Social media involves information and content sharing and pharmacists can utilize the various platforms to enhance their professional needs and resources for their careers.
Today, pharmacists are using social media and social networking for a variety of purposes, including for professional advancement. Each social media platform offers a different experience for content producers and content consumers. Some platforms are more well known for use by professionals (e.g., LinkedIn) while others are not immediately top of mind for this purpose (e.g., Twitter, Instagram).
I have been using social media personally for about 20 years and professionally for around 7 years. To be considered a social media influencer in a niche area (sometimes referred to as a micro-influencer), an account generally needs more than 10,000 followers. At the time of writing this article my @IDstewardship accounts which promote antimicrobial stewardship and clinical pharmacy have 32K followers on Instagram, 25K followers on Twitter, 22K page followers on Facebook, and a varying presence with lesser followings on other social media platforms. People follow @IDstewardship for entertaining content that is also educational. Original blog posts consisting of practical, clinically relevant information which is authored by subject matter experts published on www.IDstewardship.com are released out onto social media and have additionally served to garner attention as well as credibility for the @IDstewardship accounts.
Through engaging in social media, social networking, and researching these topics, I have had the pleasure to obtain a unique perspective on it all. This includes the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media. In this article, I will focus on some of the good, exploring how some pharmacists are now using social media for professional advancement. Take note that this is a vast topic and readers are encouraged to consider this only a scratch on the surface of what we can do to use social media for professional advancement.
Social media is being used to find applicants, jobs, and collaborators for immediate needs. Pharmacy professionals are also using social networks to preemptively form connections that they can later leverage as their professional journey unfolds. This is certainly the most obvious form of social media use by professionals, but it is being done differently now today than previous.
One example of professional networking in 2022 is through WhatsApp chat groups. Through these chats people are connecting because of similar interests (e.g. PGY2s in a specialty area) and geographic locations (e.g., same city, state, or region). It is easy to add people to WhatsApp groups and search through the history of media or links that were previously shared. Although people may not have met in real life (IRL), they can still form significant bonds through groups on social media.
In my opinion, Twitter is the best tool for staying current with clinical infectious diseases today. Five years ago this was certainly not the case. Thousands of infectious diseases specialists trying to keep pace with an overwhelming amount of emerging new data during an unprecedented global pandemic certainly helped with recruitment and engagement for the cause. However, specialty areas such as emergency medicine and critical care are extremely active on this platform as well, perhaps even more so than infectious diseases specialists.
You can find journal articles shared onto Twitter even before the authors of the articles are aware their published work is available. One of the masters in this regard is the account @ABsteward, who I consider a must follow for any infectious diseases pharmacy enthusiast. If you are looking to stay current in your area of practice, Twitter may be the tool for you.
There are a large number of pharmacy schools, student organizations, residency programs, and professional societies with a social media presence across numerous platforms. It’s truly impressive. Although admittedly biased by being a member, I have been particularly impressed by the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP). SIDP has a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, with podcasting, and elsewhere. Social media has not only allowed SIDP to reach a wide audience, but also amass a significant following and promote the role of the infectious diseases pharmacist.
As organizations and societies amass larger social media followings, they grow their authority online and in society as a whole as subject matter experts in a given area. To lay claim as the premier group in a given area, it seems essential to build as well as maintain a substantial social media presence. On this front, student organizations are some of the most fun accounts to watch. No group does innovative social media work like our most junior colleagues who have grown up with it in their hands.
Historically to become a well known subject matter expert, it would be necessary to author scholarly articles, publish books, present at national conferences, and be professionally engaged over a number of years. Today, people are finding ways to expedite the whole process by producing engaging social media content that helps establish them as a knowledgeable person on a given topic.
One expert that I follow on Instagram that fits this mold to some degree is ambulatory care pharmacist Jarred Prudencio, PharmD, BCACP, BC-ADM, who can be found @AmbcareRx. Prudencio graduated from pharmacy school in 2015 and has done some great work professionally outside of social media, but the nearly 20K followers he has today is a testament to how he has used Instagram to advance his recognition as a subject matter expert in the area of ambulatory care pharmacy.
I am excited to see how other pharmacy professionals follow suit and do the same to use social media to become recognizable in their area of interest.
A search of “social media AND pharmacy” on pubmed returns 842 results as of 7 February 2022. Nearly half of these (435 of 842, 52%) were published between 2019 and 2021. With social media here to stay for the long haul and being a fixture in the lives of billions of people, there is still much to be learned, which makes it a ripe area for research and publishing.
One special factor in this arena is that social networks are not static. There always new platforms, user interfaces, users, and emerging technologies. It makes for a really fun area for getting creative and means there is room for a lot of people to engage in this type of work.
When seeking to do research with social media or social networks, it can serve useful to be doing the previously mentioned actives including professional networking, following medical literature, engaging in society activities, and being known for your work.
DISCLAIMER: The information presented in this article represents those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of any previous, current, or former employer. Social media activities of the author are done representing himself as an individual.