Mobile platforms and video: How one physician assistant capitalized on this synergy to advocate for her profession
“Healthcare providers should not be dabbling in social media!” At least that was my field’s popular opinion on mobile platforms in 2015, when I launched “Life as a PA,” a behind-the-scenes look at working in medicine. I had reached a point in my career when I was getting frustrated by the fallacies encountered by physician assistants (PAs) and the public’s lack of awareness about this amazing profession.
I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t waste your time complaining if you aren’t willing to offer a solution. As a result, I decided to capitalize on the current pervasiveness of social media and the synergy of mobile platforms and video by launching “Life as a PA.” My primary goal was to provide viewers with a candid look at the PA profession, increase awareness and dispel any lingering misconceptions. However, this endeavor turned into much more than that. Let’s face it — this was no easy task for a science nerd with absolutely no experience in business, branding or marketing.
Therefore, I had to draw on what little knowledge I had accumulated from podcasts, YouTube and social media trends to decide which platforms would be best suited for the content I wanted to create and the audience I wanted to reach.
“Mobile-responsive or bust”
My first task at hand was choosing my target audience. I initially fell victim to the same mistake all newcomers make by trying to appeal to everyone. I soon realized that “the riches are in the niches” and tailored my target audience accordingly to high-school and college-aged premeds. It was then time to decide on a platform. I’ve always had an affinity for video instead of writing and felt that it fostered a more genuine connection, so I focused my attention on mobile platforms that were conducive to video, such as YouTube and Instagram.
Why mobile, you might ask? The members of my target audience spend most of their free time on their smartphones. I followed my analytics closely and realized that a majority of my traffic came from mobile devices. I joke with my friends that my new motto is “Mobile-responsive or bust.”
Engagement through mobile platforms
I found the best mobile platforms for displaying my content, but I soon realized I was missing another important piece to the puzzle: engagement. Sure, I could reply to comments on YouTube and direct messages on Instagram, but it didn’t feel as though these methods were conducive to engaging with followers on a more personal level. I wanted to be able to share in their excitement when they received an acceptance letter for PA school and give them encouragement when they were feeling overwhelmed during their didactic year. So, I set my sights on a platform that allowed for that emotional investment to be established. Hello, Snapchat!
What Snapchat allowed me to do was engage with followers on a more personal level. Let’s be honest: I’m a chaotic mess most of the time, rocking sweatpants and a disheveled side ponytail while brainstorming my most creative content or reading about medical breakthroughs. That’s the side I wanted people to see. I was striving to deliver a candid portrayal of life as a PA, and Snapchat helped me do that.
When I get home from work, I take off my adorable white and rose gold stethoscope, wash off what little makeup I’m wearing and throw on some comfy sweats while I sit down to read some medical journals. I appreciated the museum-like perfection Instagram portrays, but I realized I’m much too casual for such a formal forum. I wanted video, and more importantly, I wanted raw video with a casual ambiance.
I also loved that Snapchat allowed followers to send me video messages and receive them in return. I could see the panic in their eyes when they asked me whether they were too old to pursue a career as a PA. They were put at ease when they saw my reply video telling them about my classmates in their 40s who graduated and are now rock stars within the PA community. My engagement skyrocketed with Snapchat and continued to grow as I participated in what are now deemed “Snapchat takeovers.” This leads me to the next topic I had to learn about: collaboration.
Collaboration and growth
Why should I produce valuable content if no one consumes it? I found that one of the easiest ways to reach interested followers was by collaborating with like-minded individuals. Luckily for me, there were some amazing medical practitioners also dabbling in the same social media space and doing an extraordinary job of educating their audiences about their careers. Those were the people I sought out collaborations with, not only because we shared common goals, but because they were also goodhearted and genuine people, which are attributes I hold in high regard.
This brings me to now. “Life as a PA” is nearing its one-year anniversary and has grown exponentially. The feedback I’ve received truly makes the hard work and long hours worth it, especially the comments like, “I never realized how integral PAs were in the healthcare system until I came across your content!”
“Life as a PA” is now a YouTube channel and website, as well as an Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter account. It has also given rise to another division called “MEDtakeovers,” which focuses on social media takeovers by various healthcare professionals, providing interested premeds with a behind-the-scenes look at their careers in medicine. This past year has been such a whirlwind with collaborations, website launches and business opportunities, but I can’t wait to see what the future holds.