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Social Media for Healthcare: A Powerful Communications Tool

by | Sep 15, 2021

Practice Marketing Essentials Series: Social Media for Medical Practices

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok make up a chaotic social media landscape. With social media and healthcare worlds apart, medical professionals may feel more at home on a platform like LinkedIn, but where you connect with colleagues is not where you are likely to engage patients.

Consider these quick stats on social media for healthcare.

The number of consumers turning to social media to find healthcare providers has increased at a jaw-dropping pace — yet another reason to warm up to these platforms.

“Stakeholder behaviors and marketing consumption habits have evolved. We’ve got to meet them where they’re at versus where we’re hoping they are. Banking on the old reliables [sic] like print, TV or radio is a losing strategy in 2020,” says Nitin Kumar, a marketing professional with Otsuka America Pharmaceutical. With 68% of healthcare professionals now investing more in social media for a variety of reasons, being active on these platforms is quickly becoming the norm.

The Big Five of Social Media for Healthcare

Before diving into the social media jungle, it’s useful to consider the framework healthcare organizations already have in place. From studying the social media habits of hospitals, Ed Bennett with the University of Maryland Medical System found that healthcare social media serves five essential purposes:

  • Patient education
  • Crisis communications
  • Community outreach
  • Public Relations
  • Customer Service

Contained in these core functions of social media for healthcare are communication improvement opportunities for any medical organization.

Person holding an ipad looking at a medical practice's facebook page.

Importance of Social Media in Healthcare for Educating the Public

“People are increasingly turning to social media, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Health care systems must provide trusted information on immunization, flu virus, therapy, Ebola, you name it—there needs to be a voice of reason,” declares Michael Yoder, Social Media Consultant for Spectrum Health.

Medical professionals have come together to counter health misinformation. Though a doctor has but one voice, theirs does have an impact. A survey finds that 60% of social media users trust their doctor’s posts over other sources.

As a medical practice, your team can monitor current events and trends that impact the health community and provide timely resources and information through your social media channels.

Survey: 60% of social media consumers will trust their doctor’s information over other sources.

Medical Social Media as a Vital Channel for Urgent Clinic Communications

Social media for healthcare is also effective in distributing important updates. For example, when there is a natural disaster or regional emergency, most people will flock to social media to check on loved ones and watch the news feed for posts from media and government agencies. During this time, they can find your time-sensitive announcement as well.

Social media is also the ideal channel to share other news such as reminders of clinic closures, what doctors will be out of the office on leave, moving offices, or opening a new location.

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Medical Social Media as an Outreach Tool

With medical practice social media, you get to connect with both existing patients and prospective ones at the same time, making this an ideal conduit for outreach. When social media users share from your page, it will show your practice as the origin of the content. Imagine the exposure you would get if one of your posts went viral.

“Consistent social media can cultivate loyalty within a community. If community members regularly see the practice posting beneficial and constructive content, they’ll associate the practice with positive and trusting feelings. This will just improve the word-of-mouth referrals that can happen in a small community. People place a lot of weight on where their friends and family recommend, especially regarding their health.” says Lucas Arias, from Medical Advantage’s digital marketing team.

In the same vein, social media is a way to recruit talent. Posts about jobs and job fairs can be shared by users to help your hiring managers connect with qualified applicants.

Facebook makes it so easy for patients to recommend your medical practice to friends and family. For example, when someone creates a post asking a question, Facebook detects they are asking about local goods and services and formats it as such.

With this feature, Facebook automatically searches for businesses matching those mentioned in comments so a direct link to the associated page will be provided in the comment. So, if your practice comes up in a thread, users can go to your page in one click and see what your practice is all about.

From there, a user is shown who among their friends’ list “likes” your page, has checked in at your practice through Facebook, and any patient reviews posted about you. The combination of these Facebook experiences helps form a first impression about your practice. You have the power to build trust and consumer confidence in your medical practice through effective social media management.

Vector Illustration Blue Follow Us Speech Bubble. Modern Label W

Social Media Use in Healthcare for Direct Communications with Patients

But social media is not only about having a fanbase, but it is also about being more accessible to your patient community, as more people expect to be able to communicate with businesses through social media. So, by force of habit, patients may attempt to reach out to your practice this way.

To ensure patient questions and concerns are addressed, the inbox, comment sections, and reviews posted should be closely monitored. Facebook shares your average response time with its users. Maintaining a stellar response time sends the signal to prospective patients that customer service is a top priority for your medical practice.

Social Media and Healthcare Marketing: Attract New Patients as You Build Your Brand

Because social media is oriented for entertainment, we tend to forget that these platforms were actually built for marketing and advertising. While Facebook’s ultimate goal is for your healthcare organization to opt-in to paid ads, there are plenty of actions you can take for free.

When you activate a business page, you gain access to a variety of behind-the-scenes functions to help you manage your social media presence. A few features worth checking out are setting up your inbox, the dashboard that tracks audience engagement, and all the creative ways you can  format your posts.

What Google and Facebook Have in Common

Yes, both Google and Facebook want you to spend money on their ads, but they also function as search engines that can assist social media for healthcare. When Facebook users type in localized search terms, this pulls up a shortlist of matching business pages. So, a patient who would rather use Facebook instead of Google to search for healthcare options may find your practice this way.

Claim What’s Yours and Establish Your Brand

Sometimes Facebook will preemptively create a business page based on localized data when the business has not yet created its own. Businesses are allowed to claim control of these pages.

Once you claim a business page for your medical practice, it is your own branding sandbox. You can import your logo, mission statement, policies, hours of information — everything a patient needs to know about you in one place. From there you direct how your brand voice and practice personality is represented with posts that reflect your values and healthcare philosophy.

Convert Patient Satisfaction to Public Endorsements

The fact that your patients adore your medical practice no longer has to be kept secret. Imagine positive patient sentiment being on public display via social media. When your patients follow you on social media, they have the chance to post glowing reviews and leave positive comments about their experience on your posts.          

A medical practice page with many followers and consistent engagement signals to onlookers that you engaged patients who are so delighted with your services that they choose to interact with you on social media.

Watch This Webinar: Reengaging and Recruiting Patients with Practice Marketing

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Medical Social Media Best Practices: What to Know Before You Begin

Before we dive into the fun part, let’s go over some housekeeping notes. Your social media accounts are subject to patient privacy laws (HIPAA). This means you are legally responsible for what information about patients is exchanged both privately and publicly.

Another patient matter to consider is the testimonial. For example, if a dermatologist or a weight management clinic wants to do a before-and-after social media post, they need to have a signed release to do so. Also related to images, you must ensure that patient faces, or information are not in view for photos taken inside your practice.

To avoid costly errors, your medical practice should work with social media experts to create comprehensive guidelines for what is posted and how patient information will be handled. For example, there must be a procedure on how to act when a patient leaves comments about their own treatments at your office. Your social media accounts should only be accessed by staff who have been trained on social media for healthcare protocols.

Tricks of the Trade: Building Medical Practice Social Media Engagement

The big reward for social media efforts is engagement, and when your posts are getting a substantial number of likes, shares, and comments, this boosts your image. Also, the more engagement your posts get, the more likely these will be seen in the newsfeeds of both followers and non-followers (what we call organic reach).

Rule of thumb: what you get out of social media is what you put into it. It takes work to build a following from asking patients to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter to being endlessly creative with your posts.

Rule of thumb social media graphic

Social media is a prime opportunity to leverage the personality and culture of your practice in a way that resonates with an audience. This way prospective patients will see what is different about your team as your practice personality comes through.

Our social media team has found that the most successful medical practice social media accounts are those that feature personal and fun content (such as a contest). People love to see posts about their favorite nurse or what their doctor does when she is not in the clinic. We notice that social posts with faces and names they recognize get far more patient engagement.

Top Tips for Medical Practice Social Media Success

The goal of social media for healthcare is to put your organization in the best possible light while offering a mix of posts that best serve and engage your audience. Here are some ideas:

  • Avoid controversial or political discourse or subject matter and vet posts for credibility from other sources before resharing.
  • Post videos, especially original ones featuring your own providers and staff.
  • Identify the best hashtags to use for your specialty, market, and current trends.
  • Plan interactive activities like quizzes.
  • Share day-in-the-life photos from your team.
  • Share your accomplishments both of individual staff members and as a practice.
  • Post inspiring stories and quotes.
  • Offer health tips and healthy life reminders.
  • Share health-adjacent news stories that are relevant to your audience.

Your social media accounts can be whatever you want them to be. Just remember to serve your patients well and be true to your brand.

Medical Advantage Can Build Your Social Media Following & Help Your Practice Shine

The formula for success with social media marketing in the healthcare industry is a willingness to put your organization out there and a commitment to carrying out a master plan consistently. Perhaps you have someone on staff who is talented at social media for healthcare, but during those busy weeks social media moves to the back burner. This leads to a backlog of unmoderated patient communications and the appearance that your page has gone silent.

Our team of practice marketing specialists is here to support your social media success with services that include post planning as well as full-service social media management for our enterprise clients. While there are many social media management agencies out there, Medical Advantage is the one that is all about healthcare — we understand medically-sensitive issues and regulatory ramifications inside and out.

Let us include you into the medical conversation on social media. Fill out the form below to set up a free consultation with our social media experts today!

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The Complete Medical Practice Digital Marketing Blueprint

Maximize Your Presence With Our Free Practice Marketing E-Book