AMA Social Media Policy

Professionalism in the Use of Social Media

The Internet and social media in particular, have created the ability for medical students and physicians to communicate and share information quickly and to reach millions of people easily. Participating in social media, social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians’ personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication. Social media, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient-physician relationship. Physicians should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:

(a) Physicians should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.

(b) When using the Internet for social networking, physicians should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the Internet, content is likely there permanently. Thus, physicians should routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.

(c) If they interact with patients on the Internet, physicians must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship in accordance with professional ethical guidelines just, as they would in any other context.

(d) To maintain appropriate professional boundaries physicians should consider separating personal and professional content online.

(e) When physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions. If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the physician should report the matter to appropriate authorities.

(f) 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.

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Small and Medium Size Businesses Struggle to Adopt, Integrate Social Media

Small and medium-sized businesses still lag behind when it comes to using social media and integrating it throughout the business.

In a March 2012 study from SMB Group, only 24% of US small businesses, those with between 20 and 99 employees, said they used social media to engage with customers and prospects in a strategic and structured way. An additional 20% said they used social media, but in an ad hoc, informal way. US medium-sized businesses, with 100 to 999 employees, were slightly more active, as 33% said they used social media in a strategic way and 19% in an ad hoc way.

Current Use of Social Media to Engage with Their Customers and Prospects According to US SMBs, by Business Size, March 2012 (% of respondents)

When it comes to the specific social channels SMBs are using, Facebook, not surprisingly, tops the list, with 26% of small businesses and 38% of medium-sized businesses saying they used a company Facebook page. Additionally, 20% of small businesses and 32% of medium-sized ones said they also engaged and posted content on relevant Facebook groups. Small businesses were least likely to use geolocation services, with only 3% saying they used them. But for medium-sized businesses, only 6% said they used social bookmarking sites like Digg.

Social Media Channels Used by US SMBs, by Business Size, March 2012 (% of respondents)

Integration of social media within company processes is one of the latest trends, as larger companies work to incorporate social beyond marketing and into customer service, sales, and research and development. SMBs are also working to do so, but still have a ways to go. Of those respondents that used or planned to use social media, 37.7% already integrated social media into the company website and 22.2% did so within marketing processes. However, more than half (55.1%) of respondents had no plans to integrate social media into the product development process, and 43.9% said they had no plans to do so within a company mobile-friendly website.

Integration of Social Media With Their Company Processes According to US SMBs, March 2012 (% of respondents)

A separate May 2012 study from Constant Contact found the majority of US SMBs (60%) were holding their marketing budgets steady in 2012, and that social media marketing was considered effective by only 49% of US small businesses. These smaller companies are holding out, on budgets as well as social media integration, but they would be well-served to follow in the footsteps of larger companies and get involved.

Reviews Are Key To Build Consumer Trust

Gaining consumer trust is an important issue for marketers seeking to ensure that they’re not scaring prospective customers away. In fact, a March to June survey of US adults conducted by About.com found that 84% of respondents felt that brands needed to prove themselves trustworthy before they would interact with them or other information sources. Moreover, the study found that there were 10 primary trust “elements,” or cues, that brands must establish in order to engender trust, including accuracy, expertise and transparency.

In a social media context, customers wanted to see that brands had a significant number of positive reviews, and that they didn’t go out of their way to hide the negative ones. The survey found that 41% of respondents said the ability to see reviews on social networks added to their feeling of trust in a brand. Reviews played a bigger role in cultivating trust than seeing that friends had “liked” or recommended a brand, or that the brand had accumulated a large tally of “likes.”

Video was found to improve trust the most when it served as a complement to other types of content. This ties back in to consumers’ hunger for useful information. Brands can build trust with potential customers by demonstrating expertise through quality owned content that is also devoid of a hard sales message.

Foursquare Lets Businesses Talk to Users

Foursquare will start letting businesses capitalize on the enthusiasm of customers who’ve checked in repeatedly by rolling out a way to message them, starting today.

Through the “local updates” tool, businesses can send their updates to a pool of users who will be picked by Foursquare’s algorithm based on the frequency and recency of their check-ins and the businesses they’ve “liked” (a feature Foursquare made available with its redesign last month).

It could give the nearly 1 million businesses that have claimed their listing on Foursquare a stronger incentive to be active on the platform, since they can place messages about specials and events for free in the activity streams of users who’ve likely already spent money in their stores and had enough of an affinity to want to broadcast their visit to friends.

“Now with local updates, it’s hopefully a tool that merchants engage with every day,” said Noah Weiss, the Foursquare product manager who oversees all merchant-facing tools, who noted that users will also have the ability to opt out of receiving updates from a business.

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