Physicians Manage Online Reputations

You work hard to earn the respect of your patients and colleagues. Don't let errant virtual communications tarnish your image.

Whether you're posting a status update on your Facebook page, interacting with connections on LinkedIn, or simply using Twitter to let others know what you're up to, you can be certain that your friends and followers are refreshing their impression of you with every keystroke. Is your cyberimage consistent with how you represent yourself in the "real" world?

No matter where people interact with you, it's vital that the personality you portray is in alignment with your authentic self. To help you accomplish that, here are six ways to develop a cyberpersonality that is appropriate, respectful, and engaging:

1. Go on a digital diet.

Take a mini sabbatical from social networking, keeping in mind that you may have to do this one website at a time to avoid experiencing symptoms of withdrawal! When you return, have a good, objective look at your news and activity feeds. Are the messages relevant? Does what you see, hear, and read add value to your life or enhance your knowledge? Just like cutting carbs or calories, you need to decide what you can do without.

2. Review and revise your friends, followers, and connections lists.

Keeping track of hundreds - or, for some of us, thousands - of contacts is no simple task. It's easy to lose touch with people we once chose to associate with on electronic platforms. That's why it's a good idea to set aside time to go through friends, followers, and connections lists to determine if your contacts are still current and suitable. If you decide to do a "people audit" (especially on the personal side of your electronic friend base), think about posting a general statement to alert others that you're downsizing. You could say something like, "I'm decluttering my cybercloset and simplifying my e-life. I'll be disconnecting from some of you as a result. It's not you; it's me. Thanks for your understanding." There's no need to apologize for streamlining your communication.

3. Actively look for people, groups, and businesses that develop rather than distract.

Your time is precious; don't waste it reading and watching drivel. Seek out personal and professional connections that are positive, proactive, and pertinent. You will become more engaged by reaching out to like-minded groups and connecting with people who share your interests. If you are spending more time watching or sharing videos of cute animals and babies than you are truly communicating with others, rethink your online objectives.

4. Update your photo or logo.

Anything that even resembles a "Party on!" picture should be removed from your timeline, especially if colleagues, patients, or potential patients have access to your feed. If you want to post fun photos or videos on your personal page for family and friends to enjoy and remark on, make sure your security and share settings are adjusted accordingly. If your practice has a Facebook page or Twitter account, keep your messaging current and professional so your services are always held in high esteem.

5. Don't be an electronic imposter.

It is critical that the person who shows up online is the same one who shows up in the physical world. You are in a position of authority and people trust you to tell the truth. If you choose to be electronically outspoken, you must be prepared to discuss and defend your radical or candid point of view in face-to-face conversations. Behaving otherwise can make you appear duplicitous. Think before you post.

6. Let your intellect do the interacting.

Your medical training is part of your electronic DNA. Never underestimate how deeply that connection goes. Whether you are on duty or off, your followers, colleagues, and friends look to you as the voice of reason. Demonstrate your appreciation for their respect by maintaining cyberdecorum at all times.

While there's certainly no need to be robotic in your online interactions, there's something to be said for being consistent, especially when you consider that your digital dialogue will long outlive your physical presence. Everything you utter electronically will be saved in a virtual vault. Make sure you're leaving a cyberlegacy that's worthy of your words.

Sue Jacques is The Civility CEO®, a veteran forensic medical investigator turned corporate civility consultant, professional speaker, and author. Sue helps individuals and businesses gain confidence, earn respect, create courteous corporate cultures, and prosper through professionalism.www.TheCivilityCEO.com