Last week Merkato VP Heather Travis had the pleasure of speaking to Ryerson’s Masters of Nutrition Communications program. The topic: How to grow your personal brand and add value to your employer through effective use of social media.
There are many opportunities for Registered Dietitians to advance their careers by developing a strong online presence, sharing their nutritional tips, resources, and expertise.
The topic of nutrition is cluttered with mixed messages on many social media platforms and dietitians can serve as trusted credible resources helping their audience navigate this clutter.
There are also a lot of not-so-credible resources. The key is to ensure your participation helps de-clutter and clear up confusion by contributing to a positive and accurate nutrition conversation online.
Regardless of whether you are an in-house RD, independent, or somewhere in between, contributing to this positive conversation will help build your social capitol (and that of your employer) in this new work world.
Here’s a summary of the tips and suggestions shared in the class:
Curate your online identity:
- Google yourself. Before you even begin, know what comes up in searches for your name. This is often someone’s first impression of you, make sure it’s a good one.
- Go through existing social media profiles and delete any unseemly content. If you’ve been smart, there won’t be much.
- Double check all the privacy settings are the way you want them. This may seem extreme, however while a good number of employers don’t have the resources to run an extensive social media expedition, someone who is determined to undermine your credibility, or that of your employer using you as an example DOES – and will use it. You’d be amazed at the lengths a critic will go to find information which could undermine your credibility……
Always have a strategy for your social media presence:
- Begin with the end in mind. Set out your goals clearly and work towards those.
- A great goal for Registered Dietitians or anyone in the field of nutrition would be “Establish, maintain, and build credibility for RDs”.
- Whether you’re an in-house RD, independent, part of a home health care team, or a media influencer, this goal applies to you.
- And what is contrary to that goal? Having photos, tweets, or links on your social profiles that misrepresent you or could undermine your credibility.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to start looking forward, building towards to your end goals.
Here are some great examples of goals:
- Ensure my program area/department continues to get funding
- To promote my abilities as a product spokesperson
- To gain more experience in the media
- Keep my job (basic but true!)
- Show my employer how nutrition contributes to the overall business goals
- To raise my professional credibility to aid in my job searches in the future
Once you’ve set your goals, ensure you create a standard set of ‘rules of engagement’. I like the following:
- Be prompt
- Be prepared
- Be positive
- Be productive
- Be polite
- Be timely and relevant
- Take advantage of ‘hot topics’ to share interesting (related) content
- Create an editorial calendar
- Monitor Google alerts/PubMed/News/blogs to be one of the first to the conversation
- Be the first to respond to your own mistakes. If you make an error, be up-front and correct it quickly.
- Set up google alerts and PubMed to search for new/interesting/relevant topics or research you want to share
- Have links to content you want to share regularly (bit.ly)
- Follow relevant hashtags #nutrition #RD #health
- Know what others are saying about the same topic
- Be prepared to MEASURE your efforts
- Stay positive
- Focus on constructive conversations
- Don’t slam competition or particular products
- Elevate your peers by sharing their content
- Focus on your goals.
- Be happy & engaged.
- Pick one: respond, delegate, defer, delete (in rare cases)
- Say thank you (for even the smallest things)
- Acknowledge everything
- Never swear/curse/use racial slurs or demeaning language
- Agree to disagree when there’s a difference of opinion
There are some definite red flags to watch out for too:
To ensure the nutrition tips, news, and other content posted to your blog or social media account isn’t mis-represented as individual health or medical advice, it’s recommend you place a disclaimer on your blog or social media accounts about the scope of your content.
Use terms like ‘generally speaking’:
Use terms like ‘generally speaking’ when responding to requests for nutrition advice. It is also helpful to refer the follower to a helpful resource.
Be sure not to share private or personal information about patients, clients, work or co-workers without consent. Also ensure patients or case studies cannot be identified by the sum of information you post online, regardless of it is posted during different time periods or on a variety of social media platforms.
Follow the rules:
As regulatory rules may vary, registered dietitians should consult their regulatory bodies and be familiar with the codes of conduct within your location of practice.
Disclosure and transparency:
Disclose any potential or actual conflicts of interest. Be transparent about any financial interests including “freebies”, like product samples, you may have been gifted.
Some tips to get you started:
- Ensure your present social media profiles don’t discredit you or misrepresent you
- Start a new professional Twitter handle, ensure it appears on your LinkedIn (eg. @yournameRD)
- Start A LinkedIn account if you haven’t
- Join LinkedIn groups (PEN, DC)
- Create twitter lists of other RDs & nutrition influencers to follow
- Engage in regular nutrition chats & discussions online
- Consider starting a blog
- Consider an Instagram account – show photos of healthy meals, exercise, or healthy activities like gardening (lead by example)
Those in the field of nutrition have a great opportunity to contribute sound, reliable, credible information to the World Wide Web of clutter. By doing so with authenticity, and thinking strategically, it can not only help your career in nutrition, but can help enhance the health and wellness of those you engage with.
(posted by Heather)