Social media isn’t just for socializing anymore. It’s an immediate way to exchange information and content in a way that, until the last few years, wasn’t possible for medical practices. Not only is a social media presence a great way to showcase content, it also gives your practice a chance to let others know what organizations you’re a part of, what news sources you follow, and what’s going on in your office that patients might be interested in. The best part is that utilizing social media allows you to market your practice through the “recommendations” of your followers. Every time they like or share content, their friends (social contacts) get to see it too. And it’s hard to put a value on that because the value is nearly uncountable.
Who Uses Social Media?
The misconception some doctors and medical professionals have is that patients don’t utilize social media for health information. A 2012 study found that 73% of consumers would welcome social media-based tools like ‘make an appointment’ or ‘ask a question’. And 40% of consumers have sought out reviews of treatments, physicians, and other patient experiences through social media.
Take some control over what can be found about you or your practice! Of course you can’t diagnose anyone or give specific medical advice. But you can suggest things that people might want to think about. Establish your online presence, and then start interacting and responding! They will love you for it.
And not only will your current and potential patients read content in social media, your colleagues will too. Strengthen the existing referral relationships or start establishing new relationships through regular content publishing and interaction on social media.
Which Social Media for Doctors?
Which social media platforms are best for doctors to use? The top four are
Facebook and Twitter are the top two for most of the middle aged and older population (40+). Linkedin works well for the more business-to-business discussions and Google+ is not as well-used as some of the others. Pinterest or Instagram can be good one if you have images that are interesting and original to you. Restrain from posting anything that the average person might consider gross such as blood, infections, cancerous moles, etc.
A quick word of advice when you’re interacting in the Facebook or Twitter world: do not give personal medical advice or reveal any confidential patient information online. Just be cautious of what you’re posting to avoid any legal concerns with discussing patient-specific information in a public forum.
In what ways can you provide content that’s relevant to your practice? A survey by the National Research Corporation found that over 40% of respondents rely on social networking for health information. And among those respondents, 94% turn to Facebook. Facebook has many features you can use to not only engage existing patients, but attract new ones. You can post patient testimonials, your blog posts, other people’s blog posts, reviews or Q&A’s which can be easily shared with others who may not have known about you before.
Your primary goal here is to get people sharing your information. The more Facebook sees the interaction, the more they’ll allow your posts to appear in your followers’ newsfeeds.
Another social media platform to consider utilizing is Twitter. Twitter is an open forum for conversations and ideas using short snippets. You have 130 characters or less to say what you need to say. We find that other physicians or medically-focused organizations will follow a medical practice or physician so they can share that content with their own followers. Word gets around fast on Twitter.
How to Use Hashtags
Hashtags (or also known as the “#” pound sign on your keyboard) are used on social media to associate your post to a specific topic in the form of a short link. For example, if you are a spine doctor and want to share an article about spine health, use the hashtag “#spinehealth”. The beauty of hashtags is that when you use them, whatever topic you used it for will appear as a short link on the feed of anyone else that has also used that hashtag, linking them right back to your original post! It’s a quick and remarkable way to connect your topic with others who are interested. Tip: never use spaces or special characters (!, $, %, etc.) and limit your hashtags to as little characters as possible while still keeping them relevant to the topic.
There’s Always More to Learn!
Now that you know how to get Facebook and Twitter working for your medical practice, it’s time to create your accounts. Start reaching out and listening to what your patients have to say. Fill out your profile completely, and be sure to include your contact information and welcome questions or comments on your page. If you’d like to learn more about how to grow your medical practice through an increased referral base, we recommend reading our free ebook. Click below to download it.
http://www.whitecoat-designs.com/three-reasons-why-doctors-should-consider-social-media/ (originally featured in Triangle Physician Magazine)