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SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

Social media is a double win for your medical practice and your career

Digital media specialist Brittney Overstreet says social media has given word-of-mouth marketing—the oldest marketing tool—unanticipated strength that can dramatically boost your medical practice or effortlessly destroy it if you don’t know how to manage it.

Social media, defined as the online method for sharing information with an audience, is used by many patients to influence their decisions when choosing a healthcare provider. Taking advantage of it can attract many new patients to your practice.

Overstreet, former digital marketing manager for NorthStar Anesthesia P.A., says another benefit of using social media such as Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, is that it allows you to educate your current patients.

“The average patient spends about 52 hours per year searching for health information online,” she notes, adding that maintaining a solid online presence creates a feeling of trust and authenticity toward your medical practice.

Examples of effective educational information that you can share might include providing tips for staying healthy during the flu season, providing information on viruses or outbreaks affecting your geographical area, or recommending reputable online health information websites such as KevinMD.com

Effective use of social media can also help your practice build relationships with your patients, according to Overstreet.

“One big thing about social media is that people like to post reviews and sometimes those reviews can be negative. My advice is to have a scripted or generic response (to a negative review) and do not go into details of the patient online.”

In one case, a medical practice received a negative review from a patient after taking that person to collections for non-payment of an account. The practice responded on social media to the patient, stating that it takes billing issues very seriously, promising to look into the matter and inviting the patient to privately message the practice for further discussion.

A review of the matter found that there had been a billing mix-up and the patient should never have been taken to collections. The practice then issued an apology, privately, to the client.

As a result, the patient provided a follow-up response on Facebook, thanking the practice for its sense of urgency in resolving the issue and expressing a desire to continue that person’s relationship with the doctor.

Another benefit of using social media is that it can build community awareness of medical issues. For example, Overstreet says your medical practice may choose to promote free flu shots or free diabetes screenings, along with information on how to avoid catching the flu or developing diabetes.

Finally, using a networking resource such as Linkedin can grow your practice by allowing you to enter into forum discussions with a wide range of healthcare professionals. Such collaborations can help you grow your medical practice and also attract top-notch employees when you are hiring.

Overstreet says there are some beneficial free tools that can help you with your social media campaign. One example is Hootsuite.com, which simplifies the process of scheduling posts in advance. You simply enter your post into Hootsuite on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter and schedule when you want it to go out.

“My advice is to take 30 minutes out of every Monday morning to schedule your posts for the whole week,” she says.

Another free tool is Audiense.com (formerly SocialBro). Overstreet says it has a great feature that links to Twitter called Best Time to Tweet. It calculates the percentage of users online and allows you to post on Hootsuite at the most effective time.

Employee advocacy, defined as promotion of an organization by its staff members, can increase your social reach by up to tenfold. An example would be having a staff member post a link to or like an article that your practice has posted on his or her personal social media account. That puts your message before many more eyes and also builds trust from your audience, which can translate into new patients being attracted to your practice.

It also grows your own thought leadership. You are seen as an authority in a specialized field and others will seek your expertise, according to Overstreet.

It’s important to tailor your content to each platform, whether it’s Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter. Linkedin lets you network with other professionals, while Facebook allows you to set up an online business page. Twitter allows you to share health information in a short fashion and also lets you host weekly live chats to answer any questions your patients may have.

Whichever social media platform you choose, Overstreet says content is king. She suggests creating weekly informative articles to create awareness of healthcare topics that are relevant to your community.

Adding imagery to your articles can greatly increase the number of people reading and sharing them. Images are readily available online at no charge.

An image posted on Facebook receives 53 percent more likes and 84 percent more clicks compared to posts unaccompanied by imagery, according to Overstreet.

Three important words to remember are publish, publish, publish! Publish frequently to stay top of mind in your reading audience. You don’t need to publish strictly your own content. You can post links to a wide variety of interesting medical topics or upcoming events.

“The more viral your content is, the greater your online presence. Your goal in social media is to become viral,” she says.

Using a tool such as Google Analytics allows you to check the popularity of your content, expanding on what clicks for your audience and moving away from what does not work.

“Social media marketing for healthcare can be easy,” says Overstreet, adding that it can also markedly help your career because others will reach out to you once you become a social media expert.

“It’s just one more thing that you can put on your resume that is just so relevant to today.”


Editor’s picks:

Compliance perspective: How to keep an employee from damaging your practice on social media


Should you ‘friend’ your coworkers on social media?


What happened when a doctor cried on social media


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