Social media has revolutionized the way health care professionals and patients interact with each other. It provides powerful tools to allow health care professionals to actively engage with their patients and address common misconceptions about health care news online.
With COVID-19 hitting the nation and more individuals connected to their laptop and phone screens than ever before, now is the time for pharmacists to take action and modernize their approach to educating the public through the use of social media.
Why Use Social Media?
The global rise of social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram has demonstrated how influencers who effectively use these platforms to disseminate information can significantly impact the public’s views on health. They can also provide a platform for patients to openly express how they feel without the fear of being judged.
In this way, social media can influence patients’ decisions on their health. This has particularly come into view in recent years in relation to vaccinations, as social media has been shown to have a powerful impact on people’s decisions around whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
When I joined TikTok—which is currently the fastest growing social media platform—I was able to not only counsel viewers on common ailments that can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, but also address misleading myths about COVID-19 vaccines.
As a pharmacist, our role is to educate patients on their medication, treat patients holistically, and address their concerns surrounding their overall health care. During busy work hours, it can be difficult to provide extra one-on-one time with the public to counsel them on health decisions, which makes social media a perfect outlet for this endeavor.
Social media provides pharmacists with a platform to voice their professional opinion and offer accurate health care advice to a large swath of people worldwide. It also allows patients to refer back to this medical information as needed.
With packed schedules and increased demands, the pressures of the job are also increasing for physicians. With added responsibilities, pharmacy professionals have the opportunity to step in to educate the public on minor health conditions, which can be easily treated with the correct over-the-counter remedies. This approach can inevitably decrease the need for appointments with a physician and, in turn, decrease the physicians’ workload as well.
How to Network Using Social Media
Social media has become an integral part of daily life for much of the world, allowing it to be used not only as an effective tool for educating patients, but also as a tool for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who may be looking to collaborate with colleagues within the industry.
The opportunity for discussion and connection through social media also provides health care professionals with the ability to learn from other experts in the field and expose themselves to new professional opportunities, such as by increasing the likelihood of being recognized or contacted by potential future employers.
LinkedIn has been a crucial part of my ability to succeed in my field. Being able to network with like-minded individuals and agents in the pharmacy world allowed me to secure my desired role as a clinical pharmacist within primary care.
Social networks on platforms such as LinkedIn can offer the opportunity to represent oneself professionally and showcase skills and achievements for future employers. Additionally, connecting with colleagues can help professionals stay up-to-date on the latest industry information, keep in touch with peers who could send referrals, and position themselves as a primary contact in the industry.
Best Practices for Pharmacists on Social Media
All pharmacy professionals are expected to use good clinical judgement and behave professionally on social media. This includes maintaining clear professional boundaries with patients and considering the context of anything posted online within a broader social framework.
It is important to remember while using social media that anything written on these platforms can be copied or reposted without providing context about the original intent of the post. In this way, posts written by pharmacists on social media can be negatively skewed through reposts, which makes it necessary to consider the possibility of this occuring when posting something that could be—out of its original context—perceived in a different light.
Tips for Growth on Social Media
The most successful way to grow on social media involves stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and not being afraid to voice opinions on topics that matter, especially topics that are trending.
However, to positively influence the conversation, actively engaging and responding to questions in an informed manner can help to effectively build an audience’s interest and engagement. Although it’s not necessary to have an answer for every question, it can be helpful to use new and unfamiliar topics that may not be immediately answerable as a guide to direct future posts and discussions.
When drafting content ideas, it is beneficial to ensure the shared information is evidence-based and valid. Additionally, I learned in my own social media journey that instead of just focusing on gathering followers, focusing on creating consistent content provides greater value to my audience, which brings more interest and engagement to the information that I share.
It is also important to understand that other professionals in different industries may have a different perspective on trending topics, and patients themselves may also have a different take on topics based on how that issue has impacted their lives. This can lead to being confronted with conflicting views that can challenge ideas that some may have previously taken for granted.
Lastly, social media can provide an avenue for self-expression. It is possible to remain professional while expressing one’s own personality and individual voice. Social media provides the opportunity for pharmacists to show the public that they bring a lot more to the counter than just medication. Now is the time to utilize social media as a resource that will take pharmacy professionals, and the profession itself, to new heights.