Did you know that 81 percent of adults in the U.S. use the Internet? According to a 2013 Pew Research Center poll, 72 percent of those users have looked up medical information online in the past year, and 77 percent of health seekers use a search engine to start their health information search. Given that so many of your clients are online, have you considered whether your online image is helping or hurting your practice?
Here are nine tips for managing your online presence to ensure a positive, professional and consistent message:
1. Google Yourself
Want to know the simplest way to get started? Do what your patients do: Open a browser window, go to Google.com and search for your full name. Next, search your full name again using other search engines such as Yahoo! and Bing, checking the images tab and using the “incognito window” feature. Once you have a baseline understanding of your online image, review and update the most important items first. For example, you may need to update your LinkedIn profile with your latest job, or tweak your Facebook privacy settings. Then mark your calendar to repeat your searches in two months – for certain sites, it can take roughly four to eight weeks for your new information to appear (or disappear) in search engine results.
2. Keep Track of Your Online Accounts
Create a spreadsheet listing all your online accounts. This list should include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and any other social networking or blogging sites on which you may participate. Also include your employer’s website, as you may find your name here too! Don’t forget to update this list as you sign up for new accounts! You’ll have a quick and easy reminder of where to make changes in the future.
3. Make Professional Accounts Extra Searchable and Private Accounts Extra Private
Don’t want your family vacation photos on display for everyone? Good thinking. On your spreadsheet, note which accounts enhance your professional image in the eyes of clients and colleagues, and which should only be open to a private network, such as friends and family. Log in to each searchable account and configure your privacy settings accordingly.
4. Identify Your Unique Message
Follow a simple branding exercise to create a consistent message to use across all your professional accounts.
- Write three or four short descriptors of yourself (i.e. registered dietitian, sport enthusiast and vegetable lover).
- Use these descriptors to write a short (about 150 characters) description of yourself (i.e., “I’m a registered dietitian and sports enthusiast with a passion for incorporating vegetables into every meal.”).
- Write a 150-word bio about yourself; include your descriptors, current position, education and other credentials, plus some fun facts.
- Update your professional accounts with one or more pieces of your message document, so searchers see a similar story about you with every link they click.
5. Share Your Bio with Friends, Colleagues and Your Employer
Take time to send your descriptors and bios to five to 10 close friends. Ask: “Does this describe me? What other words or phrases might you add? Are there any areas I should highlight more or less?” You also should reach out to your employer to get their social media policy and to review your bios. Scared of the feedback? Don’t be! Receiving constructive feedback from friends and colleagues is much better than making a negative impression to potential clients.
6. Create a Professional Email Address
Having an email address designated solely for professional purposes helps you track your online accounts and enhances your professional image when communicating. Free email addresses are readily available. Make sure to update your current professional accounts with this new address.
7. Update Searchable Sites with a Consistent, Professional Picture
Uploading the same one or two pictures to all your professional, searchable accounts is a great way to create subtle brand consistency. Next time you dress up for a work event, take a few minutes to find a well-lit place with a neutral background. Have a friend or colleague take a dozen pictures of you from the shoulders up. Pick the picture that represents you best (i.e., friendly, smiling, with your shoulders covered). Then, upload it to as many sites as necessary.
8. Take the Time to Do the Bare Minimum
Don’t feel the need to be active on all sites. Just make sure the first three to five links that come up when you search for yourself are ones that represent you best. Choose the sites that are most commonly accessed by your clients, and deactivate any accounts that you don’t have time to support. Services like About.me and LinkedIn are very searchable options that don’t require a ton of maintenance. Remember, too, that you control the amount of information you want to upload. Often your current employer, education and a succinct description of why you like being an RD is enough.
9. Check on Your Brand Once a Quarter
Once you have taken the necessary steps to get your online image where you want it, set aside time once a quarter to maintain your image. Go back to your original branding exercise and see if anything has changed. Then update each site with any new info. You also can use this time to set up an account on a new service you may want to try.
Regardless of the amount of time you want to spend online, taking a few minutes to start this process can significantly improve your professional image. Remember, you likely wouldn't try a new restaurant or buy a new camera without reading some type of review. Potential clients probably feel the same about seeing a dietitian.
What are you waiting for? Google yourself today!