If you have a medical practice, you might be wondering how to turn social media into the marketing superpower that seems to do wonders for the food and fashion industries. With 70% of U.S. adults using social media every day, what business owner would ignore that level of free exposure and advertising?
Healthcare is a unique field, and brings its own challenges to the social media space. Unlike food and fashion, the healthcare industry is a necessity directly tied to sustaining life. When patients search for a doctor, it’s not a want, but a need, and what they need is someone knowledgeable, approachable, and effective enough to improve their quality of life. Your primary goal should be to establish those qualities across your social media accounts.
Easier said than done, right? Well, we’re here to help you out. Read on to learn our Top 10 social media marketing tips to help doctors and other healthcare professionals excel in the social media space.
1. Aim for Your Target Demographic When Choosing Accounts
There are dozens of social media platforms out there: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and so many more. Should you focus on one? Should you just make an account on all of them? Well, generally not. As a doctor, you probably have more than enough responsibilities to worry about already, and don’t have time to constantly update half a dozen social media accounts.
Ideally, you want to stick with the social media platforms most commonly used by your target demographic. If you primarily have older patients, consider that Facebook and YouTube are the most frequently used social media sites by Americans 65 years old or older. According to the Pew Research Center,
(source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/10/share-of-u-s-adults-using-social-media-including-facebook-is-mostly-unchanged-since-2018/) about 40% of people in this age group use Facebook and YouTube on a consistent basis, whereas only 10% or less use the other social media sites with any regularity.
Alternatively, if you perform plastic surgery, one of the more image-heavy social media sites like Instagram or Twitter might be worth looking into. From here, you can show off the amazing results you’re able to accomplish with your patients, and they can then share them to others using relevant hashtags or other trends.
All that said, Facebook and YouTube are definitely the most popular social media sites used today, with 70% of all Americans using these sites on a daily basis. If you want to focus on just a couple of accounts, these would be a safe bet.
2. Focus on your specific expertise
When most patients search for a doctor, they don’t just type “doctor” into Google. They’ll usually search for a particular type of doctor, like “OB/GYN” or “ENT,” or they’ll search for a problem they’re having, like “back pain” or “difficulty swallowing.” If they’re intending to visit a doctor for this, they’ll want someone in their area, so they often include their city or town in their search.
To be found in these searches, you want to focus on creating and releasing content that closely matches your area of expertise. Over time, you’ll develop a catalogue of related tips and information, and this will build credibility with the patient. As tempting as it may be to hop on “flu season” trends, or discuss weight loss tips for the holidays, this type of content isn’t always aligned with your practice.
These patients don’t know you yet, so you first need to establish that you know what you’re talking about, and have already released content that might be able to help them.
3. You and Your Team Are the Product
Despite what I said above, keep in mind that this is still social media. It’s not an encyclopedia or the PDR. Patients created these accounts to connect with their friends and family, and you’ll be sharing the same social space on the site with them, so you want to be as engaging and inclusive as you can.
Not all your content should be health tips or videos about your service. You can post videos or pictures from fun events occurring in the office, like a nurse’s birthday celebration, or employees participating in a recent social media trend. Even a significant weather event filmed from inside the office can humanize you in the minds of the patients.
Ultimately, you and your patients are people, too. They might only get to spend ten minutes with you in the examination room. By sharing some social events with them on social media, they’ll feel a stronger connection with you before they ever set foot in the office, and that connection might just turn a prospective patient into a new one.
4. Get Involved in Local Community Events
A hundred years ago, a city or town might have had only one local doctor, and everyone knew his name. These days, four doctors can share four corners of an intersection, and most people will pass you on the street without a second thought.
How do you stand out among the competition? Become that integral member of the community again!
It’s not just city governments that can host local events. You could start a 5K and advertise it on social media to spread awareness, or rent a bouncy castle and some booths to host a fair in your parking lot. Most importantly, you want to record and share these events and post them on social media after the fact, so that even people who weren’t there can see what they’re missing out on.
You don’t have to be just a local doctor. You can be the local doctor. And even if they don’t need your services, they might know someone who does, and word of mouth will do the rest.
5. Engage Frequently with Followers
Never forget that when you post on social media, lots of people are going to see it. When they do, there’s a decent chance that someone will leave a comment. The best way to drive engagement and build a community is to respond back!
In any social media space, people don’t like to feel like they’re just shouting into the void. As the content creator, you hold a special role in the “society” generated by the page—you’re the star!— and a response from you can make the commenter feel important and listened to. It’s another way to build that connection, and by establishing that connection on the site, you can turn a social media follower into a future patient.
That said, don’t just wait for people to comment. Post content that ends with a question, or some type of opportunity for them to provide input. By giving your followers an open-ended prompt, you provide an invitation that gives permission for an otherwise shy follower to get involved in the conversation. This conversation then invites other commenters, and eventually you’ve got a real honest community on your hands, and, like a fire, as long as you keep feeding it, it will continue burning bright.
6. Share Basic Medical Information to Advertise Your Services
As fun as it can be to build an online community, likes and comments don’t always translate into dollars spent, and while they might like you or your content, your followers won’t necessarily become your patients unless they know what services you provide.
To that end, it can be very useful to create content that shares basic medical advice in your established field. For example, if you’re a physical therapist, you might want to post a YouTube video of you performing some basic exercises to strengthen muscles. An ENT might post a Top 10 list of safe practices in flu season, or a podiatrist could post illustrative pictures of proper running form. Just make sure you get written permission if you use a patient for help!
This is the “free samples” portion of your practice. Social media provides an opportunity for you to freely prove what you know and provide value to prospective patients. This establishes credibility and usefulness. When they think you’re smart and useful, you can quickly become a follower’s first choice when they need medical care.
7. Avoid Answering Specific Medical Questions
Perhaps this is a no-brainer to some of you, but it needs to be said: under no circumstances should you answer specific medical questions from individual followers. Not only are there HIPAA regulations to consider when discussing medical issues in a public space, but there are potential legal ramifications to providing medical care without getting the patient’s written consent and medical history.
Of course, patients don’t always know or care about these potential issues, and the more your community grows, the more you’ll get questions about a patient’s problem. This is an excellent opportunity for you to direct a follower to your company website, where they should be able to find contact information, or maybe even schedule an appointment (if it’s set up for that).
Ultimately, this is your business, and while a free sample from time to time is acceptable, you still need revenue, and you want to keep your license. If someone needs your help, bring them in!
8. Schedule Your Content Ahead of Time
This is a problem that plagues any social media creator, and doctors are no different: you need to keep a consistent posting schedule.
Now, obviously you don’t need to post something every day, or even every other day. You don’t want to spam a follower’s feed with constant updates. Scarcity breeds value, but you don’t want to make yourself so scarce that your followers forget you exist. There’s a fine line between persistence and annoyance, and to succeed in the social media space, you need to walk that line.
One trick that many content creators use is to create a lot of content at once, then schedule its release in the future. You might not have time every four days to create something to post on social media, but you might be able to carve out a chunk of time every few weeks to create multiple entries, then post them weekly for the next month. This allows you more flexibility for your time throughout the day, and is frequent enough that you’re building an online catalogue of content for new followers to peruse when they find your site.
9. Consider the Pros and Cons of Paid Advertising
If content creation just isn’t your thing, or if your area of expertise isn’t conducive to a fun and vibrant online community, there’s still one way you can capitalize on social media: paid advertising.
With the roughly 70% viewership that Facebook and YouTube enjoys, it’s an advertiser’s dream to get that many eyes on their ads, and—assuming you can afford it—there’s no reason why you can’t take advantage of this as well. Facebook and YouTube know the demographics of their users, and can target their ads towards particular age groups, locations, and even someone’s specific search history. It’s an incredibly effective way of making sure the people most likely to be interested in your services actually see your ad.
This tactic will lose you that community engagement, but it will likely increase the number of people who see the name of your practice and contact information. It’s up to you to decide which tactic you prefer.
10. Outsource Social Media
If you don’t have time to curate an active online presence, but still want that organic sense of community that social media brings, you could always outsource your social media management to a paid professional. This person would be responsible for scheduling, creating, posting, and moderating your various social media accounts. Depending on the size of your community, this alone could be a full-time job, so it’s a viable option that allows the shy and/or busy doctor to focus on their practice.
While a social media manager can definitely take the brunt of the workload, keep in mind that in most cases, this isn’t necessarily a “fire and forget” tactic that requires zero time investment from you. As the head of the practice, you’ll likely have to appear in various pictures or videos that the social media manager creates. This tactic primarily avoids the mental and social stress of thinking of new ideas and interacting with your followers. Furthermore, these people usually don’t work for free, so consider their wages when determining which tactic you’d like to go with.
You’re like a very busy person already, and might think that this social media stuff is just too much work, or too expensive. Remember that you don’t have to do everything! It’s okay to only make a Facebook page for your practice and post a paragraph or two from time to time. It’s better to have something rather than nothing at all, but if you wish to do more, and really grow your social media presence, these ten tips are a great place to start.