Medical practices may not be as invested in social media as they ought to be.
After all, generally speaking, the space that healthcare professionals and patients share online can be fraught with potential concerns, namely privacy and liability for misused information.
Many doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners would rather avoid the world of social media for these reasons, and hospitals tend to have strict policies for employees with regard to using these platforms while on the clock and while using hospital property.
Still, the need to engage in social media is an important one for any medical practice based on the way that inbound marketing functions. There is considerable value in using social media to establish your medical practice. Your effort to find and appeal to future patients starts with providing quality blog content, but its shareability in social channels is what gives it traction out on the web.
It's not enough to just offer blog posts, however well optimized they are... it's necessary to turn to multimedia channels to let people know you have content out there that they could use to solve their problems. This method of amplification is necessary to expand your ability to reach patients.
The “Social Media Marketing Survey 2016” published by Simply Measured determined that more than three quarters of businesses polled felt social media was more critical than any other digital marketing strategy for improving their bottom line.
The challenge, then, is to decide which social media channels are best employed as part of the inbound marketing strategy of a medical practice. There are many to choose from, and they all offer something a little different. How to pick?
What are the best social media channels for medical practices?
The best ones are, as common sense dictates, the channels where the vast majority of your potential patients "live."
Our top 5 favorite social media channels for medical practices
There are many to choose from, but we think that, for medical practice websites that are just beginning to develop engagement strategies online, these are the top 5 best ones as we head into 2017.
A business page in Facebook (as opposed to a personal page) is probably going to be the most reliable source of social media visibility for you.
This is not the same as a Facebook group, which encourages dialog between members of the group. A Facebook page has some engagement functionality, but you are in far better shape to control the message; a Facebook group may require you hire a manager to admin the dialog that transpires there.
Make sure your Facebook page is carefully designed to carry out your brand images. You want incoming patients to know they've found what they were looking for when they land on your page.
According to the Social Media Marketing Survey 2016, the content that performs best on the web is video, followed by images. If you haven't started making videos but think you are headed in this direction, it might be worthwhile to start with Facebook Live, then branch out to YouTube or Periscope or Instagram.
This new aspect of Facebook is becoming a huge new competitor for video-related engagements. While Periscope and YouTube are very popular video channels, Facebook has created its own channels which have the power to enhance your Facebook presence because of the way they have set up their algorithms, which favor video content (and especially when it is produced in Facebook).
This form of "microblogging" is the third most likely channel to yield results, according to the Social Media Marketing Survey 2016.
Twitter is a quick and easy way to announce new blog content as well as to engage people who share common interests with your business. They could be patients, but they could also be like-minded physicians, members of trade associations, or healthcare awareness organizations.
Twitter is known for hosting a large field of influencers whose stamp of approval matters in a very public way. If you decide to venture into Twitter, you'll want to use one of the many Twitter clients that can help you to preschedule tweets or examine statistical data so you can further refine your marketing strategy.
The use of hashtags to make your content easily found in Twitter search is also a valuable facet of the Twitter experience.
Like Twitter, LinkedIn is also a channel which identifies and promotes the ideas of influencers. LinkedIn is the second most-reliable source of engagement after Facebook, according to the Social Media Marketing Survey 2016.
This is a professional's social media gathering place. If you want to build the reputation of your medical practice either via your local community or globally, you will find reliably good success if you have an active presence in LinkedIn.
This platform has its own timeline and groups where you can share your content as well as engage with readers and cohorts in your chosen medical specialty.
It seems odd that a photo stream should be useful to medical practices, but the fact is that Instagram is popular for two reasons: it has a lot of followers using its photo editing filters and sharing tools, and it's developed a live video feature similar to YouTube and Facebook Live which competes with the super-popular Snapchat social channel.
The Social Media Marketing Survey 2016 reports that Instagram is used by 94 percent of top brands. It has quickly become a valuable resource in the healthcare space because it makes it much easier for private practices to personally tell the story of their journey through images. Instagram affords a small medical business the opportunity to build "day-in-the-life" narratives using onsite images as well as work with stock photos and illustrations, all of which can be made searchable using hashtags.
Medical practices can stand to be more creative with their online content: photo slide shows, livestreaming videos, and other forms of visual content derived in Instagram can make for great tools for patient education, plus they result in products that are easy to share across platforms.
What is the secret to making social media work for your marketing practice?
It doesn't matter which channels you choose, or how many. What's more important is that you are actively engaged in these channels.
This means you need to be checking your pages, feeds, or streams on a daily basis. Patients (either current ones, or potential ones) will use these channels to reach out to you; if you do not engage them when they do so, you run the risk of seeming unresponsive or as if you don't care.
Building patient trust is critical, whether online or off. Opening a new channel, then ignoring it, is going to do more harm than if you didn't open it at all. If you hang out a shingle inside any social media channel, you absolutely must be prepared to manage all engagements.
In Alaska, social media may in fact, be a preferred way for patients to discover local influencers in healthcare, which makes social media strategy especially critical for Alaska healthcare marketing.
If you can engage with patients while online, you have more opportunities to turn those engagements into patient visits and, ultimately, ongoing relationships when they join your patient family. Don't overlook this excellent, affordable, and easy strategy for connecting with them.