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Social media has won the hearts of businesses across the globe. Tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have become a cornerstone for business communication and promotion. However, the reasons for implementing social media into a medical practice can go much deeper than gaining exposure, web traffic and patients.

As we get back to humanizing medicine, it is important to remember that social media in healthcare shouldn’t be distant. Social media is about connecting with others. A good strategy will connect doctors and allow them to share medical treatment ideas, results and research. It also provides a meeting place for patients to connect with one another to share ideas, fears and provide support. Finally, social media allows medical practices to connect with both current and potential patients in a way that is often difficult while they are in the office.

The opinion of whether or not a social media strategy is successful can vary from person to person. In fact, most businesses are still having difficulty measuring the return on investment (ROI) for social media. Social Media Examiner’s 2015 Industry Report found that only 42% of marketers are able to measure their social activities. This has been a recurring concern in the industry for years. That said, more than half of marketers using social media report that it helped them improve sales.

In order to measure social media ROI, the goal behind using social media in healthcare must be established. If the goal is to increase exposure, define what exposure means for the practice and use that definition for measuring efficacy. If the goal is to generate new leads, be sure to track where each and every inquiry into the practice is coming from. If the goal is to improve search rankings, Google analytics should be used to measure the impact social media is making on search engines.

No matter the goal behind using it, social media is most effective when used for community building and engagement. Instead of pushing information onto fans, businesses should converse with them. Success is best measured by the quality of interactions made. Incorporate new ways to nurture engagement such as podcasts, webinars and videos. Find out what format fans most respond to and use it regularly when sharing information.

In the end, taking steps toward helping patients and the online community through providing insightful information is priceless. By getting consumers engaged in their health care planning, both the patient and the practice win.