Background The problem of developing and sustaining mutual trust is one of the main barriers to knowledge sharing on social media platforms such as blogs, wikis, micro-blogs and social networking websites. While many studies argue that mutual trust is necessary for online communication and knowledge sharing, few have actually explored and demonstrated how physicians can establish and sustain trusted relationships on social media.
Objectives To identify approaches through which physicians establish interpersonal trust on social media.
Methods Twenty-four physicians, who were active users of social media, were interviewed using a semi-structured approach between 2013 and 2014. Snowball sampling was employed for participant recruitment. The data were analysed using a thematic analysis approach.
Results Physicians trust their peers on social media in a slightly different way than in face-to-face communication. The study found that the majority of participants established trust on social media mainly through previous personal interaction, authenticity and relevancy of voice, professional standing, consistency of communication, peer recommendation, and non-anonymous and moderated sites.
Conclusions Healthcare professionals need to approach social media carefully when using it for knowledge sharing, networking and developing trusted relations with like-minded peers.