Keeping an eye on social media

Article

From Facebook to Twitter, individuals are embracing the opportunity to participate in online publishing at an unprecedented rate. Communities of users interact globally, minute-to-minute within huge databases of content that they themselves create.

From Facebook to Twitter, individuals are embracing the opportunity to participate in online publishing at an unprecedented rate. Communities of users interact globally, minute-to-minute within huge databases of content that they themselves create.

The social media revolution has even spread to the perhaps over-cautious Ophthalmology market. According to ASCRS's Eyeworld, ophthalmologists are experimenting with Facebook and YouTube channels.

But don't get too excited. Ophthalmology-sponsored patient communities are a long way from being ubiquitous on the internet. The industry still can't quite get its collective head around the removal of the "learned intermediary" and is definitely not ready to turn a supply of drug information and advice over to the patient community.

So what good is social media to the ophthalmology sector? Well if we leave marketing and patient education to one side, and assume that there's no real value in a "Texas Hold Em" (poker for the uninitiated) tournament on Facebook, professional networking surely remains the most exciting Web 2.0 activity for ophthalmologists.

Dominating the online professional networking space is LinkedIn, the world's largest network with over 35 million members worldwide, 9 million of them in Europe.

The LinkedIn site is basically a database of individual profiles. Users are provided with the tools to manage and maintain their profile, connect to others on the network, share knowledge, expertise and potential opportunities.

"The subject matter of LinkedIn is the individual. While people talk about their companies and products, the main thing that you'll find with the site is people," says Steven Tylock, author of The Linkedin Personal Trainer.

Tylock explains that LinkedIn helps bridge one-to-one introductions that may lead to any number of activities and that the real benefit of online networking is the way it extends the networker's reach.

"You would never call 200 people to ask if they know anyone at XYZ Company. It just isn't practical," says Tylock. "It is easy to search through that many people on LinkedIn; then you are calling one person to ask them to introduce you to their contact at XYZ Company."

Bucking broader recessionary trends, LinkedIn is expanding internationally. Earlier this month it added a dedicated German site to service 500,000 German users already registered. The company launched sites in France and Spain last year.

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