Using Social Media to Educate Patients

For many people, social media has become part of everyday life. According to Pew Research, 74% of internet users are on social media. With that said, it should come as no surprise that people are using social media to discuss and find information about health-related issues.

Practices are often hesitant about getting involved with social media, and rightfully so–as a public forum, HIPAA definitely applies to social media interactions. However, the benefits of social media can greatly outweigh the risks. With social media, your practice has a unique opportunity to connect with both current and potential patients.

If people are already using social media to find health-related information, it presents a great opportunity for practices to reach patients where they are looking. As you are probably well aware, there is a lot of misinformation circulating online, particularly on social media. Social media can help your practice educate patients and dispel misinformation. Patients see physicians as trustworthy sources of information. In fact, patients have more trust in social media posts from physicians than posts from pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

When done right, social media can educate your patients while reinforcing your practice’s brand. Ready to use social media as a educational resource for patients? Try these tips.

1. Make sure your social profiles looks professional.

Like it or not, first impressions are everything. If you want patients to pay attention to what you have to say on social media, your page has to look professional. Whether you are setting up social media profiles for the practice or for individual physicians, make sure they are completely filled out and have professional imagery. Logos and any other branding elements associated with your practice should be incorporated into your practice’s social profiles to provide a consistent experience and lend legitimacy to what you are saying.

Also, make sure that your posts are grammatically correct. While it is common to let grammar slip on social media, it does not lend to professionalism. You want patients to see you as a trustworthy source of information, and posts full of grammatical errors and slang won’t help you accomplish that. Treat your social media posts just as you would treat content published on any other medium.

2. Make your posts eye-catching and easy to digest.

Generally, social media is not the place for long-form content. If you want to catch the attention of patients on social media, you need to distill the information down to key points and use imagery and videos to illustrate those points. Imagery and videos are also easy for people to share with their social media connections, potentially creating a wider audience for your content. Infographics are a great way to share quick health tips because they are eye-catching and convey information quickly.

Social media is a great medium to share educational videos with patients. Video allows you to share more information than you could in a regular post or infographic in a way that is quick and easy to understand. It is also a great opportunity to get physicians engaged in creating social media content. Since patients are more likely to trust social media messages from physicians, having physicians make educational videos can be a boost to your practice’s social media strategy. Videos can also help patients learn more about a physician’s personality, which can be reassuring for potential new patients.

If you want to share more long-form content, it’s best to link out to relevant blog posts and articles so that users can click through to the article to read more, or scroll past if they are uninterested. Ideally, aim for a mix of imagery, videos, and article links to deliver important information in a variety of ways.

3. Use responses to inform future content.

As your practice gets into social media, you will be able to see which kinds of content are most popular with your followers. You can then use that information when creating future content, to create the kinds of content your followers want to see. After all, why put the effort into social media if users aren’t interested in your content?

Even if you don’t have time to respond to every comment on social media, definitely take the time to read them. Comments and questions from your followers can also give you ideas for future content. It shows that you are listening to your followers and are committed to helping them get the information they seek. Again, creating social media content is not worth the effort if people aren’t interested in the subject matter.

Certainly, there are a lot of other factors to consider if your practice wants to dive into social media. Good content takes time to create, and someone will need to head up those efforts. However, if your practice has the personnel and talent to do it, it is a great way to reach patients online beyond your website and help patients get trustworthy information about healthcare.