Using Social Media in Your Practice
Technology continues to grow and expand. In today’s evolving society, individuals look to social media to be informed and to connect with one another. By now, most people are familiar with social media, even in the unlikely event that they don’t participate in it. If you are interested in enacting a social media strategy for your practice, it is important to know the pros and cons to these platforms.
Why Should You Try It?
The most popular platforms today are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and LinkedIn, and they all have a different approach and different demographics. For physicians, the primary reason to use social media is for marketing purposes. For instance, a medical practice can use social media to:
- Reach out to new patients and increase their target demographics;
- Develop and increase brand awareness, new product information, and product/service availability for new and existing patients;
- Develop patient loyalty and a positive referral base;
- Improve patient retention;
- Increase communication with patients.
It is also important to stay current with the platforms currently in use. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are today’s primary outlets, whereas AOL chat rooms, Myspace and Google Plus have lost popularity. Using a platform that no one else is using will not help you market your practice. Identify which platforms your patients use, create a practice-related group and invite them to join. However, don’t overextend your presence across all of the sites. Instead, choose a few platforms to connect with your patients.
Furthermore, it is also a good idea to advertise your practice’s availability, build patient relationships in a HIPAA-compliant fashion and provide updates about services and promotions. Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram have paid advertising options on their platforms. It can be difficult to evaluate their effectiveness, but it is possible to target your audience and limit costs by placing a cap on the ad after a certain number of clicks.
Why Should You Not Try It?
There are plenty of good reasons not to use social media. For one, it can be difficult to evaluate your return on investment because determining whether a social media presence actually brings in new patients or helps retain existing ones is hard to ascertain. Furthermore, patient privacy is extremely significant and should not be violated. If you don’t follow the best practices, potential violations of HIPAA could arise with social media usage. Additionally, you potentially run the risk of irritating or offending followers if you express personal opinions on social media. This could affect your practice’s online presence and client relationships.
What are the Best Practices?
You should assign one person in your practice the role of monitoring your social media presence. Here are some tips on how to use social media professionally and effectively:
- Set Guidelines and Stick to Them
Let HIPAA be the core of those guidelines.
- Have a Good Reason
Social media is not Mount Everest – you don’t need to climb it just because it’s there. Use it for a specific reasons, such as engaging with patients or marketing your practice.
- Be Professional
Develop a social media presence and persona that represents your professional self.
- Pay Attention to Security Settings
This will limit who can see your posts and keep Internet “trolls” from hijacking them.
- Use it Regularly
Sporadic use is not effective. Some platforms even allow you to schedule posts for future dates and times.
- Link to Relevant Content
This can be original content or permissible content from another source.
- Be Brief
If you are interested in long-form writing, then stick to your blog or website. Social media posting should be similar to chatting at a cocktail party, not delivering a college lecture.
- Do Not Provide Medical Advice
It is worth repeating that you should never, under any circumstances, provide specific medical advice on social media. This could lead to legal liabilities. Instead, refer followers to visit your website or to make an appointment.
Is it Worth Your Time?
Like most things related to marketing, it is important to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. If social media starts to become a chore that takes more time than it returns in benefits, seek other marketing strategies. Clearly, your first responsibility is to the health of your patients and the success of your medical practice. Social media is simply a tool to explore for enhancing patient relationships and growing your practice.
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