Twitter is a waste of time, the domain of internet trolls, and a social media free-for-all without filters or common courtesies. All true. But it is also a wellspring of great ideas, fulfilling conversations, collegial goodwill and, most importantly, a highly effective channel to increase physician referrals and elevate the US News ranking of your hospital, department, or division.

Here’s why. Elevating your US News ranking is best done by elevating your US News “Reputation” score (recently rebranded as “Expert Opinion”). Because this score stems entirely from a nationwide survey of physicians, the winning strategy is to earn their survey votes by introducing them to the depth, breadth, and overall expertise of your physicians. This simple game of awareness is your single best path to rise in the US News rankings. Twitter is a critically important way to play that game.

The Secret Weapon

Twitter logo Twitter is an inexpensive and largely untapped channel to create and nurture those influential physician connections. Frequently credited as the preferred social medium for conveying health information, physicians and researchers naturally gravitate to Twitter because it’s efficient, effective, and rewards well-articulated arguments and discussions. (At least it can, and typically does, in the threads, hashtags, and groups that doctors routinely inhabit.)

With any luck, many of your staff physicians are already active on Twitter, regularly sharing new journal articles, student kudos, interesting x-rays, or instructive surgery videos. Some may have a hundred followers, others, thousands. But combined, their reach can be an order of magnitude greater than your institutional following.

Here’s an important secret. The Twitter followers of doctors are… other doctors, typically in the same specialty. For a physician with a thousand Twitter followers, fully a third (or more) are likely to be fellow doctors. The result: through their thoughtful and experienced comments, your physicians are regularly educating and reminding lots of physicians of the expertise within your institution. And those physicians vote with US News and refer patients.

Making Your Job Easier

As the marketing and communications experts of your institution or department, your fundamental challenge is to collect positive stories and spread them — easily and cost-effectively.

Expertscape and Twitter potently combine to do just that. Expertscape supplies a steady stream of “mini-press releases,” in the form of tweets and other social media, celebrating the outstanding academic accomplishments of your experts — all of them, throughout the year. Twitter, amplified by your institutional followers and especially by the followers of your Twitter-enabled physicians, is a megaphone to spread this good news.

Twitter Success Tactics

To optimize Twitter as a physician outreach channel, consider the following tactics:

  1. Know who your Twitter-engaged clinicians are — First, figure out which faculty members are active on Twitter and other social media channels. Keep a list of their handles and, if you are ambitious, track their posts, threads, and number of followers.
  2. Then support them — This means following them, retweeting their posts, and sharing them on other channels. Regularly encourage your institutional followers to do the same. Example of Twitter re-tweet
  3. Don’t “like” when you can retweet — Twitter rewards engagement, so retweeting has a greater impact than mere liking. Likes don’t end up in your feed whereas retweets do. For example, the initial tweet at right reached 30 times its initial audience via retweets alone.
  4. Give your doctors content to share, and make sure they see it — A prime example is Expertscape’s “mini-press release” tweets about the academic accomplishments of your expert faculty. Encouraging your physicians to retweet and otherwise share these announcements keeps your faculty and your institution front of mind… which is fundamental to increasing referrals and gaining US News votes. Example of Twitter at-mention
  5. Comment — Retweeting is good, but adding a comment or compliment will increase interest and impact. Include @mentions to engage (see left). Use links to direct readers to pertinent content. And don’t forget hashtags: the Healthcare Hashtag Project can help maximize reach.
  6. Improve your doctors’ tweets — Tweets are no longer just 280 clever characters. Help your doctors enliven their tweets by providing links, landing pages, graphics, and other resources that make it easy for busy physicians to shine in the twitterverse. Again, make sure they see this.
  7. Educate — Let your physicians know your team is there to support them. Recognize that some will be fully engaged, while others will be mystified by your very presence. Respond accordingly.
  8. Be consistent and play the long game — Twitter is a long-term investment. Make it a regular, reliable, drumbeat in your marketing arsenal. Done right, dollar for limited marketing dollar, it’s the best deal going.

Getting Started

Chances are, you already have a respectable cohort of actively “Twittering” physicians. So, in the words of Emeril Lagasse, all you need to do is “Kick it up a notch!” The eight tactics above will do that, and Expertscape can help. We can run a quick overlap analysis on your faculty and tell you who your world-class experts are. (There will be some pleasant surprises.) It’s a great, easy addition to everything you’re already doing.

Contact us to learn more.