You’ve undoubtedly heard enthusiastic marketing companies yammering on about the undeniable-whirlwind-tornado-exponential-growth-machine that is social media, and thus why generous management fees should be forked over without a second thought.
But, should a second thought be given?
A 2011 report by the research organization YouGov found that 81% of consumers believe a practice is more cutting edge if it has a strong social media presence. 57% said that a social media connection was “likely to have a strong impact” on their decision to seek treatment there.
That was in 2011. Can you imagine what those statistics look like in 2015?
Your practice likely falls in to one of three categories:
- You have not adopted social media and are in denial about its benefits. This article is not for you – but you should really consider leaving Neverland!
- You are considering or have even launched some social media efforts, but you have no true idea what the purpose is, and you tend to just post for the sake of posting. “How is this getting my practice patients?” is a question you find yourself asking.
- You are a social media all star and your posts get as many likes as Kim Kardashian’s selfies. Just kidding. No one gets as many likes as Kim Kardashian’s selfies. Let us all roll our eyes and sigh collectively.
Confusion around social media is not your fault.
The problem that almost every practice has is a lack of understanding surrounding purpose of social media as it relates to their practice.
Social media further blurs vision because the metrics commonly used aren’t easily quantifiable.
Can you pay your practice’s rent with a like or a retweet? Then how much are those actually worth?
Most recommendations from experts or colleagues to “get on social media” conveniently avoids the specificity of why, resulting in a “social media strategy” being thrown on top of the preexisting pillars of your practice. This after-the-fact addition leads to a lack of cohesion in a practice’s overall strategy.
Therefore, it is crucial to step back and examine the core purpose of social media for your practice.
An Important Note
This article focuses exclusively on using social media as a patient acquisition tool for your practice.
That means we will treat our options and strategies completely differently than someone looking to build their personal brand, or network with other colleagues, or become an authority for the sake of landing a job at a prestigious practice, etc.
Since we will look at social media purely as a patient acquisition tool, let’s examine the scenarios that patients can be acquired via social media.
The most important sentence of this article thus far…
What does that mean in English?
Your practice will NOT be discovered on social media. It will be validated on social media. In other words, someone looking up your practice on social media already knows of its existence.
Why is that? Because prospective patients do not say, “Hmm, I need hand surgery and don’t know who my options are. I hope Twitter can give me a list of orthopedic surgeons.”
They say, “Hmm, I need hand surgery and don’t know who my options are. Let me search on Google for surgeons in my area.”
(If a prospective patient hears about you from an insurance company or through a referral, or via a recommendation, that person has already “discovered” your practice)
During this validation process, your practice will receive a “checkmark” for being active on social media. A patient’s mental response will be something like “oh great, this practice has an account on this site and it looks professional and they seem to be posting a decent amount of the time.”
Think about that again. Your patient is scanning your social media to see if you are “up to speed,” even though your social media presence is not necessarily related to your actual ability to treat a patient!
If your goal is to use social media to acquire patients, as opposed to building your own personal brand, then your social media strategy should be to provide validation that you are a modern, effective practice.
83% of consumers (ages 18-80) expect you to be on at least one social network.
Now that we have determined an objective for our social media presence, to acquire new patients, it becomes much easier to craft a strategy to accomplish that goal.
Let’s discuss the “where.”
(If you are focused on using social media to maintain current patient interest, that will be discussed in another article)
The answer to this question depends on what kind of “checkmarks” you need – what level of validation you need to provide to prospective patients.
The level of validation that you need to provide to prospective patients is correlated to the geographical reach of your practice.
If you are a national brand, your competition will be medical practices and hospitals nationwide. Therefore, you will need to be a thought leader, with lots of original content that is hopefully superior to any direct competitor in the entire country.
You are probably dealing with high revenue clients, meaning they will have high expectations surrounding your social media presence. In other words, you’ll need to be everywhere… because your competitors are too.
For the overwhelming amount of practices, this strategy is unnecessary. Prospective patients will be checking your social media to “make sure” that you are a legitimate option.
With that in mind…
Controversial Statement: If you are using social media solely for patient acquisition purposes, only develop a social media presence on one social network
Your goal is validation — approval. This validation, for the overwhelming majority of practices, can easily be obtained on a single social network.
If you have a strong, active presence on one account, patients will assume you simply are choosing not to appear all over the place. This is very different than a patient thinking you incapable of holding a social media presence.
Here are some great arguments for trimming down your social media to a single account:
- It minimizes the amount of time, resources, and stress spent on managing accounts
- Having one quality account looks great, but possessing two mediocre accounts looks quite bad
- Consistency is the key component of social media success, and it is easier to be consistent on one avenue
- A single account makes it easier for a patient to support you (you won’t be asking patients to simultaneously like you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, add you on Snapchat, follow you on Instagram, etc.)
- If you want to make a second account (or more) in the future, you can ask your already existing audience to join you on your new account.
- You can always build, but you cannot undo a poor attempt at a social media account.
Your practice does not need to be on LinkedIn
LinkedIn tends to be endorsed as a great option for medical practices and medical doctors to carve out some territory on.
This is potentially useful advice for building your personal brand and networking with other medical professions; this is fairly useless advice for acquiring patients.
Prospective patients do not perform due diligence on LinkedIn because the information available is very generic in nature. Whereas a Twitter or Facebook page allows your practice to showcase your personality, LinkedIn is considered rigid and more informative (it is very popular in the most formal setting of them all – business to business relationships).
Your practice does not need to be on Twitter
Twitter is absolutely a valid social network for medical professionals to be on. There are even very valid reasons to be on Twitter as the typical practice being described in this article.
Then why could Twitter be avoided?
Simplistically stated, presence on two social networks is not necessary. Twitter is by far the most time consuming social network and therefore simultaneously the least efficient and most dangerous.
The average lifespan of a tweet is 18 minutes. This number is so tiny due to the massive amount of content displayed on a user’s feed.
Where networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn algorithmically show only a portion of what your connections are saying, Twitter displays 100% of these messages.
18 minutes after you tweet, your followers will statistically no longer see it.
That’s why Buffer, a gigantic social media tool, recommends tweeting 14 times a day.
Tweeting (or even scheduling) 98 tweets a week is massively time consuming – there has to be an easier way!
And there is!
Your practice NEEDS to be on Facebook
Focusing exclusively on building a presence on Facebook allows us just to post a few times a week, which means it will be easy for us to deliver intriguing content and it will give prospective patients a very compelling reason to give us that validation – that checkmark – and see us as current and cutting edge.
Further, 83% of consumers ages 18-75 expect brands to have a Facebook page!
These sufficient reasons aside, Facebook is much more visual in nature, which goes a long way for one of the most overlooked aspects of social media:
Social media gives medical practices the opportunity to humanize their brand.
(There is no citation. That is our original thought)
It’s tough to come across as anything but robotic when you are Tweeting primarily raw text 14 times a day.
Part One: Conclusion
Patients will not discover your practice on social media, they will already know of its existence by this point (they will discover your practice through Google, a referral, an insurance company, or a recommendation).
In part one of this article, we discussed the purpose of a social media presence for patient acquisition: to receive validation and approval as a modern, effective presence.
Building out multiple social media accounts is unnecessary and overly time consuming. Facebook presents a great option because 83% of all consumers expect a business to have a Facebook page, you will only need to post a few times a week, and Facebook’s visual nature allows you to tell the story of your practice.
In part two of this article, we will discuss the exact Facebook strategies that medical practices should follow. This will include:
- What time of day to post
- How many times a week to post
- Exactly what three types of content to post
- Where to find this content
- Tools and tricks to reduce your social media management time to 20 minutes a week
This article is part of The Definitive Guide for Medical Practices: Thriving Online series. The Definitive Guide is over 13,000 words and is completely free to access. The guide walks through every critical topic your practice should be considering: from online branding, to social media, and precise patient acquisition strategies.
The Definitive Guide for Medical Practices: Thriving Online
Analyzing Your Practice (Recommended Reading First)
[Branding] How to Brand Your Practice and Skyrocket Revenue by 792%: The more competition increases, the more dangerous it is to be known as “another healthcare practice.” This article provides step-by-step instructions on how to brand your practice, and how to unlock the small amount of patients who could be responsible for the majority of your revenue.
[Competition Analysis] How to: Uncover These Hidden Competitive Advantages: Do you know which of your competing practices are online? What are their strategies? What specific tactics should your practice use to outperform the unique strategies your competitors are using? This guide shows you exactly how to use the internet to uncover what works and what does not work — and then reveals how to put your practice at the front of the line.
Specific Marketing Strategies
[Leveraging Review Sites] 34 New Patients in 52 days From One Simple Technique?: There are over 25 doctor/patient review sites and 4 million reviews online. 60-80% of patients perform research online prior to reaching out to a healthcare professional. This guide lays out the exact plan needed to effortlessly leverage review sites and potentially bring in hundreds of brand new patients every single year.
[Social Media Strategies] How to: Copy this Facebook Strategy for Shocking Results: In this social media article, specific strategies are discussed for Facebook. What time of day to post, how many days a week to post, what content to post, and how to find or create that content are all explicitly laid out.
[The Power of Search Engines] This Dirty Patient Acquisition Secret Will Make You Shudder: Lots of industries benefit from copious advertising opportunities through social media and the entire web. Unfortunately, healthcare cannot benefit for many of these categories. This article breaks down the exact elements your practice should stick with, and what the pros and cons of each method are.
 YouGov Consumers’ use, preference, and expectations of social media, http://corp.yougov.com/healthcare/consumers-use-preference-expectations-hospital-social-media (2010, accessed 5 September 2012).
 “New Social Media Research Shows What People Expect From Brands.” Social Media Examiner RSS. Hubspot, 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 27 July 2015.
“Twitter Management Tools: To Schedule or Not to Schedule Your Tweets.” Wishpond Simple Marketing Software. WIshpond, n.d. Web. 27 July 2015.
Pho, Kevin, and Susan Gay. Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.