Social proof is the concept that people are influenced by the opinions of others. It’s used a lot for marketing in other industries, but it can be applied to healthcare too.
In the case of a medical practice, social proof means feedback from actual patients of yours. Social proof from patients can enhance and strengthen your marketing because it backs up your claims.
How Does Social Proof Work in Healthcare?
You can tell prospective patients that you’re great, but that only holds so much weight. What medical practice/physician/surgeon isn’t trying to position themselves as the best choice for patients?
No one is out there saying “Yeah, there are probably better surgeons out there, but I hope you pick me anyway.” Everyone is highlighting their best attributes. There’s nothing wrong with that, but prospective patients also understand that you’re going to put your best foot forward in your marketing, and may take that with a grain of salt.
However, when current and former patients have positive things to say about you, it lends truth to what you are saying. It shows prospective patients that they can trust you, and that goes a long way toward deciding to book an appointment.
Using Social Proof to Market Your Practice
There are a few different ways that you can build up social proof to help enhance your marketing.
Reputation Marketing / Online Reviews
Online reviews are one of the most prevalent forms of social proof in the healthcare space. According to the 2022 Healthcare Trends Report for Reputation, compiled by YouGov, 72% of people look at online reviews for a healthcare provider before booking an appointment. Like it or not, online reviews are a critical factor in whether or not a patient chooses your practice, and you need to be paying attention to them.
Review volume is just as important as your overall score. A couple of positive reviews on your Google profile isn’t going to cut it. It’s just like when you buy something on Amazon–are you buying the product with 5 stars and only 3 reviews, or the product with 4.5 stars and over 1,000 reviews?
You don’t have to wait around for patients to decide to leave you reviews, either. There are lots of services on the market that will help you send review requests via text message, email, or even right in your office. The Healthcare Trends Report also noted that practices who implemented some sort of review request system increased their volume of reviews by 5x.
Social Media Comments
Comments on your social media posts, whether ads or regular feed posts, are another way to gather social proof. Comments not only help with social proof, but also help boost the visibility of your posts and ads.
Social media also gives you more opportunities to publicly interact with patients. While you have to be careful about discussing specific patient cases on social media, you can still respond to comments posted by others. Even something as simple as thanking a patient for a positive comment shows that you are paying attention and care about what people have to say.
Aside from reviews and social media comments, you can also ask really happy patients if they are willing to share a testimonial. Testimonials can be written, on video, or both. If there is a visual result of treatment, such as walking without assistance after a knee replacement, this can also go along with a testimonial.
Testimonials are a bit different from social media and online reviews in that practices are typically using them in their own marketing materials, like websites, brochures, and ads. They aren’t being posted directly by a patient on a third-party website (although some third-party review sites have widgets that you can add to your own website to show off reviews). Because testimonials are always positive, they can hold less weight than other forms of social proof. However, really great testimonials can still be impactful as long as you use them well and sparingly.
The bottom line is that patients no longer feel the need to go with a particular provider just because they were recommended, or because their family has always used the practice for their healthcare needs. More than ever, patients are making independent choices about who they see based on their own research. So, social proof is not only a helpful aspect of marketing your practice, it’s really necessary in today’s landscape.