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How do you manage comments on your social media content?

Science communication on social media platforms is a powerful tool that can be used to increase the health literacy of our patients, elevate the profile of our profession, and even serve to complement the knowledge of our peers. However, a good dose of caution is always warranted.
Lindsay Dixon

I recently gave a talk at the CPhA 2022 National Conference in Ottawa on the topic of “Pharmacists as Educators: Combating misinformation and the world of social media.” This question was asked in the Q&A part of our presentation and though I stand by my answer, I think we could go a bit deeper.

First off, when posting anything on social media – especially when it comes to any type of content pertaining to medications and therapies, there are a few guidelines that I live by and strongly recommend:

  • Keep it simple: When starting out, you don’t need to go very deep, especially if your target audience is the lay public. Start with simple topics that would be difficult for the public to misinterpret. This way you learn as you go, and any type of mistake is highly unlikely to have any type of negative impact.

A great example of this is therxdailydose on Instagram, an account run by two students from UBC pharmacy. Recently they posted an educational carousel about where to store your medications. This is an important topic to address that would also be difficult for the public to misinterpret. 

  • No opinions please: Avoid any type of communication that involves you giving your opinion. If you are posting something, make sure you can back it up with a solid scientific reference. This helps when responding to comments and questions as well. If someone disagrees with your content, you can just point them to the science that you used to back it up. Keep your opinions out of it and don’t stray from the science – you will be doing yourself a huge favour.  
  • What if this went viral? Before posting any type of content, consider: what would be the implications if this were misinterpreted and/or went viral? Could this compromise someone’s health? What about your reputation or that of your employer? Sometimes it’s almost too easy to post to social media. As a healthcare professional, you have a duty to do no harm, and this includes any type of communication that you are posting to any platform.
  • Confidentiality & peer review: I was recently informed that on occasion, well-meaning pharmacy students or interns have made posts on social media that could have compromised patient confidentiality. If you are a recent grad or pharmacy student, I highly recommend that you recruit the help of a more experienced healthcare professional, mentor, or professor who can oversee your ideas before you post them. This type of relationship can be beneficial for both parties!
  • When in doubt: If you’ve created a post or piece of content, and something just doesn’t seem right before you post, DON’T post it! Give yourself some time, a few days or weeks to sit with it, and consider why you are hesitating. Ask your peers for advice, and if you are still in doubt, simply don’t post it. Let it go, and move on. 

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

#1, I do try to respond to the first set of comments and I pin the question that I think is the most relevant or has an answer that I think others will benefit to see as this puts that question/comment up at the top of the feed so it is more visible to others.

#2, I only post content that is backed by science, and I always post my references. When someone has a question that requires more of a response than I am able to give on a particular platform, I point them to the reference and suggest they ask their healthcare provider if they have further questions.

#3, if viewers are looking for medical advice, I simply tell them I am not allowed to give medical advice, and that they should seek help from their local pharmacist or primary care provider. Adding a disclaimer to video posts is recommended as well.

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

However, a good dose of caution is always warranted, and each post should be carefully considered before any piece of content goes public.

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






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