Social media can be a highly effective tool for marketing a medical practice. The trick is to know how to use it in a way that both engages fans and connects existing and prospective patients to one another. Here are three strategies that will help make your social media efforts a success.
1. Know Your Audience and Be Informative
As a physician, your top priority is to serve the community, so it is best to enter the world of social media with the intent to solve problems and offer solutions. One of the main benefits of social media is that it allows the patient to develop a personal connection with your practice. They learn to see you and your staff not as a faceless information entity or a gatekeeper of charts and prescription pads, but as people with emotions and opinions and a desire to assist however they can. Keep this in mind. Every Tweet or blog topic or Facebook post should be in consideration of the patient. Give them a reason to keep listening to you.
Social media can be a successful healthcare marketing tool when used correctly. This includes keeping the information you post fresh and dynamic and consistently updated. If your pages remain static, then your customer base will eventually lose interest, and your efforts will be wasted. In the same token, do not fall into the trap of auto-responding to patient comments or posting generic messages. Have you ever had a company put you on hold, only to hear the automated message of “Your call is important to us.” Does that sort of trite message truly make anyone feel important? Social media is a beautiful thing because it gives you the opportunity to go beyond the generic and make every patient feel like he or she is an individual.
2. Avoid Getting Too Personal
In this day and age, being social is all about sharing personal details, but as a medical provider, you must not forget that you are always bound by HIPAA guidelines. This means you must be smart about handling personal information. Wherever you exist in the social media realm, post an easy-to-read disclosure statement. Remind patients to use caution, because any piece of information on the Internet is available to the eyes of anyone in the world for an indefinite period of time. It is fine to encourage the sharing of stories on your website, but revealing personal information is always the patient’s choice and never yours.
If a patient posts a comment on your website stating something such as, “Thank you for seeing me at such short notice,” or “I really love the blepharoplasty I had done at your office, Dr. James,” what do you say? You must be careful not to violate HIPAA regulations by publicly acknowledging that you have a relationship with the patient. An appropriate choice of response might be “Thank you for sharing.” This is a tricky situation to tackle, and finding a balance can be precarious. More tips for preventing HIPAA violations can be found here.
3. Always Remain Professional
It is easy to fall into the trap of treating your business site like your personal site, but just like the “real world,” there is a distinct difference. Notice that on Facebook, a person creates a personal page on which he or she has “friends,” while a business creates a separate page on which it has “fans.” Though you have a bond with each and every one of your patients, would you treat one of them the same way you would treat a family member or personal friend? Probably not. In the world of social media marketing, you must always consider how each piece of shared information represents your business. Is it appropriate to post pictures of an employee’s birthday party held at your office? Is it appropriate to post pictures of an employee’s birthday party held at someone’s home or other venue, such as a restaurant or bar? Tastes may vary. It is best to err on the side of caution.
By actively engaging with both existing and prospective patients in a way that makes them want to read, view or watch the information you share, you create brand loyalty and consumer trust. Give these strategies a try and see how they make a positive impact on your practice!