Social media doesn’t have to be all about promoting and advertising your healthcare practice. There are a number of ways your practice can use social media that enhance patients’ experience online, giving them something different than the other channels you use to market your practice.
People are bombarded with marketing messages and advertisements in almost everything they do these days, and social media is a prime example of that, with sponsored posts. If your practice is only using social media to send out more traditional marketing messages, it can be difficult to cut through the noise and get through to potential patients. With the right social media strategy, you can build trust with patients and add something valuable to their online experience, rather than directly trying to “sell” patients on your practice.
If you want to use social media to improve patient experience, the strategies outlined below are a great place to start.
1. Create a Community for Your Patients
For practices that treat patients with chronic, ongoing health issues, social media is a great way to create a sense of community for your patients. In addition to the support from your practice, patients can find comfort in sharing experiences with others who are dealing with the same health problems.
There are a number of ways you can create online communities for your patients. You can start a private Facebook group to give patients a more controlled environment for sharing their stories. On Twitter, you can also use a healthcare hashtag specific to each health condition.
Start your own community for your patients, or use an already-established hashtag to help connect your patients to others across the country. Symplur.com has a list of popular healthcare hashtags, so that you can find the ones most relevant to your patients.
2. Educate Your Patients on Important Health Issues
As we are all well aware, there is a lot of misinformation available online about different medical conditions and symptoms. As a medical practice, social media gives you a platform to combat untrue information and give patients expert-backed information they can trust.
If you choose to use social media as a platform, there are a few things to consider. First, you’ll want to make sure your profiles look professional so that patients will trust the information you provide. You’ll also need to make sure you break down information into an easy-to-digest format–long-form posts are not the best on a social media platform. Try doing a series of posts, or do a shorter post with a video or link to an article with more details.
It’s also important to remember that while it is okay to share more general, educational information on social media, you should never discuss a patient’s individual symptoms or health problems on social media. This could result in a HIPAA violation. If patients ask you to answer specific questions about their health on social media, direct them to a private way to get in touch with you, like an office phone number or secure email address.
3. Show a More Social, Human Side of Your Practice
Unlike other marketing channels, social media allows you to connect with patients on a more personal level. It doesn’t have to be all about business and a push to get appointments. Showing a more personal side can help you build trust and confidence with patients.
In a Convince & Convert podcast episode titled “How to Do Healthcare Social Media Right,” James LaCorte, Social Media Manager of Blue Cross NC, explains how this strategy has worked for his organization. LaCorte’s organization recruits employees as social media ambassadors, and has found that people gravitate more to the ambassadors’ social media messages than the company’s social messages, saying “We can push our own messaging all day long, but as ambassadors start publishing their own content in their own voice, that’s the messaging that people gravitate to.”
This is a strategy you can adapt for your practice. If your practice has multiple doctors, each doctor could have their own social media profiles. This allows your doctors to show their individual personalities, while still providing helpful information to patients. Aside from informational posts, your practice and employees can also share some personal details on social media, such as family activities or activities and charity events in the community.
4. Engage in Reputation Marketing
Reputation marketing is another way you can incorporate social media into your practice, especially for Facebook. Facebook pages that are tied to businesses locations allow users to leave reviews, similar to other online review platforms. Facebook will sometimes automatically generate a Facebook location page for your practice even if you don’t manage a Facebook page for your practice. This allows patients to leave reviews about your practice, so it’s important to be aware of what is out there.
Just like other online location listings, you can claim your Facebook business profile to respond to reviews and post other content on your page. If your practice is active on Facebook and your patients are following you, you may be able to draw attention to your profile and build up more positive reviews and comments to reduce the effect of any negative reviews that have been posted.
Aside from user ratings of your practice on Facebook, there are other ways that social media can compliment a reputation marketing strategy. Many other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram do not allow users to leave star ratings for your business, but patients may leave comments about a negative experience they had at your office. If your practice has a social media presence, you can still respond to those comments much in the same way you would respond to negative reviews on online review sites.
5. Provide Customer Service
Patients will often have questions about your practice and how you can help them. Social media provides a platform for you to help answer patients’ questions and provide “customer” service support. By providing customer service on social media, you can show patients that you are willing to go above and beyond to help them get the healthcare they need. Often, that willingness to help sticks with patients more than traditional marketing messages.
As we’ve said before, you won’t be able to discuss any protected health information (PHI) with patients via social media, but you can direct patients on how to reach out privately to get the answers they need. You can also answer questions about your procedures and services, insurance plans accepted, and how to locate your practice. If you feel the conversation is venturing into revealing PHI, be ready to provide a private means of contacting your practice to continue the conversation.
Social Media at Your Practice
As you can see, there are a lot of different ways you can use social media to expand upon your practice’s current marketing strategy. The primary benefit of social media, in our opinion, is the ability to enhance patients’ online interactions with your practice, rather than bombarding them with more marketing messages.
Give these strategies a try, and see what your patients respond to. The ultimate goal is to build trust with current and potential patients, so approach your social media strategy, and you’ll be in good shape.