Media content

How do you manage comments on your content on social networks?

I recently gave a talk at the 2022 CPhA National Conference in Ottawa on “Pharmacists as Educators: Combating Misinformation and the World of Social Media”. This question was asked in the Q&A portion of our presentation and while I stand by my answer, I think we could go a little further.

First of all, when posting anything on social media – especially when it comes to any type of drug and therapy related content, there are a few guidelines that I follow and recommend. strongly:

  • Keep it simple: At first, you don’t need to go very far, especially if your target audience is the lay audience. Start with simple topics that would be difficult for the audience to misinterpret. This way you learn as you go, and any type of error is very unlikely to have a negative impact.

A good example of this is therxdailydose on Instagram, an account run by two UBC Pharmacy students. Recently they released an educational carousel on where to store your medications. This is an important topic to discuss that would also be difficult for the public to misinterpret.

  • No opinion please: Avoid any type of communication that involves giving your opinion. If you publish something, make sure you can back it up with a solid scientific reference. It also helps to respond to comments and questions. If someone disagrees with your content, you can simply direct them to the science you used to back it up. Keep your opinions out of it and stick to the science – you’ll be doing yourself a big favor.
  • What if it went viral? Before posting any type of content, consider: what would be the implications if it were misinterpreted and/or went viral? Could it compromise someone’s health? What about your reputation or that of your employer? Sometimes it’s almost too easy to post on social media. As a healthcare professional, you have a duty to do no harm, and this includes any type of communication you post on any platform.
  • Confidentiality and Peer Review: I have recently been made aware that on occasion, well-meaning pharmacy students or interns have posted messages on social media that may have compromised patient confidentiality. If you are a recent graduate or a pharmacy student, I strongly recommend that you seek help from a more experienced medical professional, mentor, or professor who can oversee your ideas before publishing them. This type of relationship can be beneficial for both parties!
  • If in doubt: If you’ve created a post or piece of content, and something doesn’t seem right before you post it, DON’T post it! Give yourself some time, a few days or a few weeks to sit down and think about why you are hesitating. Seek advice from your peers and if you’re still in doubt, just don’t post it. Drop it and move on.

Going back to our original question, how do I manage comments on my social media posts?

#1I try to answer the first set of comments and pin the question that I think is most relevant or has an answer that I think others will benefit from seeing, as that places this question/comment at the top of the stream so it is more visible to others.

#2, I only post science-backed content and I always post my references. When someone has a question that needs more answers than I’m able to answer on a particular platform, I point them to the reference and suggest they ask their health care provider if they have any other Questions.

#3, if viewers seek medical advice, I simply tell them that I am not authorized to give medical advice and that they should seek assistance from their local pharmacist or primary care provider. Adding a disclaimer to video posts is also recommended.

Science communication on social media platforms is a powerful tool that can be used to increase the health literacy of our patients, raise the profile of our profession, and even serve to supplement the knowledge of our peers.

However, a healthy dose of caution is always warranted, and every post should be carefully reviewed before any piece of content is made public.

If you are a healthcare professional who is actively creating content or just starting your creative journey, I would like to invite you to be part of a supportive community of healthcare creators on Instagram called CreateRx. On the CreateRx platform, we will learn from each other and share our knowledge on the latest in science communication and content creation. Everyone is welcome and we would love to see you there!

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