Get Your Physicians Engaged on Social Media

Posted by on April 23, 2020

by Marcia Simon, APR

(Note: A version of this article was first published in Strategic Health Care Marketing.)

Most hospital marketing teams don’t know how active their doctors are on social media, but they should, says Lee Aase, director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network.

Aase says that hospital physicians who engage in social media can impact reputation scores that account for about 25 percent of a hospital’s overall ranking on the list of “Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.

U.S. News & World Report pioneered ranking reports, and has been at it for more than 30 years. It’s the norm now for people to search online reviews before making decisions about where and how to spend their money, and hospitals are certainly not exempt. Plus, marketers love to use great rankings in ad campaigns to showcase their organizations’ quality.

While hospitals once cringed at the thought that they might lose control of their branding and message, digitally engaged doctors are now considered assets. However, doing social media well is a matter of training to help clinical staff engage safely and effectively, according to Aase. Mayo Clinic sets the standard for training and effective use of social media among healthcare systems.

The metric with the strongest positive correlation to physician reputation score (using oncologists as a sampling) was the percentage of doctors on Twitter, according to Greg Matthews, founder of data consulting firm HealthQuant in Austin, Texas. Activity levels are not particularly important; just having a profile seems to make a difference, agrees Aase. Even so, rankings may be bumped up a notch if a hospital and attending physician follow each other on social media networks. Doctors who post videos attract both patients and other clinicians, which also raises the score.

“Rankings may be bumped up a notch if a hospital and attending physician follow each other on social media networks.”

Training is Key to Building Confidence

“Twitter has the most success for physician-building networks,” says Aase, “but no doctor wants to look like a rookie or make a dumb mistake,” and that’s why Mayo Clinic provides training to make sure the clinical staff knows how to engage in social media in a productive and effective way.

Departments and divisions are offered a range of learning programs, from one-hour Tweet Camps designed for physicians preparing to attend a major meeting in their specialty, to 20-minute online training modules that cover how-to overviews of Twitter, hashtags and lists, the basics of social media etiquette, and more.

That online training is part of a CME-accredited course focused on social media for healthcare, which provides guidance on how to effectively use LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and how to monitor and measure progress. In fact, anyone can sign up for a basic (free) membership and join Mayo Clinic’s professional social network at  to hone digital communication skills that advance careers. The CME-accredited training is a premium offering for non-Mayo Clinic staff.

Mayo Clinic’s Social Media Residency Program goes beyond the basics. For instance, a physician may want to learn how to use Twitter for research. These one-day fee-based workshops are held at different locations throughout the year. Before attending, participants are encouraged to complete the online training modules. By being part of the network’s online community, each hospital has access to a broad content library, making it easier to efficiently create and schedule trusted and branded content for its local community.

Amplifying the Story, Attracting Journalists

The old typical PR role used to be to write press releases and get the media to write stories. When social media became an option, the new approach allowed hospitals to take a short cut around the media and go straight to consumers.

“It became possible to reach patients and stakeholders more effectively than traditional media relations could do,” says Aase. “In essence, Mayo Clinic became the storyteller rather than relying on journalists.” But Mayo Clinic never abandoned traditional media relations. On the contrary, a password-protected press-only web portal is filled with audio and video assets as well as embargoed news information, and social posts can trigger journalists to write a story they hadn’t thought about previously.

It really goes full circle. It’s the physicians doing great work and innovative procedures with successful outcomes that drive the stories that generate news. Mayo Clinic posts. Physicians share, and that boosts reputations that lead to higher ranking. Everyone wins — most important, the patients.

The U.S. News & World Report’s 2019-20 results were released in July 2019.For the fourth year in a row, Mayo Clinic achieved the number-one spot in rankings of best hospitals in the country.

Marcia Simon, APR, writes about health, healthtech, and wellness. As principal of MSE Public Relations, she manages content, strategic communication, and media relations for digital health clients. Email her at or visit