It may not cost your practice anything to set up a social media account, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely free.
No, we’re not talking about paid advertisements or “boosts” for your posts on social media–although those by nature aren’t free (and they are becoming increasingly necessary to get enough reach). We’re talking about the time your practice will need to invest in social media, paid or not, to make it a worthwhile marketing effort.
You’ll either need to manage your social media accounts on your own, or assign those duties to someone in your practice. You can also hire another company to help you with social media services, but you’ll still need to remain involved to make sure that your posts are keeping consistent with your practice’s branding. That ultimately takes time away from your other responsibilities as a practice. As the popular saying goes, time is money.
Social media can be a great way for your practice to connect with patients in your community. However, because social media does require such an investment, we wouldn’t recommend that your practice pursue social media as part of your marketing strategy unless you’ve covered the basics first, including your website, local SEO, and online reviews.
If your practice is still interested in trying out social media, these are the things you need to know.
1. You’ll need to put in a lot of time and effort to get a return.
While it may not cost anything to set up social media pages for your practice, it will take a lot of time to do it effectively. You can’t just set up a basic profile and expect to automatically start attracting patients. You need to put work into completely filling out your profile and keeping the branding consistent. That includes profile and banner images, an About section, a link to your website, and information about your practice.
You also need to be posting regularly. Applications like Hootsuite and Buffer can help you schedule out posts, but you still need to take the time to actually come up with content for the posts and draft the posts. You don’t necessarily need to shoot for a specific number of posts per week, but you should aim for some sort of consistency in how often you post. You can’t post every day for a few weeks and then stop posting for several weeks, or you’ll lose the momentum you’ve built up. If you can’t take the time to be consistent with your posts, then social media might not be the best fit for your practice.
2. It can take a while to build up a following.
Social media success rarely happens overnight for medical practices. It can take a lot of time and effort to build momentum on social media, so this isn’t the way to go if you need results more quickly. It can take several months to build up the following you want and actually get your followers to engage with your posts. You can run social media ads to more quickly attract the attention of current and potential patients, but even then, it will take time. You’ll need to stay the course to build up the followers you need to have an effective social media presence.
3. Even when you have followers, only a small percentage of them will see your posts.
Social media has increasingly become a “pay to play” space. According to Hootsuite, the average non-paid Facebook post from a brand or company page only reaches one in 19 followers. That’s a pretty low number for the amount of effort you generally have to put in for social media. And if you want to increase your odds of getting your posts in front of as many followers as possible, you really need to think about strategy and best practices for every single post. That might include finding the right imagery, the right attention-grabbing hook, hashtags, the right types of content to share, and even the right time of day to post.
With organic reach being so low, it’s no surprise that many businesses are turning to paid promotion to get in front of the right audience. While social media ads do add to your costs, they do give you the ability to target potential patients outside of those who follow your page, and you have more control over who your content gets shown to.
4. You’ll probably need to do some testing to find the right content.
While you definitely want to keep your post content relevant to your practice, it may take some trial and error to find out what your followers actually respond to. You’ll probably go into it with an idea of what your followers might be interested in, but you might be surprised by the types of posts that get a good response. It’s a good idea to test different types of content to see what gets the best response from your followers. Once you’ve been posting for a few weeks, you should be able to identify some trends in what your followers are interested in. From there, you can create a good content strategy for your social media channels.
That said, a good content strategy takes time to produce, even when you’ve figured out what works best for your audience. You have to draft the perfect copy for all of your posts and find the right imagery or create your own custom images. You might even need to consider producing videos to share on social media, as more and more social channels are putting emphasis on video content. According to Hubspot, 67% of marketers say that posts with videos have the biggest ROI. When you start looking at creating videos, your time spent on social media can definitely increase.
Is Social Media Worth the Effort for Your Practice?
If your practice is already covering all of the basics of marketing and SEO, including reputation marketing and content marketing, social media might be a good option if you want to create more of a connection with your community. Once you have all of the other pieces in place, social media can help reinforce your practice’s message. Social media is also a great way to learn more about what your patients think of your practice–what you are doing well, and where you can improve.
However, if you are simply trying to grow your practice or choose a marketing method with a high return on investment, there are other marketing methods that may be more effective for you to try first.