When your medical practice begins its social media campaign, one of the foremost actions you take should involve creating a Facebook page. Why? Because, like any business, you go where your customers are, and Facebook is where your patients live. It has over 800 million users, and close to half of them spend more time talking to people via social media than they do in real life. And if you think Facebook is simply for young people, think again. The average Facebook user is 38 years old. It is only natural to utilize Facebook as a marketing tool to help your practice grow.
But even though Facebook may seem easy, there’s a lot more to maintaining a successful Facebook page than what meets the eye. It’s easy for doctors and medical staff on Facebook to make mistakes that can do more harm to business than good. Here we will discuss the most common mistakes that medical practices make on Facebook and other social media sites and how you can avoid them.
The Internet is a vast resource of information, but what many people fail to realize is that any piece of content posted online remains there indefinitely. Anyone can view it. Internet privacy may seem like a myth, an impossibility, but for physicians it is the number one priority. Even on Facebook, you are bound by HIPPA privacy regulations. Many patients do not understand that they are not covered entities and can share private information if they so choose. But as a physician, you are a covered entity, even on Facebook. If you are not careful about the way information is handled on your page, you could be facing unnecessary legal complications.
Your Facebook page should be a place where your patients come for support, information, and even a bit of fun, but it should never be a proxy for your medical practice. Not only is it a poor business choice, it can also have dangerous legal ramifications. Why would a patient visit a practice and pay his co-pay when he can simply visit a Facebook page and receive all the doctoring he needs? And what would happen to that patient if he received an incorrect diagnosis? Of course you understand the seriousness of this scenario, but sometimes patients do not. They may mistakenly post questions or concerns of a medical nature on your page, and you must be careful how you respond to them, lest you come face to face with a HIPAA violation.
Having “Friends” Instead of “Fans”
Patients very often share personal facts and stories with their friends on Facebook, but as a physician, do you think it is appropriate for you to be included? Facebook can make it hard to draw the line between a personal relationship and a professional relationship. It’s important to keep in mind that when you bring your practice onto Facebook, you are still representing a business. Having a special and close connection with all of your patients is a great business practice, but at the end of the day, you are the physician, and the patient is the patient. Facebook makes the distinction between people and businesses by creating “profiles” for individuals and “pages” for companies, and if Facebook discovers that your business site has created a “profile,” it will be deleted. Are you being “liked”? Or are you being “friended”? If the latter is the case, then it might be time to make a change.
Facebook users share millions of pieces of content a day: pictures, videos, news articles, etc. Each piece represents something about every user, and in the same token, the content you upload is a representation of your business. If you choose to upload a photo or a video, you must use discretion. What may seem fine to you may not be fine for a potential patient who is visiting your page for the first time.
Deleting Negative Comments
Negative comments are embarrassing. Nobody wants to be badmouthed, especially in a public forum. Your first instinct may be to delete them, especially if they are untrue or misleading, but keep that instinct in check. It is actually better to leave negative comments in place and respond to them appropriately. Remember that different people do not always perceive actions the same way. Something you or another staff member might have said or done in the presence of a patient might prompt him or her to leave a negative comment because it was upsetting. It is an opportunity to learn, since you would have never known about the misunderstanding otherwise. Apologize to the commenter and let them know that you will make an effort to correct the problem in the future. This gives the patient peace of mind, knowing his negative experience made an impact and a difference. It is also important to keep in mind that it is better that your patients share negative comments on Facebook because you have the ability to respond. This is not the case with most online review sites.
Spam is a marketing tactic that backfires because it is overused and becomes an annoyance to the audience. It is more than just ads, popups, or emails in an inbox. Spam can also be content that you post on your Facebook wall too frequently. If you flood a patient’s Facebook feed with too many status updates, photos, and so on, you force the patient to pick through all the content for something that is relevant to him. The patient will more than likely become frustrated, lose interest, and remove you from his list of pages. When posting content on your Facebook page, keep the updates consistent but infrequent. Once a day, once every three days, once a week – whatever makes you feel most comfortable and keeps your popularity on the up and up.
It can be hard to come up with unique content all the time. Even if you are gung-ho about social media and are full to the brim with ideas, there will come a time when you might run out of steam, so to speak. There’s nothing wrong with placing a certain photo image or status update or article on other social media sites in addition to Facebook, but repeating the same content several times on a single site is just as disengaging as posting too many times. If it is important to post a piece of content more than once, reword it or redesign it. Give it a new and different twist.
Some Facebook users are infamous for status updates that are uninteresting or incomprehensible, but a good marketer knows that status updates are more than just a novelty. When used correctly, they can be a powerful way to send messages to patients without seeming intrusive. Keep yours informative and to the point. Every piece of information that you share on Facebook should be used to benefit the patient.
Auto-Responses or Non-Responses
A heartfelt Facebook comment can bring a smile to your face. Shouldn’t you return the favor? True, it can be difficult at times to think up a unique response to every patient’s comment, especially when put in a situation where sharing too much information might cause a HIPAA violation. Auto-responses may seem appealing at times, but they are mechanical and do not give the impression of true interaction. Ignoring patient comments can be detrimental as well. When you create a Facebook page and invite your patient community to participate, the same is expected of you in return. There is no substitute for true rapport, even in social media. Facebook gives you the opportunity to make every patient feel special, so take advantage of it!
Setting It and Forgetting It
The beauty of a Facebook page is that it can be updated around your schedule. But to be a useful tool, it must be updated. Like all social media outlets, Facebook is dynamic. Facebook pages that are never updated are not engaging. Just as a patient does not want to be ignored when they post a comment, they do not want to be a part of a static social network. To your patients, a practice with a static Facebook page may be indicative of a practice that is static with them as well.
If updating a Facebook page on a consistent basis does not fit into your schedule or seems overwhelming, we at MindStream Creative are here to help lighten the load. We have done the research and know how to implement the best strategies that can make your Facebook page and your social media launch a success. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.