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    Innovative online channels connect you to patients and colleagues

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    Tom Smith
    SOCIAL MEDIA GURU TOM SMITH differentiates social media from advertising in this way: Advertising broadcasts to an audience, whereas social media talks with an audience. Whether that audience is potential patients, colleagues or friends, according to recent research, physicians are very active when it comes to tapping into the vast new media possibilities.

    In fact, sixty percent of physicians are currently using or are interested in using physician-only online communities like Sermo, Medscape Physician Connect and PeerClip, according to Manhattan Research's Taking the Pulse v8.0 telephone and online 2008 survey of 1,832 practicing U.S. physicians.


    Wendy Lewis
    According to Wendy Lewis, president, Wendy Lewis & Co. Ltd., Global Aesthetics Consultancy, http://www.sufo.org/ is a new, free physician-to-physician site that is growing globally to connect aesthetic doctors and expand medical education online.

    Doctors are also likely to use today's top new media destinations, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, or start an online blog to stimulate conversation, according to Mr. Smith, creator of http://everythingability.com/. Mr. Smith is a U.K.-based consultant in usability, persuasive design and online branding.


    Erika Fishman
    ALL ABOUT CONNECTING In addition to using social media to promote themselves and what they do, physicians use social networks to connect with colleagues, discuss medical news and patient experiences, solicit feedback on treatment options and clinical advice and offer insights to one another, according to Erika S. Fishman, director of research, Manhattan Research, a New York City-based global market research and advisory services firm for global pharmaceutical and health care companies.

    This virtual networking can ease some of the isolation of solo practice.

    "Some networks, like Sermo and Medscape, allow physicians to poll each other, rate contributions, and access CME, journals and other professional resources. Sermo even features job boards and forums to build consensus on healthcare policies. Other sites, like iMedExchange and RelaxDoc, encourage the sharing of personal tidbits as well as professional information. In these communities, physicians can enjoy down time and share interests with colleagues, such as favorite TV programs to recommended wine picks," Ms. Fishman says.

    Ms. Lewis contends that as magazines and newspapers are in a downward cycle, online media has become an attractive place to spend marketing dollars.

    "We are recommending that practices think outside of the box in this economy and shift print advertising dollars to web-based marketing, [which] offers better return on investment in the long run. Print has a defined shelf life; the web has infinite space and opportunities without time or space time limitations," Ms. Lewis says.

    GETTING ARMS AROUND SOCIAL MEDIA Social media, in its rawest form, has become anything that is on the Web that gets better when people use it, Mr. Smith says.

    "A good example of early use of social media would be reviews on Amazon, where at one time it seemed superfluous and now it has become an essential part of people's buying process," he says. "Social media began with blogging at the turn of the Millenium. Then, in 2005, Facebook became the big social media...and now Twitter is a large component of what makes the social media."

    WHERE TO START? Whether you look for a group of hamster lovers or physicians for socialized medicine, you will find an organized congregation of people talking about it. Closer to home, it's virtually guaranteed that people are talking right now on the Web about cosmetic surgery.

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    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is a writer in Boca Raton, Fla., who heads up her company, Words Come Alive.

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