Is it time for your practice to adopt social media? For several years, Facebook, Twitter, and other channels have been effective marketing platforms for thousands of mainstream brands and companies. The medical profession has been slower to jump on the trend, but recent studies show that many patient populations are already having conversations about their health online and would relish the chance to engage with their healthcare providers on social media. Used properly, it’s an effective way for doctors to educate, communicate, and build relationships with their patients in a casual, comfortable environment. Here are five social media tips to help your practice do it right.
1. Discover your audience
Spend some time deciding on your target patients. Who are you trying to reach? Many people associate social media primarily with young people, but the truth is that almost everyone is online. Different age profiles tend to migrate to certain platforms. For example, the largest active Facebook demographic is aged 35 – 54. Do some research and choose your channels accordingly. Having a patient profile in mind will also help you target any social media advertising to the right groups.
2. Keep the content flowing and find ways to engage
Don’t just set up a profile and neglect it. An empty profile and unanswered messages can do your practice more harm than good. Ideally, give one person the responsibility for posting. Have a content plan, even if it’s just a sketch. How many times a week are you going to post? When are you going to check messages? Give your patients a reason to connect: social media is a great way to find out what they think about your practice. Run polls on office hours or magazine subscriptions. Do a general Q&A about flu prevention. Get people involved.
3. Be an educator and a curator
Doctors often wonder whether they’ll have enough to talk about, or if they’ll be able to generate enough content. Here’s the thing: social media is a great way for you to filter the Wild West of medical information on the internet. Re-post articles, studies, and great health blog posts, with a little note saying why you think it will make a difference in patient’s lives. You’ll be going a long way towards debunking the bad science online, all while building trust with your audience.
4. Stay on message, and monitor your tone
The best thing about social media is that it can break down barriers between doctors and patients, improving communication and encouraging trust. The flip side is that while you’re dismantling barriers, you need to preserve boundaries. It’s okay to take a lighter tone now and then, but all messages coming from your practice must remain professional. Good taste, tact, and a strong focus on healthcare are non-negotiables.
5. Stay serious about privacy
HIPAA compliance is one of the biggest concerns doctors and patients have about medical social media. Do your research and make sure that you don’t step over the line. The American Academy of Family Physicians has put out a series of best-practice social media guidelines which are a great place to start.