Making the Case for Social Media: Three Reasons Why You Should be Social Online

How much does the internet influence your patient’s decisions on health and diet? The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states, 72% of adults surf the internet to look for nutrition information, a diagnosis for a health issue, various treatments, and to join support groups with people who have similar health issues.

Social media is becoming the primary source of health information. People are spending less time in health practitioner’s offices. ESPECIALLY OUR YOUNGER PEOPLE. They have the uncanny ability to sift through information much more quickly than previous generations. But do they know if the information they are discovering is credible? Who is authoring the advice that they are reading? What do you as a practitioner want them to know? As seasoned nutrition experts, consider taking more responsibility to become more informed about internet activities, and to plan strategies to ensure that your expertise gets reader’s attention first, more consistently online.

Your patients are online, you should be too

You’ve probably heard the news lately about the influx of “fake news” on social media. We know we can’t always believe what we read, but the written word still holds an unconscious credibility to some people who may have more of a tendency to believe what they read rather than what they hear. This is paramount for a seasoned professional. Fad diets, anecdotal advice, and quick fixes can be highly persuasive especially from experienced writers, and those who know how to get topics to go viral on social media platforms.

Sharing a link with nutrition advice takes seconds, without much thought. This same link can reach many readers much faster than you can imagine. Now think about this on a magnitude of thousands of readers, versus one patient in your office getting your one-on-one consultation. How many questions do your patients ask you every day about stuff they read online?

How about when an idea is repeated over-and-over, EVERYWHERE? Over time, doesn’t your mind start to unconsciously accept it as normal? Some good examples of repetitive ideas are the gluten craze and GMOs. They are now household names. We can no longer ignore this.

The internet desperately needs an infiltration of nutrition experts willing to learn online strategies to share credible advice, to educate readers, and steer them away from the anecdotal junk that keeps getting shared repeatedly. Dietitians and DTRs who are becoming more tech savvy online are making a difference. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook promote engagement with an audience in real time by allowing them to host a chat or post a live video feed. We must be active on these platforms consistently to share the latest nutrition information and advice.

Find opportunities, and stay in contact with colleagues on social media

By creating a LinkedIn profile, a registered nutrition professional seeking employment can showcase their expertise in much greater detail, than on a paper resume. Without question, the potential to reach employers with an online resume wins hands-down compared to traditional means.

Companies also post job offerings on LinkedIn to lead interested candidates to apply on their websites. An online resume can be shared and available for review instantly by an employer. Job seekers can also see profiles of employees who already work for the company that’s offering the job they are applying for. This two-way communication offers a greater potential for a more immediate connection between employers and job seekers.

This platform is also a great way to keep colleagues updated on accomplishments in a more professional environment in comparison to Facebook. You can also help a colleague or a dietetic intern gain employment by writing a testimonial about their skill and expertise. If you are working to help those in need in the community as a non-profit, Facebook and LinkedIn can help you create awareness and to reach out to volunteers without the need for any cash outlay.

If you are working to help those in need in the community as a non-profit, Facebook and LinkedIn can help you create awareness and to reach out to volunteers without the need for any cash outlay.

FREE advertising and exposure

This is worth a repeat: FREE ADVERTISING AND EXPOSURE. The internet is a great way to let the public know you’re out there looking for work, starting a new business or looking to get support for a cause. Creating an account on social media is free, and has the potential of reaching thousands of online viewers without paying a headhunter or an advertising or marketing agency. Small businesses are using Facebook pages in addition to, or instead of websites to market themselves. For individuals without the skills, time or money to create a website, a free profile on Facebook gets the job done by inviting friends, encouraging feedback from viewers and to engage with them in real time. People sitting behind a computer are more likely to get involved in constructive criticism online rather than in face-to-face encounters. What you learn from reader’s comments can be invaluable.

For non-profit groups with little financial support, social media has been the difference between success and failure in finding the support and volunteers they need. The ability to “spread the word” using social media has helped in ways that were never before imaginable. This took on a whole new meaning for those helping the homeless, volunteering at food pantries, and providing other ways to service people in need.

More specifically for nutrition professionals, social media increases the ability to leverage audience networks to promote the sharing of information; to tailor messages for a specific or a wide audience; to engage the public in conversation, collaboration, and participation. The ability to reach people online with the potential to change behavior on a larger scale is worth your time and effort to investigate how you can get involved.

If this blog hasn’t yet convinced you to get more active online, and you are a member of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, understand that they take social media very seriously as a place where dietetics and nutrition practitioners can and do make a difference. So much so, that they have updated their ethics and standards of practice guidelines to include activities on social media. A practice paper, “Social Media and the Dietetics Practitioner: Opportunities, Challenges and Best Practices,” in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, discusses in detail the opportunities and benefits of social media, ethics, and standards of professionalism and much more.

With all the changes in the world taking place faster than ever before, social media engagement is a way to keep up and remain relevant in the ever-growing field of nutrition and dietetics, which needs your participation and expertise more than ever. Online where “anyone” can give nutrition advice, it behooves registered nutrition professionals to take social media more seriously.

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