Social Media, Professionalism, and Digital Branding

This page contains some high yield links and resources you may find helpful as you become a consumer of FOAM (Free Open Access Meducation) and as you become involved in the #FOAMed community.  There are several things that are important to understand as you looks to online resources as a source of educational material and as you participate in social media as a medical professional.

1.) Be an Effective Consumer of Digital Resources

Thoma, et al in 2014 outlined 5 strategies for the effective utilization of online resources in Emergency Medicine.

How to Use Feedly, by Brent Thoma, MD. From

  1. "Use a RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Reader" - RSS readers are applications that allow you to collect the latest content from a variety of websites into a single stream.  One example is Feedly.  There is both a web-browser-based client as well as an iOS and Android based application for this particular service.  By logging into the service, the articles available to be read will be synced across all your devices.  Following the instructions within the app, you can easily add websites you want to follow.  If you would like a quick start collection of resources, Daniel Cabrera, MD from Mayo Clinic Dept of EM posted the collection of FOAM sites and journals he follows (  To use download the linked file, sign into feedly, and upload the file by clicking on Add Content and then Import OPML.
  2. "Use a Podcast Application" - A podcast application is not much different than an RSS reader, except that it only organizes and presents audio/video podcasts.  If you have an iOS device, you already have a podcast application and can search for and your favorite podcasts using the search function within the application.  There are other podcasting applications that you can find online as well (Overcast for iOS & Pocket Casts for Android come to mind)
  3. "Use Compilations to Find Quality Resources" - There are a number of FOAM sites that offer up weekly or near weekly compilations of what they discern to be high-quality and recently released #FOAMed posts, podcasts, and videos.  Some examples are Life in the Fast Lane's Weekly Review, Life in the Fast Lane's Research and ReviewsEMCurious FOAMed Review, and PEMgeeks PEM Reviews.
  4. "Use Social Networks to Connect with Content Producers and Peers" - Social media networks can be the most effective means of staying up to date on what is happening with online digital resources.  Twitter is likely the social media platform most used by medical providers currently for the dissemination of and discussion of online educational resources.  If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, take a look at the Twitter Primer section below for some excellent videos by Rob Rogers, MD on how to get started with and use the service.  There are a number of other social media platforms used as well including Facebook, Reddit and Google+.  For a primer on Reddit, check out this post by Daniel Cabrera and Scott Kobner on
  5. "Use Custom Search Engines to Find Resources" - There are several sites that have created custom google search engines to better find online digital resources. One example is

2.) Professionalism in the Digital Age

As physicians and other medical providers venture into the digital spaces, it is key that they consider their online activities to be viewable by supervisors, colleagues, patients, family, etc.  The American Medical Association identified several considerations for medical providers engaging in social media including:

  1. Being Aware of Patient Privacy Rule and Concerns - for more information on this topic please see the HIPAA strategies for de-identification of patient information here
  2. Use Privacy Policies and Privacy Settings to Safeguard Your Identity to the Extent Possible
  3. Maintain Appropriate Boundaries in Patient-Physician Relationships and Interactions
  4. Consider Separating Professional and Personal Content
  5. If you witness unprofessional content or behavior in a colleague, bring it to the attention of that colleague
  6. "Physicians must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers (particularly for physicians-in-training and medical students), and can undermine public trust in the medical profession."

All of this is neatly summed up in 12 words by Dr. Farris Timimi, Medical Director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.

Anne Marie Cunningham, a physician in the United Kingdom has a number of excellent talks on this subject which you can find at

3.) The Importance of Digital Branding

Published in Emergency Medicine Australasia 2/2015 by Scott D. Weingart, MD FCCM Brent Thoma, MD

Creating a "digital brand" should be thought of as crafting your online persona and the information available about you online.  Dr. Brent Thoma and Dr. Scott Weingart discuss some of the why's and how to's in the embedded video on the right  

They describe 5 "Needs" - Existence, Safety, Consumption, Collaboration, and Creation.

Existence is obviously a requisite starting point for engaging in social media and being an effective consumer of online educational resources.  Step 1 of this process is to get and use a professional appearing "head shot" for your various social media profile photos.  You may already have one through your school or employer.  If not having a friend taking a photo or heading to a photographer are options.  The key is that is should look like you so people recognize you when they see you at conferences.  They also go on to describe and highlight the importance of having a Google+ account and the advantages of having one in terms of search engine visibility.  This was also highlighted in a post by Dr. Mike Cadogan.  It appears however, that Google has since stopped using "authorship" in their search algorithm.  As such it is not clear whether or not it is as important as it previously was to have a Google+ account.

Safety and Consumption are covered in points 1 & 2 above, whereas Collaboration and Creation can be the natural end result of engaging in discussions online with other medical professionals.  There are a number of ways that you can engage in online conversations.  This can obviously occur via social media but you can also use the comment feature on blog posts to engage in discussions (in fact sites such as our own and Academic Life in EM have posts specifically designed to encourage discussion in the comment section).  You can also certainly consider starting your own blog and developing your own website but there are a number of websites that openly invite contributions. A few of them are listed here:

Dr. Michelle Lin gave an excellent talk at the International Conference on Residency Education in October 2014 on "How Health Profession Educators Should Use Social Media".  You can check out the slides here.  She outlines 3 main ways in which health profession educators should utilize social media: by having a home base, embassies, and outposts.  A home base is a website, blog, or landing page which contains information about you and your philosophy as an educator as well as links to content you have created.  Embassies are your social media platform accounts (Twitter primarily but also should consider LinkedIn, Google+, etc).  Outposts are Google alerts and any other data   collecting service that allows you to measure your impact and reach online.

Twitter Primer

The videos below contain a wealth of information about how to get started with Twitter.  If you are not familiar with Twitter, it can seem overwhelming at first.  Fear not.  It is actually quite easy to use and the #FOAMed community is very supportive and helpful.

If you are unsure where to begin, you can start off by following @FOAMstarter, it is a twitter account that follows ~30 medical educators who, as they phrase it, have a high "Clinical Pearl:Vacation Photo Ratio"

If you are more advanced on Twitter, take a look at this excellent post fro ALIEM on engaging Twitter newcomers.

The new Twitter Video Series kicks off by talking about the basics of getting started with a new account. Credit Rob Rogers, MD

Twitter Video Series. Video #2 from Rob Rogers, MD.

In this session we will discuss hashtagging and the basics of sending a tweet. From Rob Rogers, MD

Is this session I discuss the basic components of the Twitter app and how to use it. From Rob Rogers, MD.