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How physicians can use social networks

Facebook started in 2004 as an online tool for college students, but it has blossomed into a huge and bustling community with 800 million active users.  You can maintain a private page for friends and family and a fan page for yourself or your practice. It’s called the “dual citizenship approach.” Kevin Pho, MD, a leading blogger, examines the pros and cons of Facebook for physicians at “How doctors can use Facebook responsibly” .

Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service on which users can send and read texts, known as “tweets,” of up to 140 characters. Tweets may be short, but tweeting is potent. The technology was launched in 2006 and has attracted over 465 million users. Tweeters may comment on breaking medical news or provide links to their blogs where they comment in more depth, Westby Fisher, MD, an Evanston cardiologist and blogger, said tweeting is like “instant messaging on your cell phone in near real-time.” He provides a primer on tweeting .

Google+ Search engine giant Google is taking on Facebook with Google+, which launched this summer and immediately attracted more than 90 million users. Google+ is a tad more serious than Facebook. British doctors examine how Google+ can help physicians better match their offline networks by using Google+’s Circles feature. Read more .

LinkedIn provides a home for anyone’s CV, but also is designed as a means to maintain professional relationships and a means of listing professional meetings you’re attending or speeches you’re giving.  This network was launched in 2003 and has over 120 million job-oriented subscribers.  Bryan Vartabedian, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, in his 33 charts blog : “LinkedIn is one element of your digital footprint that you control. Too many physicians are not concerned with their professional digital footprint. That is, the record of stuff that appears when you conduct a vanity search on Google or Bing.”

Sermo is a free “real-time meeting place” specifically for physicians.  Sermo describes itself as “The largest online physician community in the U.S. It’s where practicing U.S. physicians—spanning 68 specialties and all 50 states—collaborate on difficult cases and exchange observations about drugs, devices, and clinical issues. And find potentially life-saving insights that have yet to be announced by conventional media sources.”  Blogger Ted Eytan, MD, discusses Sermo .

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