RSNA 2017: A radiologist’s guide to the differences between Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms

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The buzz around social media in radiology has skyrocketed in recent years, with more and more departments, private practices and specialists starting to use using the various platforms to their advantage. Of course, it’s about more than just using sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; to get the most out of these resources, one must also learn the differences between them.

Wednesday, Nov. 29, at RSNA in Chicago, Alexander J. Towbin, MD, of the department of radiology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, helped attendees learn when social media users should share content with, say, Twitter over Facebook or Instagram over Twitter. Towbin, the man behind the popular @CincyKidsRad Twitter account, explained how the different platforms are suitable for reaching different audiences.

“You need to know your target audience,” Towbin said. “For every channel, you need to understand who your audience is, who you want your audience to be, the content you want to share, and how much you want to post the material. That’s going to be different for every channel you are on, so it is very important.”

He noted, for example, that the audience for Twitter is largely made up of the same people who were there at RSNA: the radiology community. When using Facebook, on the other hand, the target audience is patients and the family members of patients. Content shared on Facebook is not going to be as highly sophisticated, because it isn’t aimed at radiologists specifically. When using Instagram, Towbin added, the audience is simply anyone who is at all interested in the content.

Towbin then went into detail about the specific platforms.

“With Twitter, the biggest benefit is that it is a brief method of communication that is simple and can often be spontaneous,” he said. “It has a very large, dedicated medical audience, and it has become easier and easier to imbed media.”

There are disadvantages to using Twitter as well. Unprofessional abbreviations are sometimes needed due to character limits, for instance, and content can get lost in the shuffle due to the high volume of people posting on Twitter at any given moment.

Towbin noted that a benefit of Facebook is that it has the largest user base of any social media platform. It’s also uniquely built to support businesses, making it easy for users to sign up for paid advertisements for as little as $5. A big disadvantage of Facebook is that content must be planned out very carefully; unlike Twitter, too many posts can scare away followers and get users “hidden” or “unfollowed.”

Instagram, meanwhile, is “a great way to teach” and “perfect for radiology.” The image-focused content is the most popular social media account used by the department of radiology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, with more than 25,000 followers and counting.

Towbin also discussed how users should take advantage of blogs, which are perfect for promoting the employees of a practice or department and sharing stories about recent successes. A major benefit of blog posts, he added, is the fact that blog content has a life of its own well beyond the day it is first published. “This is content that people can see over and over again,” Towbin said. “And when they Google a question later, they can find the content you created.”

To emphasize this point, Towbin shared the story of one blog post that started out by getting approximately 50 posts in its first day and then sat largely unseen for an extended period of time. Months later, however, that post started to build momentum and now regularly gets thousands of pageviews each month.

Radiologists also have an additional social media platform to become familiar with: Figure 1, which was developed specifically for healthcare professionals to share and comment on various medical images. “It’s a very engaged community,” Towbin said. “We get more comments on a post on Figure 1, even though we have just 5,000 followers there.”