Is Social Media Worth My Time?

Four radiologists explain how they make social media work for media

Adding social media to your lengthy to-do list might seem daunting. What value does it offer? How do you keep it from becoming unpaid, background noise in an already hectic schedule?

Return on Investment

Determining the value of social media “depends to some extent on what metrics you’re using,” says James V. Rawson, MD, FACR, chair of radiology and imaging at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

Even though social media time is technically unpaid time, it can be accounted for under the cost of doing business, as can many other non-reimbursed activities, says Ruth C. Carlos, MD, FACR, professor of radiology at the University of Michigan and the deputy editor in charge of digital initiatives and social media for the JACR®.

For individual physicians, social media activities are “an important tool to build a professional reputation around activities that one feels passionate about, whether it’s patient care, population health, or cancer research,” says Carlos. “For practices, I believe it is one more tool to help establish practice brand identity.”
But what is the concrete return on investment (ROI) for this online time? “Usually when we talk ROI we’re talking dollars. The return on social media activity is really much more one of professional networking, education, and overall professional development,” says Richard Duszak, MD, FACR, vice chair for health policy and practice at the Emory University School of Medicine and chief medical officer at the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute.“If that’s how we define return on investment, at least for me, social media is just absolutely excellent.”

For residents who are just starting out, the networking benefits of social media are also extremely useful, according to Tirath Y. Patel, MD, chief radiology resident at the University of Toledo Medical Center. “You can keep track of your professional colleagues from various states, parts of the country, and stages of their careers, from residents all the way up to retired radiologists,” he says. “And it’s a great way to keep in touch.”

Patel also notes that in an online world where negative reviews can carry surprising weight, being in control of your online presence through participation in social media is a valuable return on the investment of your time. By getting your voice online on your own terms, he says, you are creating content that can top the search results of your name.


For most, a discussion of the benefits of social media revolve around the interactivity and daily usefulness of one specific platform: Twitter.
“What really convinced me to use Twitter in particular was being at national meetings and realizing that I could only be in one room at a time and there was activity going on throughout the whole conference,” Rawson says. “I could be in one conference room and following lectures in another.”

For those who are giving the presentations, Rawson points out that the amplification benefits of Twitter are huge: “I’ve given lectures while simultaneously sending out tweets about the content. I had a dozen people in the room. But in an hour, those tweets reached a couple hundred thousand people. So there is a multiplying factor there that I think people don’t appreciate as much.”

Twitter is also useful for conversations that develop around the latest publications or daily news. “I follow a list of people who have like interests, who are smart energetic people, who tweet engaging, informative, provocative material with associated links,” Duszak notes. “And so for me, that’s how I keep up to date with what I need to know.”

Making Time

Connecting with colleagues and patients online has become even more valuable as face-to-face interactions become less common in medicine. Social media offers a replacement for that type of professional engagement, Duszak says: “I see this filling a niche that the doctors’ lounge historically filled for a lot of physicians in developing a sense of community, engaging with peers, provoking discussions, and combining all those things that come under that sphere of professional engagement with peers.”

And unlike the doctors’ lounge, social media allows users to dip in and out as they have the time and interest. “What I like about social media is the degree to which you can control engagement,” says Carlos. Duszak agrees. “If it’s a day where I’m working all day, and I don’t have any time, I’m just not there,” he says. “There may be other days where I’m stuck in an airport and I can take 20 minutes to engage with people on Twitter who may be simultaneously active.”

By Catherine A. Cardno, PhD

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