Social media typically isn’t the first (or second, or even third) marketing tactic we recommend for medical practices, simply because there are several necessary steps to getting your practice established online first.
With that said, if your practice has already covered the basics of online marketing and wants to branch out further, social media can be a great option. The key is finding the right platform, messaging, and posting strategy for your practice.
We’ve covered social media in our Marketing Refresher Series on our Paradigm Shift of Healthcare podcast, but here are 5 ways that your practice can win with social media.
1. Find the platform that works best for you.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of any practice’s social media strategy is finding the right platform. Some practices think that they need to be on all of the social media platforms that exist, but that isn’t the case. It’s great if you have the bandwidth to put out high-quality content on every platform, but it may not be the best use of your efforts.
The first thing to do is figure out what social networks your patient demographics actually use. After all, if you put out high-quality content but your potential patients aren’t there to receive it, were those efforts worth it? Do some research, see what other practices in your area are doing and where people are engaging with them. This can vary depending on the focus of your practice. For example, if you treat an older patient population, Facebook may be the best network for you. If you have a much younger patient population, you might be better off with Instagram or Twitter. YouTube can also present a lot of opportunities to engage, and your videos can be shared on other networks.
The second part is choosing your platforms based on the strengths of whomever will be running the social media accounts. If you try to shoehorn your practice into a social media platform that doesn’t play to your strengths, it will show. Are you and your staff good on camera? Try platforms that work well with video like YouTube, Instagram, and even Facebook. Is writing more of your strong suit? Platforms that allow for longer posts like Facebook may work better for you.
The key is finding that balance of where you can reach your audience, and what platforms play to your strengths.
2. Share on-topic messages that provide value.
One common pitfall we see with medical practices on social media is that they post just to post. There’s no real strategy behind it, and the audience often isn’t getting any value out of the content. We’ve seen this happen both with practices who develop and post their own social media content, and with practices who hire agencies to post for them.
While it’s okay to have some fun and go a bit off-topic sometimes, your social media posts should ultimately help drive patients to your practice. You can still have some fun with posts about holidays and silly happenings around the office, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do. And unless you are a dietician, you probably shouldn’t be sharing food recipes every week.
The majority of your social media posts should play to your practice’s specialties. You probably have a wealth of health tips that your patients could benefit from, so think of ways to share that information in a way that is engaging, easy to read, and eye-catching. We work with a lot of orthopedic practices; for our clients, we might suggest things like injury prevention tips, videos that demonstrate exercises for arthritis patients, and other quick tips for patients dealing with arthritis or sports injuries.
3. Look for opportunities to engage with your audience.
Often, medical practices and other types of businesses take more of a “broadcast” approach on social media. In other words, they post their messages, but aren’t doing anything beyond that initial post to engage the community.
If you really want your practice to stand out on social media, you have to go beyond the broadcast approach. Responding to comments and actually engaging back with your audience makes your practice stand out because most others do not do this. The more you engage with your audience, the more they engage back. And the more activity you have on your posts, the more visible they will be.
It’s also important to note that when we say to “engage with your audience,” we aren’t talking about posting canned responses. Generic responses like “thanks for commenting” or “sorry about your experience” won’t get you very far. People are used to seeing those types of responses on social media and will see right through them. To truly engage with your audience, you have to post responses that speak directly to each person, perhaps including followup questions to start a conversation. Just as a word of caution, though, be sure to direct any conversations about patient care off social media to a more private channel to avoid HIPAA concerns.
4. Try boosting posts or running an ad campaign to expand the reach of key messages.
If you are just getting started on social media, it can be hard to build up a following and get activity going organically. With social media algorithms, it’s even harder to get in front of people, since even your followers aren’t likely to see 100% of your posts in their feeds.
Unfortunately, like other networks, social media is becoming a “pay to play” space. If you’d like to build up social media more quickly, you’ll likely need to try boosted or sponsored posts. If you have certain messages that you really want to get out to your patients, boosted posts or sponsored ads can help you expand your reach beyond your followers. There are usually options to target users based on their demographics, including age, location, and sometimes even interests.
Boosted and sponsored posts show up in users’ timelines and look very much like regular posts. People can still interact with the posts like they would with a regular post, and can even share the posts, which can boost your reach even further. In our experience, we’ve seen social media ad campaigns work quite well for practices advertising certain procedures/services and new locations. You might be surprised with how many comments you can get on a social media ad!
5. Be consistent with your strategy.
No matter which social network(s) or strategies you choose, it’s important to stay consistent in your efforts. Unless you are running ads, social media can be a long game in terms of marketing, and consistency will be important to reach your goals. If you post consistently one month and then go radio-silent the next, that won’t help you build up the engagement and following you need.
Likewise, it’s important to pick your key networks and stick with them for a while. Unless you are among the rare few that go “viral,” your social media following won’t happen overnight. Give your plan a fair chance to work before abandoning your efforts. If you don’t have the time to keep up with social media networks in-house, you can hire agencies to help with this.
Aside from ads, social media is technically free, but most practices don’t consider the time and effort needed to do it right. This is why it usually is not our top recommendation for practices. However, If you’ve already covered the basics and have the time/budget for social media, it can be a great avenue for getting in front of potential patients.