Do you know what your online reputation is? In developing an online brand, as I discussed in the previous column, and getting into specific strategies for practice promotion via social media, you need to monitor your online presence. To do that, it helps to understand the basic platforms and relevant sources. So here I’ll review the major social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Doximity) and online physician ratings sites (Google,,, Yelp). These platforms will help to distribute your brand to the population you serve.


Online and social media basics

Social media platforms work best with an excellent practice website. The practice website must serve as a central source of information ranging from useful patient resources to a facile method of contacting the office and booking an appointment. 

Moving beyond the practice website, Facebook is the largest social networking site with more than 2 billion monthly active users. Here, users can post comments, share photographs and post links.  It allows text, short videos and live chats. Recently, Facebook has been battered because of privacy concerns and for allowing dissemination of false information. Because of this, I recommend you keep your practice or professional Facebook accounts separate from your personal page. This is essential to ensure the content posted and commented on your practice website remains of value to patients and colleagues.

Twitter, another online news and social networking site, differs in that people communicate in short messages or “tweets” of 280 characters or less. Currently, Twitter has about 300 million monthly active users. Twitter has two major advantages: First, by limiting messages to 280 characters, content is easily generated and digested. Second, anyone can view your Twitter page even if they don’t have a Twitter account themselves (although they will need an account to comment and share posts). 

LinkedIn is a business-focused social networking site designed for professionals looking for new opportunities to grow their careers and connect with others. It is the online equivalent of going to a traditional networking event where you exchange business cards. LinkedIn currently has about 500 million active users on its platform. 

Instagram, with 800 million active users, is a social networking application made for sharing photos and videos from a smartphone. It’s very similar to Facebook and Twitter, but with a heavy emphasis on visual information (mostly photos and videos). 

Finally, Doximity is a more specialized online social networking service specifically for U.S. clinicians. This social networking site has a variety of functions including contacts, a professional profile page, continuing medical education, ability to email, fax, or text colleagues, a medical news portal and a digital doctors lounge for conversation. Currently, about one in four U.S. physicians have a profile on Doximity and the site has more than 1 million verified users.


Physician online rating sites

In addition to social media platforms, you need to be aware of online physician- rating sites. A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 84 percent of U.S. adults use online ratings sites to inform their product or service-purchase decisions.1 

Not surprisingly, health care is no
different. A 2017 National Institutes of Health study found 53 percent of physicians and 39 percent of patients reported visiting a health care rating website at least once to evaluate a physician or practice.2 



The main physician and healthcare ratings sites include Google (widespread, with major impact from practice and personal websites affecting internet visibility); (2.6 million reviews); (6.1 million reviews); (7.8 million reviews); and Yelp (more commonly used for ratings of hospitals and larger health-care organizations). Unfortunately, anyone can post to these sites and verification remains a problem. Still, we must accept this; it’s unlikely to change. 

Are you aware of the patient reviews and health grades you’ve received? Are there any negative reviews or pages if you Google your name or your practice? Monitoring your online presence is crucial and, if any negative reviews exist, you must address them because they won’t disappear.

Now that you understand the importance of branding and are aware of social media platforms and online ratings sites, you’re ready to increase your presence as part of an online strategy. The next question is, where do you start? Next time, we’ll review how to approach content creation and present some common pearls and pitfalls. RS



1. Smith A, Anderson M. Online shopping and e-commerce. Pew Research Center website. Updated December 19, 2916. Accessed May 6, 2019.

2. Holliday AM, Kachalia A, Meyer GS, Sequist TD. Physician and patient views on public physician rating websites: A cross-sectional study. J Gen Intern Med. 2017;32:626–631.