By: JEFFREY BENABIO, M.D.
Do we physicians need LinkedIn? It depends. LinkedIn is the No. 1 social platform for professionals. However, many physicians feel that if they aren’t looking for a job, then LinkedIn isn’t useful. However, spending an hour to complete your LinkedIn profile may bring you more value than you imagined. That’s because LinkedIn is ranked highly by search engines, which means that when people, including patients or colleagues, search for information about you online, your LinkedIn profile will most likely show up. LinkedIn is important because it helps people find out about your educational background, professional experiences, and personal brand.
Because it’s easy, both to complete your profile and to use, LinkedIn is a good starting point for physicians who are trying to create a digital footprint. Moreover, unlike online physician review sites, you are in control of the content on your LinkedIn profile, so it’s a way for you to build your brand and showcase your expertise.
There are no ratings, but you can be endorsed by other LinkedIn members. Are you board certified? An expert in skin cancer? Do you do clinical research? Your colleagues can (and will) endorse you for those skills. Do the same for them. Importantly, when patients search for you, they will see that your colleagues have endorsed you for your excellence in those areas.
Ready to start using LinkedIn? It’s easy: Go to LinkedIn.com, select “register,” then fill out your profile. Be sure to include your educational background, medical expertise, areas of interest, professional experience, and links to your practice site online. Be thorough, because members with more complete profiles rank higher in search results.
Here are 15 tips for maximizing LinkedIn:
1. Upload a professional photo of yourself. According to LinkedIn data, users with photos are seven times more likely to be contacted about opportunities.
2. Use keywords to optimize your profile, including the name and geographic location of your practice.
3. List at least five skills that represent you accurately as a physician. For dermatologists, they might include, “Mohs” or “psoriasis expert.” (Resist the temptation to embellish.)
4. Build your network organically by starting with connections to people you already know. Unlike with Twitter or other social platforms, expert LinkedIn users do not accept connection requests to people they don’t know. If you really want to connect with someone, then ask a mutual connection for an introduction.
5. Aim for a minimum of 50 connections, which will improve your ranking on search results.
6. Include a link to your practice website, as well as contact information including your office address and phone number. LinkedIn is highly ranked by search engines, so it can drive traffic to your practice’s site, potentially leading to new clients.
7. Unlike with Twitter and Facebook, which encourage users to post personal experiences, LinkedIn content should be professional. Post pictures of your kid’s birthday party on Facebook. Post an article you’ve written about eczema on LinkedIn. Share links to quality content that will be valuable to your network.
8. Participate by sharing an academic or news article, recommending someone, or commenting on a group discussion. Shorts bursts of activity are fine on this social platform.
9. Be generous but selective with your recommendations, as they are a reflection of you. If you wouldn’t recommend that person in real life, then don’t recommend him or her on LinkedIn.
10. When asking someone for a recommendation, be specific. Specify which skills you’d like them to mention.
11. Consider joining LinkedIn Groups that match your professional expertise and interests. Participating in groups is a great way to show your expertise and manage relationships. Some examples of groups to which physicians belong include “Healthcare Physician Practice Management,” “The Medical Doctor (MD) Network,” and “Networking for Business Professionals and Doctors.”
12. To broaden your professional horizons, consider joining LinkedIn Groups that aren’t in your specialty. For example, you might be a practicing dermatologist who is hoping to start a telemedicine program. In that case, you should consider joining telemedicine or mHealth groups.
13. Include a link to your LinkedIn profile in your e-mail signature, on business cards, and on your practice website.
14. If you used LinkedIn to share original content such as blog posts or academic #articles, or to stay abreast of news in your field, then consider using Pulse, an app that makes it easier to consume information on mobile devices.
15. Use the LinkedIn Events Page to promote upcoming events.
So next time you’re on LinkedIn, ask me to endorse you. So long as it’s not for president, I got you.
Dr. Benabio is a partner physician in the department of dermatology of the Southern California Permanente Group in San Diego, and volunteer clinical assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Benabio is @dermdoc on Twitter.