Building your brand

How to find your identity online and be authentic

If you are a physician who is interested in sharing more online, here are tips on how to start and how to be yourself.


A personal brand is a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. It’s your own unique identity that you can use to stand out and be recognized. A personal brand identifies what you’re good at and what sets you apart from others. You can then showcase your brand through whatever medium you favor and enjoy.

For example, if you’re a great writer, then it might be time to start blogging or writing articles for other publications. If you have an eye for design and showcasing your lifestyle, then maybe it’s time to start your own blog or website and offer a window into your personal and/or professional life.

Physicians tend to be versatile and talented, and the public is genuinely interested in our lives, so if you are interested in sharing more about yours online, here are a few tips as to how to start while being authentic.

Step 1: Identify your niche

This is where so many people get stuck. There is even a slang term for this called “niche drama.” Luckily, I’m here to tell you: It’s not that serious! It’s the simple act of deciding who you want to hear your message, and what parts of your life you want to share.

Some physicians focus on medical information and public teaching, such as the account @the_dead_letter by Dr. Darin Wolfe, in which he teaches pathology and preventive medicine to the public.

Other physicians like to focus on their lifestyle and what it is like to be a physician. Two other Tik Tok accounts I love following for this type of content are @ladyspinedoc founded by neurosurgeon Dr. Betsy Grunch, and Dr. Vicki Chan, who runs an account to show the intersection of her life as a physician, mom and wife.

Picking a niche is not as binding as picking a medical specialty though – you can change your niche or make slight adjustments as you see fit later on. In fact, you will almost have to, because you are a dynamic person and you are constantly evolving and changing.

Step 2: Know and express your values

When I first started developing my personal brand, I mistook values for the vessels we express our values through. Our values are our internal GPS machines that navigate us where we want to go with our lives. We express our values in many ways, which can include avenues such as our career, lifestyle, our relationships with our friends, family, colleagues and our community, finances and spirituality, to name just a few.

If you don’t know your values, please take the time now to define them. You can Google “values finder” and I even host one on my personal website for free. This was the biggest game changer for me. Now I can say with certainty what my values are and express them through my content while sharing my journey to my values-directed goals with my audience as well.

What are your values? A few of mine are innovation, knowledge, love and inspiration!

Step 3: Start making content

Putting content out there can be the scariest part for many physicians. We live in a world of perfectionism. Those rules in medicine, which give little to no margin of error, don’t exist on social media. In fact, vulnerability and imperfection are celebrated on social media.

The notion that photos and videos need to be professionally taken and edited has become outdated. In fact, unedited and imperfectly shot videos are what make for viral posts, stories and content. Sharing through vulnerability is widely embraced by today’s audience.

Step 4: Collaborate with others

Networking on social media is extremely valuable. Retire the old “gunner” competitive mentality from college, medical school and residency. Working together with other medical creators helps elevate everyone’s message, especially if they are focusing on the same niche as you.

Those who consume information on the internet are likely to follow multiple accounts with the same content, and we each have unique ways of delivering information that we can all learn from.

Step 5: Grow your social media following

At first glance, it looks like some people with large followings were either just lucky or hit success almost immediately. Every social media creator has a different path, but one thing remains consistent – it takes consistency and hard work. Maintaining an engaging audience is even more valuable than the number of followers or subscribers that you have.

To keep your community connected, you have to be connected as well, which entails posting consistently and responding to comments and messages you receive. While it is completely normal and welcomed to take breaks from social media, it is important to know that while you take a break, oftentimes subscribers and followers do too.

In addition to vertical growth in numbers and engagement, many social media creators will diversify their products and services they offer their audience. You may see creators attach websites, email lists, links to their other social media accounts where they might post courses, publicized talks and appearances, or feature other brands and companies that they love.

This step is not necessary but instead is more of an attempt to reach and serve more people on the internet.

Putting the steps into action

These steps can serve as an outline to help guide you on your path. Please note that a personal brand is not just about the visual representation of yourself, it’s also about how you behave and interact with others. It’s important to be consistent in how you present yourself online so that people know what to expect from you and can identify with who you are as a person.

So, please be authentic, be true to your values and most of all – have FUN! It takes more energy to show up as someone you aren’t, and viewers will catch on when you aren’t enjoying yourself.

It is interesting that authenticity is currently celebrated and prioritized on social media, while online platforms have often been forums for curated and highly edited views of what reality looks like. Online authenticity is important because people are more likely to trust a person or company if they believe they are being honest and genuine.

Being authentic allows oneself to live your truth. This can be a hard concept for us high-achieving physicians to display, since we have often been told that we need to be the best example for our communities.

What are your barriers to showing up on social media? Do you have any questions, or are you getting stuck on any of these five steps? If so, please share in the comments.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

The intersection of social media, social justice and medicine

To post or not to post? That is the question for DOs on social media

One comment

  1. TTA

    Great and insightful article. Like that it is on a topic that whether young or young at heart physicians can relate to. I think what would be a GREAT second edition is if one talks about dos and donts of social media as a physician especially since the past few years we have seen increase in “social media malpractice”.

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