In part 3 of this series, I will discuss ways to encourage and leverage positive comments in social media.
Online reputation management has long been an important consideration for doctors, but what makes it critical now is the fact that Bing and Google are indexing these communications. In the coming months and years we are certain to see many of these social networks come and go, but the concept of social media is not going away. The Internet has evolved into an efficient user generated content tool where everyone has the opportunity to report relevant news.