The internet is an incredible resource for health information. Google fields more than a billion health-related searches a day, while 90% of baby boomers have used sites like Facebook and Twitter to find or share health information. It’s safe to say that if you’re a healthcare provider, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re part of the conversation—and the simplest way is to be active on social media.
As a healthcare professional, you should know there are no magic pills, silver bullets or panaceas. Just setting up a Twitter account won’t bring in floods of new patients. But with the right social media strategy, you can still get a lot of benefits. Social media enables you to:
- Stay in contact with existing patients and keep them coming back.
- Reach new patients when they’re looking for healthcare information.
- Build general awareness of your practice, so new patients can find you in the future.
Here are some of the best social media marketing tips for medical practices.
1. Go where your (potential) patients are
Social media can be integrated smoothly into your general marketing strategy. Use it to reach the kind of people you know are your patients—or could potentially be ones in the future.
There are a few different social media platforms, but the demographics are different on each one. Facebook, for example, has more boomers while TikTok is favored by teens. As tempting as it is to have an account on every platform, if your potential clients aren’t active on Twitter (and they might not be), you’re wasting your valuable time and energy.
When it comes to setting up your accounts, make sure they appear professional. Create business pages where possible, use account names that reflect your practice and make sure to use high-quality images. Nobody will take health or medical advice from an account with a pixelated profile pic called @DrHandsomeHarry.
2. Share content that engages your audience
Healthcare marketing, like all marketing, is about engaging with your target audience. When you’re using your social media accounts to share information, make sure it’s relevant to your potential patients. And think about areas of medicine and care in which you’re an expert.
Spend some time considering what kind of content your audience is likely to want. What are questions they ask you? What are topics you can bring up proactively? This will be different for different healthcare professionals, but some of the things you could consider are:
- Facts and advice around seasonal conditions relevant to your audience.
- Reminders about regular health checkups and the services offered by your practice.
- Information about new drugs and medical treatments for people with chronic conditions.
- Nutrition, exercise and other healthy living advice.
- Answers to common healthcare questions and concerns.
- Suggestions for preparing for a healthcare appointment.
Be open to revising your assumptions and trying new ideas as your social media campaign progresses.
Also, take into account the effort required to produce different kinds of content. As engaging as YouTube videos can be, they’re a lot of work to create. Some simple image posts shared on LinkedIn may get just as many likes—and take a lot less time to put together.
3. Be consistent
Social media platforms reward consistency. Plan to post once or twice a week—and to follow through. Social media marketing takes time to pay off in building followers, your reputation and new patients. This doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. One good strategy is to repost regularly and follow up on content you’ve posted previously. Your audience is (hopefully) growing steadily, so not everyone will have seen (or remember) content you shared a few weeks or months ago.
Also, be consistent in your voice, tone and visual style. You want to reflect who you are and how you practice and relate to your patients. They’re looking for reliability from you, and your social media posts can show that.
4. Establish a small budget
Budgets can help you take new initiatives more seriously. Chances are, if you invest in your new social media marketing plan, you’ll put the right kind of effort into it to see a return. And starting out, you probably won’t need to spend much.
Some potential expenses are:
- Social media management and analytics tools, like Buffer, Hootsuite and Later, that make organic outreach more effective.
- Promoted posts and ads to increase the reach and social engagement of high-priority posts.
- Paying a staff member or a freelancer to spend an hour or two every day responding to messages and creating content, if you don’t have time to do it yourself.
5. Follow the rules
Most social media users just have to worry about Facebook’s and Twitter’s policies. As a healthcare provider, you’re also bound by some stricter legal requirements.
HIPAA bans the posting of patients’ protected health information (PHI) without written consent, as well as the posting of any potentially identifying details. It’s something that healthcare providers regularly fall afoul of, so be very careful with what content you share. And make sure that everyone who has access to your social media accounts is aware of the potential repercussions for careless posts.
As well as HIPAA, you may also need to consider FDA guidelines, especially if you’re promoting specific drugs or devices.
Also, any professional organizations you’re a member of may have ethics guidelines about using social media. Before starting a tell-all TikTok account, it’s probably worth giving them a read.
Social media is an accessible way for you to introduce marketing into your practice. You can share your expertise and caregiving style to a wider audience and in so doing build your practice.