For health professionals, posting a single negative comment on their Facebook profiles may hinder their credibility with current or potential clients, according to a study. The findings, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, show that Facebook posts that may affect people's perceptions of professionalism. Researchers found that only one subtle comment posted expressing workplace frustration was enough for people to view one as a less credible health professional.
"This study provides the first evidence of the impact a health professionals' personal online disclosures can have on his/her credibility," said Serge Desmarais, Professor at the University of Guelph in Canada.
"This finding is significant not only because health professionals use social media in their personal lives, but are also encouraged to use it to promote themselves and engage with the public," Desmarais said. For the study, the research team involved more than 350 participants who viewed a mock Facebook profile and rated the profile owner's credibility and then rated their own willingness to become his client.
The researchers tested factors, including the identified gender of the Facebook profile owner, whether they listed their profession as a veterinarian or medical physician and whether their profile included a posting of an ambiguous work day comment or a comment expressing frustration. The only factor that influenced viewers' perception of the profile owner's professionalism was a single work day frustration comment.
On a scale from 0 to 100, the profile with the negative workday comment was rated 11 points lower (56.7) than the one with an ambiguous work day comment (67.9). "That's a meaningful drop. This shows that it takes just one simple comment for people to view you as less professional and to decide they don't want to become a client of yours," said Desmarais.
"Depending on who sees your posts, you may really hurt your reputation just by being up late one night, feeling frustrated and posting your thoughts online," Desmarais added.