The term nurse influencer is relatively new in the nursing profession. With the constant evolution of social media, technology, and communication, there is a new opportunity for people in all walks of life to share their journey. The nursing profession is no exception.
Nurse influencers are popping up all over the place: from those sharing their nursing school journey, experienced nurses sharing tips for newbies, nurses in mainstream media looking to educate the public, to hilarious and touching nurse memes and stories that only other nurses truly get and appreciate.
Spoiler alert: it’s not going to stop. More and more people are going to start sharing their stories. And I love it.
Well, I love it when it’s done well and in a way that respectfully uplifts our profession, builds a connection with one another, and continues to build trust with the public. Not so much if it makes us look less than awesome or if individuals/companies are trying to squeeze as much out of a nurse influencer or take advantage of them.
8 Tips for Nurse Influencers
In working as an influencer myself and observing many other nurse influencers, and those of other industries, as well as my own research, I’ve come up with tips specifically for nurse influencers.
Nurse Influencers: Get specific
While a general nursing account on social media can be great, the more specific with your focus, the better. Are you writing for nursing students, new grads, experienced nurses, nurses in a specific specialty, nurse practitioners, etc? By narrowing your niche, you can provide more targeted content which is ultimately more valuable to the reader. You can become an authority much faster in a specific space, build trust and reliability, and ultimately earn more revenue.
Don’t fixate on follower count
Follower count is a vanity metric. Just because you’ve got thousands of followers on a platform doesn’t mean they’re engaging in your content, clicking on your website, or buying something valuable you took time to create. This study shows that with increases in follower count, there is actually a decrease in engagement.
For example, let’s say we have someone who has 200K Instagram followers with a general nursing account. But, they post a lot of non-nursing content or just really general information. While they may have a large following, do the followers actually care about the content? Is it valuable to them, or just something to scroll by?
Compare that to someone with 4K Instagram followers (a micro-influencer) who is an experienced emergency department nurse, sharing information, tips, encouragement, etc. directly applicable to that specialty. Those followers care about that content, are much more likely to comment/like/share/save and trust that person. People are also much more likely to seek that person out and share with others. If that influencer recommends a product, they are much more likely to purchase.
From a business perspective, paying for social shares to someone with 100K followers is much more costly than someone with 1K. But if that 1K individual has a highly engaged audience, the return on investment (ROI) is much higher – even though they only have a fraction of the followers. Therefore, the 1K person is actually more valuable than 100K.
Bottom line: you don’t need 100K followers to earn revenue or to be considered valuable
Don’t work for free
Some companies will want you to post about their [insert nurse-related product here] in exchange for exposure. Some may say they’ll even provide free product and frame it in a way that makes it seem like a very generous offer.
News flash: it’s not
I get these kinds of requests weekly. Essentially, your posting on your account is advertising. They want to pay for advertising with their product at cost or not at all. Not just any advertising – advertising to their target audience… from someone who has spent time building trust with their target audience and is an authority in that space (even if it’s small). So, tell me… why should you provide a service worth money to someone with nothing in return? Why should you conduct business, but not be compensated?
Your expertise as a nurse, the time you invest in your platform by commenting/posting/ engaging/creating, and the trust you have built with this group of people who enjoy your content is worth more than a $20 pair of scrubs.
I’ve learned the hard way that some companies are very aware of the generous spirit of the nursing profession and therefore try to present these business relationships as friendships, framing social shares for a product as favors. This is a red flag.
“Let’s help get some more nurses some [insert product here]! I’ll send you some __________ right away!” they may say.
Or, “I’ll sponsor a giveaway on your IG page! Just tag our company, take a photo we pre-approve, share it to your audience, notify the winners, and mail out the products! We’ll cover the cost of the items!”
Or, “At _______, we LOVE nurses! Just head to our website, pick out a set of scrubs and tell me your address and I’ll send a complimentary set to you! All we ask for in return is for you to do 2-3 posts on Instagram, tagging our brand, talking about the specific new features of our scrubs by the 31st of the month!”
Heard any of that before? Sounds like a lot of work for a product ultimately worth less than an hour of work at the hospital, doesn’t it?
Guys, this is marketing. It’s not donations to the nursing profession or helping you help them help nurses. They have a product to sell and you have authority in the space of their target audience.
Please, do not sell yourself short. Do not post for free. Do not get paid in “exposure”. Do not get paid in product.
Exposure doesn’t pay your internet bill. Your mortgage company won’t take the product as payment. The time you take to craft and facilitate content is work that someone is asking you to do.
And the more you post for free, the more you dilute your content with someone else’s priority. The more ads you post, the fewer people trust you. Do you want to potentially compromise your image and platform for some free scrubs?
Approach these companies and inquires with the same (respectful) questioning attitude you would use towards the patient whose story doesn’t match up with the clinical picture, the physician whose order doesn’t make sense or might not be safe, or when getting a patient assignment that seems inappropriate.
Use that same calm confidence in these situations. You are worth a mutually beneficial relationship. You are valuable as a nurse influencer.
The exception: earned editorial. If you have a product you genuinely enjoy and want to post about, feel free to do so. But remember, you’re essentially advertising for that company.
I’ve actually had that happen multiple times… someone sees I randomly posted about something I liked or assumes that I will like their amazing product, they reach out, ask me to post multiple blog posts and social share with images they want me to take that they want to edit and have a say in how/when I post, all for free.
That’s a lot of work, a lot of advertising to their target audience, access to my audience that I’ve spent years building trust and rapport with, a lot of input, and all I get is *possibly* some free product?
A better alternative: If you think it’s something you’ll continue to enjoy – contact the company and see if you can establish an affiliate partnership. That is a mutually beneficial business relationship. Winner-winner.
If you’re not sure how much to charge or how to handle these conversations, check out Social Blue Book and get a really rough estimate for how much a social share from your platform could be worth. These numbers are not set in stone, as a lot can vary based on engagement levels, but use them as a starting point to get in the same ballpark of what’s reasonable.
Bottom line: don’t work for free and practice with a questioning attitude
Do not forget to disclose partnerships
It is illegal to post things online and not tell people that you were paid. Therefore, if you start working with a company for social shares or sponsored posts, you MUST disclose this within the caption of the photo, the text of the social share, or the body of the blog post/article before the first link. You can do this by including #ad #sponsored or a disclaimer sentence. Another red flag is if a company does not ensure you do this.
We dive deeper into this in our book, The Nurse’s Guide to Blogging. This is really important, people!
Carefully consider who you partner with
While a company or other influencer may seem fun, cool, or a big deal… make sure you consider it from all angles. Essentially, if you promote another influencer (nursing space or not) or company, you look like you’re endorsing that person/company. So, if the influencer or company is posting scandalous pictures, really polarizing statements, cursing, or whatever – people will connect that with you if you’re posting about them and linking to their account or webpage. Nursing is a bit of a different ball game than other industries because we have a code of ethics to consider as well as our professional image. There are not the same expectations for a nurse posting as someone in other industries.
There are a lot of people, including nurses, putting things out there online. But just because they’re a nurse or a large company doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to get involved with them.
Bottom line: it’s okay to say no to people, and in some cases – it’s the best thing to do
Nurse Influencers: Be wise
Remember HIPAA. Know your organization’s social media policy and follow it. Remember that even if you delete something, someone can still screenshot it and show it to your manager, director, or CNO.
Personal experience: Once a family member overheard I wrote a book, Googled me, and pulled up my Instagram account in the room while I was giving their loved one a bed bath – and showed it to me and the other healthcare team member with me in the room. It wasn’t a big deal because anything I post online, I do so knowing my patients and their loved ones, in addition to the people I’m aware of, can and will see my account. But, what if I had posted something compromising… like a hangover pic, a complaining I didn’t get any sleep pic (and I’m now taking care of their critically ill loved one), or one that presented me in a somewhat sexual light? Yea – I wouldn’t be cool with that. Keep that in mind with what you post and as your influence grows.
If money is going to be exchanged, ensure there is a contract. Watch for red flags in that process (are they taking forever to provide it, and want you to sign it immediately?) and in the contract itself.
Ask around to other influencers if you’re not sure. Feel free to reach out to me and my other nurse blogging bud, Brittney Wilson BSN RN privately. Between the two of us, we’ve worked with many different companies over our collective 14 years in the nurse blogging world. We have had amazing experiences, and not so great ones. We’re more than happy to chat through something. The last thing we want is for you to get taken advantage of.
The negative impact of deleting criticism
This sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? It’s your account and you can do what you want, right? Well, when you start working with companies and selling things – the game changes.
Let’s say every time someone criticizes or disagrees, you just delete the comment. Before you know it, it looks like everyone loves you and is your cheerleader – even though it’s not true. Companies looking to advertise with you don’t see these interactions because you delete them, therefore they’re getting an inaccurate picture of your influencing power while they’re deciding whether or not to being a business relationship with you. Quite deceptive, isn’t it?
If people are being negative, handle it respectfully. This gives people the opportunity to see you handle a situation publicly as a professional nurse. If people keep posting negative things, ask yourself why. Maybe there is something worth reconsidering and asking someone else you trust if you’re not seeing something. Sometimes we come across different than what we intend, or what we think we’re communicating is something different than what’s actually being heard.
Don’t fall for that if people are hating I’m doing something right nonsense. If enough people are constantly telling you something, even if you disagree with it, it’s worth considering. This is especially true with nurse influencers. As nurses, we have a duty to uphold the trust and respect of our profession and increase that trust and professionalism. You can just use the nurse card when you want it.
If you publicly identify as a nurse and are leveraging that title to increase your credibility and influencing power, you have a responsibility to do so in a manner that does not compromise the integrity of our profession.
Respond with kindness, thank people for their feedback and ask for clarity as needed/PRN. Brittney Wilson, BSN RN of The Nerdy Nurse adds, “if you receive a really nasty comment, deleting makes sense. But, if it’s criticism, it shows tremendous strength and professionalism when you can acknowledge and grow from it. It’s a necessary balance.”
Ever heard of the company Little Things? They were a multi-million dollar company optimized for Facebook. Guess what? Facebook made one change in their algorithm and this [previously] successful company went out of business literally overnight.
One alorgium change.
Moral of the story: don’t put all of your stock/time/power into social media, let alone only one social platform. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. can all change the game at any moment and you can lose a significant portion of your influencing and earning power instantly.
Constant evolution is the name of the game in social media – it’s not about creating an account that people love (people loved Little Things) – it’s about diversifying and owning your brand/influencing power beyond that one platform.
How can you do this? By having your own website/blog. It’s all yours. No algorithm changes to adapt to. A homebase for your brand and image, not owned by another brand or company. Completely customizable. A place you can create and house your content forever.
I’ve owned my own website for the last 6 years, Brittney has owned hers for 10 years. We can live off of the income we’ve created from our websites while continuing to provide value and create content we’re passionate about. And it’s all ours. It’s not Facebook’s, YouTube’s, Instagram’s, or some other website’s blog.
Brittney and I have created a course to help those of you interested in creating your own website, so you can own your content and maximize your influencing and earning power. You can check out the online version here, or head to Las Vegas this September to catch the live presentation at the 2019 National Nurses in Business Conference.
At the end of the day
If you’re a nurse influencer taking time to provide valuable content to your audience, the possibilities are exciting. You can create a revenue stream to enable yourself more time to create even more content you’re passionate about. You have the power to positively impact the profession, and by extension, our patients.
However, do not take this responsibility lightly. Be wise in how you pursue this innovative path of professional development. You have the power to elevate our profession while cultivating your passion, but you also have the power to tarnish it. When nurses speak, people listen.
More nurse influencer resources
- Working With Nurse Influencers vs. Traditional Media – tips for companies working with nurse influencers
- Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary V – while the info related to Facebook is before their switch from EdgeRank, it’s still incredibly valuable. The micro-marketing techniques and descriptions of good versus bad posts are pure gold.
- Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt – practical, valuable information. Mine is highlighted and flagged all over the place!
- Health Media Academy – a website of resources like courses and blog posts (mostly free) to support nurse bloggers and influencers created by myself and Brittney Wilson