Social Media and the Academic Radiologist

This following article originally appeared in the September edition of The Reader.


A little over a year ago, I became aware that cable news and sports channels were frequently running social media posts on the crawls at the bottom of the screen. I started exploring the possibility of utilizing social media from a work-related angle and following the lead of Reed Omary, M.D., M.S., Pendergrass Chair of Radiology, I considered the potential benefits of engaging in social media. Even though radiologists are inherent technophiles, the number of platforms and associated features can be very complex for a beginner. 

Consider that:

Facebook has over 1.13 BILLION daily active users. This number has more than doubled since 2010 when “The Social Network”, a movie about the founding and omnipresence of Facebook, was released.

Twitter has approximately 300 million users communicating via 140 characters per tweet.

• There are myriad other platforms exceeding the 100 million user mark, including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat.

I decided to start on Twitter. Factors in this decision included that the inherent brevity ensured short simple posts to keep things “fresh” and also challenged me to self-edit into the limited space with condensed content.

Here are some lessons learned over a year plus and a few hundred tweets:

1. Determine your “brand” or what you intend to focus on. My choices have been interesting Interventional Oncology (IO) cases, research related to IO, and the national registry I head up on radioembolization of liver tumors. With 17 years of HIPAA compliant teaching file cases, and several like-minded IR’s on Twitter, knowledge sharing is easy, and now I sometimes get consults regarding difficult cases. Years ago, I served as the IO abstract reviewer of current literature for JVIR. Tracking relevant publications outside the imaging literature helps me avoid literature blind spots, and I have built online relationships with some of the journals that publish this material. Finally, in regards to the registry, social media makes it easier to keep up excitement for engaged participants. 

2. Start slowly. Prior to opening an account, I spent a couple months poking around on the site to see what appealed to my sensibilities. I reviewed several online guides focused on “getting started”. One helpful decision was to utilize an online tool which allows me to schedule my posts ahead of time. This allows me to take a final look to find typos or confusing text.

3. Don’t be an egg. Once you go live, set up your page. New users are given an egg (think twitter bird prior to hatching) as an avatar. Select a representative avatar, whether it is a head shot or something more personal. Put a few lines together for a profile. Finally, select or put together a header photo. There are free online services that can allow users to paste together multiple pictures for the header photo as well.

4. Be nice. Staying positive avoids conflict, especially when considering digital posts where intent can potentially be misinterpreted. 

Have any tips you found online? Feel free to tweet at me: @danbrownIO.