Dos and Don’ts of Social Media for Physicians

Physicians can build a successful social media presence by following these simple guidelines.

Dos and Don’ts of Social Media for Physicians


Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube offer physicians an easy and direct way to communicate with patients and the broader public. When managed well, social media messaging can become an essential tool for both brand building and patient education.

Here are a few guidelines physicians should consider when launching or expanding a professional social media presence.

Do have a goal in mind

The tone and content of professional social media posts are driven by the goal at hand. Social media platforms can have either a singular goal or a multipurposed one. Some exist entirely to build the physician’s professional brand. Others prioritize posts about new healthcare innovations. Still other physicians build an audience by engaging with readers and posting education on a range of everyday healthcare topics.

Before launching any social media presence, first identify the main goals for your messaging. Then, customize the content to meet those priorities.

Do understand each platform

Modify messaging to match the different contexts of each social media platform. While TikTok videos can be more playful, posts on LinkedIn, for example, should have a more professional tone. Similarly, while Facebook offers the room to be explanatory, Twitter calls for shorter, tighter messaging.

Many physicians opt to utilize different social media channels for different goals. Consider using Facebook to build an office brand or share news about staff achievements. Twitter is an ideal platform to share personal or professional accomplishments or news of medical advancements in a given specialty. Meanwhile, well-crafted educational videos on TikTok and YouTube can effectively share basic medical information with thousands of viewers.

Do post with intentionality

When building a social media presence, create an online persona that is authentic and honest. Never post something simply to meet some pre-decided weekly social media quota. Rather, post only when you have an important message to share.

Similarly, prioritize messaging that allows your personality and energy to shine through. After all, doctors who build large followings on social media often say it’s their passion that readers respond to.

Have a funny side? Let it show online from time to time. Tend to be more research-focused? Showcase that in posts. The audiences who gravitate toward your brand and style of messaging will find you—so long as you keep your message tone consistent and engaging.

Do stay professional

Avoid the temptation of joining social media trends that may come and go. Let others handle the latest TikTok dance craze. Physicians’ social media sites should be homes for content that informs or educates in some way. In a recent article in its Family Practice Management journal, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) noted how essential it is for physicians to maintain a professional tone in their social media posts.

One key way to ensure professionalism is to avoid sharing misinformation of any kind. Before you repost or reshare information on social media, always take time to carefully verify its sourcing and accuracy.

Don’t underestimate the value of your posts

With everything else on your plate, you may be tempted to make social media posting a low priority. Remember, though, that your posts could be the nudge a patient or potential patient needs to finally seek healthcare for a problem they’re experiencing.

In fact, 32% of Americans have taken a positive action to improve their health—including improving their diet, adding exercise or seeking out medication—as a result of health information they saw on social media, according to a survey conducted by the American Osteopathic Association.

By bringing quality healthcare information to the social media platforms so many people use daily, you’re helping make healthcare more accessible to patients and potential patients from all walks of life.

Don’t overshare online

While it may be helpful to post about timely health topics on your social media feed, never provide specific case information that could be used to identify your patients. Doing so would be a significant HIPAA privacy violation.

Additionally, avoid engaging directly with patients online about specific health concerns or questions. The AAFP recommends keeping social media posts dedicated to providing general educational tips  - and reminding readers that you cannot provide specific medical advice online.

Always encourage patients or potential patients to make an appointment with a trusted healthcare provider to discuss any specific healthcare questions privately.

Feeling inspired to launch or grow your social media presence? By keeping these simple guidelines in mind, your social media platforms can become an essential tool for both building your brand and educating patients.



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