This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the medical websites provider Officite. All opinions are 100% mine.
One of my good friends is a family doctor who owns a medical practice. One day she had an “aha!” moment: One of her new clients found her on Yelp. My own doctor is now slowly venturing cautiously into Facebook, and do a search on Twitter for dentists or search Google Plus for family practices and you might be surprised as to what extent medical practices are beginning to embrace social media marketing.
We all know that the Internet has fast become the essential medium of choice when it comes to a vast array of researching activities. Whether it is consumer, business or health-related, people are seeking out information on a regular basis online. This has opened the door to innumerable marketing opportunities for every business, and medical practices are no exception. Companies like have sprung up to deliver customized medical websites optimized for medical practices. And technology in general has enabled doctors and health care professionals to develop relationships with prospective patients as never before.
The Health Care Industry as a Business
Health care professionals on every level have come to embrace technology and all that it offers. From sophisticated equipment to social media, technological advancement has garnered many powerful ways to communicate with consumers. It is easy, however, to initially disassociate doctors from business people. Nonetheless, anyone involved in operating a medical practice understands that it is a business. Just as any other company, the medical practice requires “customers” in order to survive. It should also be noted that even in a country like Japan where medical treatment is socialized, medical practices are still in competition for patients.
Let’s make it clear: The three essential tools that any business needs to have as part of their marketing infrastructure are a website, an email newsletter, and a social media presence. Together with the need for investment in digital and email marketing, social media marketing is now a very integral aspect of how any business, including a medical practice, may be found online. Today’s social media-connected and content-dependent environment requires that anyone serious about marketing pursue all of these avenues in order to maximize their chances of being successful.
A study done almost a year ago found that 20% of patients were already using social media for medical research. Medical practices have been adopting social media so rapidly in response to this that guidelines have started to be created for social networking by medical professionals from the Federation of State Medical Boards, American Medical Association, Canadian Medical Association as well as the Royal College of General Practitioners. Obviously, any medical practice should be aware of the important issues raised in these guidelines such as patient confidentiality, professionalism, and online communication issues before embarking on social media marketing.
Defining the Medical Brand
I don’t consider myself a branding expert at all, but as I described in my first LinkedIn book, branding is about both showcasing your strengths and differentiating yourself from the competition in order to create an emotional bond with both current and future customers. The ultimate goal is to attract and retain consistent customers. In the case of a medical practice, this would be anyone who might be interested in the type of services that particular facility provides. For example, a general medical office could focus on basic medical services such as examinations and visits for common illnesses. Similar to law practices, medical facilities are specialized. This is why it is so critical to distill the brand at the outset of any marketing plan. Every element that makes the medical practice readily identifiable should be included in defining the brand. For example, the business logo might be as simple as the name of the facility. To identify and define the brand, consider these aspects:
- What patients may find with the practice that is not available elsewhere
- Patient care strengths
- Community service and humanitarian involvement
- Special interests of hobbies that patients may benefit from
- Aspects of medicine you enjoy the most
Doctors and other health care professionals can use branding to help position themselves as experts and specialists in their field for their particular healthcare market. For instance, concentrating on providing useful information on certain medical conditions or any other aforementioned topic could greatly contribute to that effort.
Once the brand is established, the medical practice should focus on being authentic and provide helpful information rather than engaging in traditional sales techniques. The success of social media marketing is dependent upon audience interaction and approval. Therefore, providing targeted prospective patient and audience education in interesting ways can be very effective. Using new media, the goal is to establish relationships with people so that they build enough trust to engage you for services. Also, when they arrive at the medical practice, they can feel a positive familiarity that aids in rendering their care. Believe it or not, one study said that 61% of patients trust information posted by physicians on social media, so begin using social media to begin building – or augmenting – a relationship of trust with your patients.
Some of the social media methods that a medical practice might deploy could include:
1. Blogging. Doctors and medical practices have a unique viewpoint about health care. From navigating the system to pointers on how to live more healthy lives, the topics are endless. Combining those topics with current trends in the industry is a very effective approach to developing useful and engaging blog topics. For example, consider ways to engage the target audience by finding out what they know about the medical practice specialty and then build upon it. You could also create blog posts from questions that patients often ask you. Blogging will also help in your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to allow online users better find you. It also gives you a “social voice” to share information with social media communities about. If you are starting to think that blogging is the most under-valued aspect of social media, you’re right! If you still have doubts, here’s an example of a doctor who has been blogging for ten years!
2. Facebook. Even with privacy considerations connected with the healthcare industry, it is still possible for medical practices to use Facebook with great success. Facebook can be used for everything from providing detailed explanations of medical services to special offers, contests and other incentives. It can also be used for Facebook Ads to increase brand awareness in a targeted way. People are on Facebook to have fun, so be cognizant of that and engage with them in a natural way.
3. Twitter. Using Twitter to make announcements and submit relevant links from both your own blog as well as 3rd party authoritative content is another successful method to engage prospective patients. You can try to engage local people on Twitter in order to make them aware of your presence. Many businesses ask questions on social media to engage audiences, and this is a tactic that can work in Twitter as well. You could also search for others asking questions and respond to them. The possibilities are endless.
4. Google Plus. You can use Google Plus similar to how you use Twitter, but with Google Plus you get the benefits of having your conversations indexed by Google for greater SEO as well as the ability to move an engagement from posting comments to having a private Google Plus Hangout where you can deepen your relationship and respond in a more engaging way to a potential client.
Not only is a medical practice able to use social media for promotion, but the continual contact with patients provides more opportunity to stay connected and be considered for services in the future.
Has your medical practice had success in social media? Have you ever engaged with a medical professional in social media? Would love to hear your experiences!