10 tips to using LinkedIn
Many physicians create LinkedIn profiles and let them
sit stagnant. But social media experts say painting a fuller
professional online portrait is worth the effort.
By Pamela Lewis Dolan, amednews staff. Posted July 25, 2011.
The social networking site LinkedIn, launched in March
2003, predates such giants as Facebook and Twitter and even the fading
giant that is MySpace. It also predated those companies to Wall Street
riches, becoming the first to launch an initial public offering on May
19, with its stock jumping from an opening price of $45 to $122.70.
LinkedIn’s popularity — with its 100 million users and its investors
– stems from its focus on professional networking, with real people
putting their real résumés online and connecting with people with whom
they’ve done business. But physicians are considered one group of
professionals that has been slow to join. Or, like some users, they’ve
put up profiles and then let them remain there with no updating.
Experts say some physicians have been slow to adopt LinkedIn because
it doesn’t connect them directly with patients. If they’re not planning
to move or accept another job, they might not see the value in having
their information out there to link up with potential employers.
But experts say a LinkedIn profile is easy to start, maintain and
keep up with colleagues and news in the health industry. It’s also a way
to keep an ear to the ground for new opportunities and even new
So how does a physician get the most out of LinkedIn? Experts share their top 10 tips:
1. Maintain a current profile even if you’re not looking for a new job
Ed McEachern, vice president of MDSearch, an online jobs forum for
physicians, said maintaining an active profile helps keep you relevant.
It lets people know you are familiar with the latest technology or best
practices, and that you want to be a part of a larger community. If, in
the future, you find yourself looking for new job opportunities, you’ll
be in a better place because of the contacts you established.
2. Have a complete profile
Irene Koehler, a social media strategist from the San Francisco Bay
area, said physicians have the opportunity to “wow” her with their
profiles. But she’s often left with the perception that the physician is
either not at all tech-savvy or too lazy to finish what he or she has
started. Even if a physician has no plans to interact daily with other
LinkedIn users, having a complete profile will at least give people
general information. Completing the summary of qualifications and work
history, especially current information, will go a long way toward
sending the right message to anyone who comes across your profile page.
3. Don’t make the profile a cut-and-paste of your CV
McEachern said the profile, unlike a CV, should not include a list of
every journal article ever written, or a list of every job held if it’s
not relevant to your current career aspirations. It also needs to be
much briefer than a CV. Ashley Wendel, a physician executive coach from
San Diego, said a LinkedIn profile has to show who you are. Rather than
giving job titles, work on developing better descriptions of what you
do. Bryan Vartabedian, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas
Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, suggests looking at
profiles of physicians who have similar interests and career paths for
ideas on how to write your own.
4. Make your profile public
A privacy setting that a lot of people miss is one that allows your
profile to be made public, Koehler said. If the option is not clicked,
only your name and title will be visible to others who may be looking
for you. “Be found, and be fabulous,” Koehler says. Make your profile
easy to find and full of relevant information.
5. Recommend people for whom you would write a referral offline
Recommendations are like the new generation of references. On
LinkedIn, others in your network can write about your strengths and
their experience working with you. The people you recommend can reflect
on you, so be selective about whom you support. Write recommendations
only for those people you can vouch for and know well. Also, be
selective of which recommendations you post from others about yourself.
All referrals must be approved by you before they are posted, and no
rule says you have to post every one you receive. Include only those
that add value.
6. Avoid “referral swapping”
Like Facebook, LinkedIn has a “news feed” that alerts your network to
your online activities. So when you receive or send a recommendation,
your network will receive an alert about it.
Many times, Wendel said, LinkedIn users write a recommendation for
someone in hopes that person will return the favor — kind of an “I
scratch your back, you scratch mine.” It’s not a bad strategy for
avoiding the uncomfortable solicitation of someone from whom you want to
receive a recommendation. But if both parties post recommendations
within days of each other, news that they did so is broadcast to the
network. It simply looks bad, Wendel said. The recommendations easily
can be seen as a returned favor as opposed to true testimonials of
people who are highly regarded by their peers. Trading referrals isn’t
necessarily bad, but instead of both being written in a tight time
frame, Wendel recommends waiting a week or longer to post the referral,
or temporarily shut off your news feed, an option that will prevent your
activity from being broadcast to your network.
7. Develop a strategy for soliciting recommendations
Some people put more weight on recommendations than others, but there
is widespread agreement that quality trumps quantity. Don’t send
someone a boilerplate request for a referral. Take the time to write a
thoughtful request, and provide hints about what you would like them to
For example, if there was a particular case you worked on together,
your request could include those specifics to help ease the burden of
having the writer come up with something to say. Whom you ask for a
recommendation might depend on the career opportunities you are seeking.
If you would like to give more speeches, for example, soliciting
recommendations from people you have worked with on presentations would
8. Get involved in discussion boards
“Don’t just throw your profile up there and do nothing,” Wendel said.
“It’s meant to be an active thing.” What you add to a professional
discussion will establish a brand and build your reputation.
Although it’s good to be an active participant in discussions, Wendel
advises against selling yourself or your services in discussion groups.
If someone is interested in what you’re selling, they will find you.
The message you send in the course of starting or participating in a
discussion should be consistent with your brand.
9. Separate your LinkedIn page from nonprofessional social media activities
Online tools allow social media users to link multiple sites so that
when a status is posted on one, it shows up on the others. But in many
situations, it’s not professional to link them.
For example, when Twitter comments are directed at someone in
particular or in response to something, (i.e. @JohnDoe: Yes, I agree!)
those comments won’t make sense to those outside that site or
discussion. Because Facebook is more social, LinkedIn connections
probably don’t care that you’re attending a baseball game with a
visiting friend from medical school. But they may be interested that you
and a former classmate are attending a professional conference. If the
content is not professional, keep it on another site.
10. Keep an active reading list
LinkedIn allows you to keep a reading list as part of your profile.
Dr. Vartabedian said he gets more comments about his reading list than
any other part of his profile. “A lot of people say they learn more
about me by seeing what I read.” It’s also an easy way to keep your