Social media use is incredibly pervasive these days. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of all U.S. adults use YouTube, 69 percent use Facebook, and 37 percent use Instagram.
Social media can be an effective medium for doctors and other healthcare providers to reach new patients and also strengthen their relationship with current patients. However, diving headfirst into the social media game isn’t ideal without a plan.
Before you take your first steps into using social media for healthcare marketing, take time to familiarize yourself with best practices and common pitfalls.
Read on to learn a few dos and don’ts of social media for healthcare professionals.
6 tips to help health professionals succeed on social media
1. Establish a social media policy
Setting clear expectations around social media for your healthcare practice is an important first step before using social media. A social media policy is a set of guidelines that help your staff understand what they can and can’t do as it relates to your practice’s social media presence.
Establishing a social media policy can help you avoid HIPAA violations, protect your reputation, and establish trust with your patients and their family members. These are the minimum components of a social media policy:
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- People: Include everyone who could be sharing content or interacting with people on behalf of your practice. This usually includes staff and any other providers at the practice.
- Compliance: Make sure everyone at your practice is aware of the regulatory environment and how their social media activities could violate compliance. Illustrating some examples of what not to do could be helpful here.
- Recourse: Outline what remedies are available in the event that someone violates your social media policy. Sometimes a volunteer, for example, might not be aware of how serious even the smallest HIPAA infraction can be, so it’s best to let them know ahead of time.
2. Share original content
Sharing original content is a must to find success on social media. Why does original content matter? It’s mostly about engagement. The more thoughtful, unique, and original your content, the more likely you are to elicit a reaction from users.
If you look around the web, you’re likely to find that the highest performing content is original. That’s partly due to algorithms that allow original posts to reach more people. Whether it’s original research, a unique graphic, or a well-written blog post, original content outperforms curated content.
What’s more, a primary function of social media is to drive people to your healthcare website so they can learn more about your practice and schedule an appointment. When you share other people’s content, it leads somewhere other than your website, so you’re missing out on conversion opportunities.
3. Don’t be overly promotional
Although you can use social media to share information about new services, special offers, and events, your content should not exclusively be promotional.
According to a survey conducted by Sprout Social, one-third (33 percent) of people are most engaged by social media content that teaches them something. To engage these and other people, you should more so be sharing educational content. Plus, if you’re constantly exposing your audience to different promotions, you’re likely to see a significant dip in engagement and following.
Being strategic with your promotions will help you get more from social media. At PatientPop, we recommend healthcare practices share four educational or entertaining posts per every one promotional post.
4. Post regularly
Healthcare practices should post regularly on social media to achieve “social proof.”
Social proof refers to a consumer behavior theory that suggests that, when a person is unsure how to behave or whether to trust a business, they’ll look around for cues to better align their behavior with the behavior at large. Essentially, consumers trust one another’s actions more than they trust a practice’s marketing messages. When they see a practice has active social media profiles with a positively engaged audience, they’re likely to trust the practice more.
Positing regularly and developing an engaged social media audience allows you to tap into an element of consumer psychology that lowers apprehension, engenders trust, and ultimately wins over new patients.
5. Humanize your healthcare practice
Prospective patients want to know the people who work for your healthcare practice. Being able to connect a brand, story, or practice with human beings makes relationships more real and valuable.
You can easily make your healthcare practice seem more human on social media by sharing photographs of your staff that celebrate their achievements or show their involvement in the community.
If you plan to share photos of patients, you’ll need to obtain their written authorization first. Failing to do so is a HIPAA violation. Talk to your legal counsel for more information.
6. Don’t ignore engagement
Traditional advertising and marketing approaches such as television, radio, and print are one-way broadcasting tools, but social media sites are best for a two-way conversation. Social media gives business accessibility and a direct line to their customers, but it also gives customers a direct line to a business, and studies show that customers are using that line.
According to research done on Sprout Social, an astounding 90 percent of surveyed participants used social media to communicate directly with brands. That ended up being more than phone and email combined, showing that your audience may already find social media the most effective way to engage with you.
Tracking your engagement performance and doubling down on posts that lead to comments, reactions, reshares, and generally positive engagement is what allows you to tap into the underlying value of social media. Remember: Without “social,” it’s just media. Extending a hand to your audience isn’t just encouraged; it’s essential.
Bonus: Incorporate social media into your healthcare marketing plan
Social media can help you achieve your healthcare marketing goals because it allows you to reach new patients and deepen your connection with current patients. However, social media should be just one component of your healthcare marketing plan.
To successfully promote your healthcare practice online, you must also build a high-performance website that is optimized for search engines; enhance your online presence by claiming and optimizing your practice and provider profiles across the web; and continually accrue patient reviews on sites like Google.
Visit the PatientPop website for more information on building a strategic healthcare marketing plan.
Claire Webb is the Senior Manager of Content Strategy for PatientPop, an all-in-one technology solution empowering healthcare providers to promote their practices online, attract new patients, and retain more patients for life. Claire has extensive experience helping practices implement content and social media marketing strategies to increase brand awareness and drive key performance indicators.