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As marketing consultants, a question we frequently are asked is how to deliver the argument of adding social media to a medical practice. Medical providers are typically cautious when considering moving to the social media realm of marketing. This challenge puts the practice at risk of falling behind from the mainstream, as 61% of Americans are using the internet to research health information. It is important in this day in age for medical providers to appear on top of technological advances, both in their practice and online.

The reason many medical providers are cautious about implementing social media is because of the concern that negative reviews or comments will be posted on their page. While there is always a chance that someone may post something negative, the likelihood is small. If a practice discovers a negative comment posted on their site, it should be addressed immediately. While it can be deleted, a more proactive approach is to respond with a constructive comment. For example, if a patient comments that the wait time is too long, respond by stating that you appreciate them taking the time to share their opinion and are making efforts to reduce patient wait times (assuming this is true). This shows not only the patient that commented, but others who are fans or followers of your page as well, that you care and take their opinion seriously. This means a lot!

Social Media for Information Sharing

Share with practice decision makers the growing popularity and prevalence of social media in medical practices and facilities. The Mayo Clinic began using social media in 2005 and has had much success and growing popularity because of its launch. In July of 2005, they launched “The Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media” to improve health literacy and health care delivery. Other leaders in health care have also successfully implemented social media. Sarasota Memorial Hospital successfully uses Twitter as a platform for patients to ask questions. Patients like to see their medical providers online. It reinforces their trust in the practice and has become a way for patients to show their support for medical providers they know, trust and recommend.

Social Media and Patient Privacy

To address patient privacy issues, create a policy or statement that serves as a reminder to patients that anything posted online — in any forum — is not private. This should then be posted on the social media landing page. Patients who share information of their own accord do so with the understanding that what they post can be seen by anyone indefinitely. It is also important that when responding to patient posts, medical providers and staff should keep comments neutral by not acknowledging that medical services were provided to a patient. For example, if a patient posts that they love their new vision thanks to LASIK at Raleigh Eye Center, any comments back to the patient should not confirm that they had surgery at that facility. The practice may choose to say, “Thank you for sharing.”

Social Media Marketing is Growing

There are over 800 million active facebook users. Patients are using the internet to research information about medical conditions, physicians and other health related topics. As a medical provider, it is important to be a source of information for both patients and prospective patients. This includes providing relevant information to your target audience as well as answering medical questions they may have from a generic standpoint.

Social Media Marketing is Economical

Social media marketing is an economic way to grow a medical practice. Social media marketing costs approximately 60% less per lead than traditional outbound marketing. This means a much higher return on your marketing investment. With the budget cuts in healthcare, it is more necessary to be marketing budget conscious. Social media marketing allows medical practices to reach a specific audience that is searching for information relevant to their current needs. This non-invasive way of marketing is more successful because medical practices can focus their energy on an audience that wants to hear from them, rather than cold leads who do not.

Social media marketing is successful when used properly. Social media marketing does not provide instant gratification as a lot of love and time must be invested for its success. That said, social media marketing is now a widely accepted way of growing a business. Some of the largest and most successful healthcare organizations are investing time and a portion of their marketing budget into this form of marketing and are receiving excellent response from doing so. The most important reason for creating a social media marketing campaign is to better connect with patients. To remain competitive it is important to be viewed as an expert in a specialty. The internet provides medical practices and providers the ability to do this. If you are not already using social media in your medical practice, now is the time to start.