Training Physicians on Twitter: 8 Lessons Learned

A few years ago, our social media team instituted a formal physician Twitter training program. We knew how valuable this could be for our brand, and a recent Social Oncology Report emphasized and confirmed that fact. We’ve experienced some exciting successes in this endeavor, but we’ve also had many, many lessons learned.

1. Market your training program in a variety of ways. We began by sending an e-blast to all our clinical staff. We received a handful of responses, but found a better method to be reaching out to individual physicians who we want on Twitter for strategic reasons. The best tactic? Word of mouth. Eventually, it has gotten to the point where physicians reached out to us wanting to learn.

2. Start by listening. If you initiated the training, get a feeling for your audience’s familiarity with Twitter. If they initiated it, ask what their goals are.

3. Share statistics. Tackle the “why does Twitter even matter?” question as early in the training session as possible. Explain how heavily organizations, journals and medical professionals use this platform, and definitely emphasize what is in it for them.

4. Teach the basics, but be ready to adapt. We quickly realized that the initial presentation we developed was using terminology some physicians didn’t know. Go over everything from what a retweet is to how to download the app. Every physician will come in with a different level of understanding, so if this is common knowledge to them, quickly skip ahead instead of wasting their time.

5. Customize your presentation. When possible, add in relevant, impressive screenshots from accounts that will catch their attention – for example a high-performing @JUrology tweet when training a prostate cancer surgeon. Make it clear that there is a whole *insert specialty* world happening on Twitter with or without them.

6. Aim for small groups. We have trained everything from rooms full of 50 people down to one-on-one sessions. The most successful tend to be the trainings with only 2-3 physicians. With too many attendees, it’s easy for the audience to tune you out or get distracted. With one-on-one, they may hand you their phone expecting you to do it all for them.

7. Encourage their assistant to attend. If there is someone in the room to take notes, and get the basic account set up, that doctor is more likely to actually use it.

8. Follow-up is more important than the training. One-time training is not an easy feat, but the bigger challenge is staying on top of the doctors to actually use their account. Once in awhile send them suggested tweets, or if you know they are attending a conference, send the conference hashtag ahead of time.

In addition to training individual physicians on creating personal Twitter accounts, we’ve recently begun training teams on running a branded department account. Stay tuned for those tips!

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