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The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Healthcare & Medical Practices

by | Dec 21, 2021

Connecting with patients through social media builds community, inspires trust, and maximizes your online presence. Social media for healthcare is a valuable opportunity to guide patients in making the right medical decisions for themselves while also increasing your appeal to prospective patients. 

You may already be using Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in your personal time, but is healthcare social media management all that different? Yes, it is. When you set up a Facebook “business page” separate from a personal account, you unlock many features that the average Facebook user does not know about. 

In this blog, we will go over how to go about moving from being a casual user – or non-user – of social media to managing your practice image on popular platforms such as Facebook. 

What Is Social Media Marketing? And Why Should Your Practice Care?  

Social media for healthcare is a prime opportunity to better connect those you serve – both current and future patients. The number of consumers turning to social media as an online resource to find healthcare providers has increased at a jaw-dropping pace. Survey results regarding medical social media seem to confirm what digital marketers have suspected for some time now: 

Because social media is an “online hangout” gaining new members daily, practices that engage in this communications channel meet modern patients where they are, which is critical for the modern patient experience. 

Benefits of Social Media for Doctors and Medical Practices 

Society tends to look at social media as a place to be entertained, and while that is arguably its primary function, it also serves as a powerful messaging tool.  

Through social media messaging, medical practices have a unique opportunity to provide guidance to current and future patients along the patient journey. Sometimes that journey will lead them through your doors, but either way, you build your public profile as a practice invested in the wellbeing of your community. 

Consider these quick stats on social media for healthcare. 

The Seven Essentials of Social Media for Healthcare 

As more healthcare leaders have jumped in to learn what social media has to offer, a framework has formed. From studying the social media habits of hospitals, Ed Bennett with the University of Maryland Medical System found that healthcare social media serves seven essential purposes

  • Customer service  
  • Community outreach  
  • Patient education 
  • Public relations  
  • Crisis communications 
  • Recruitment 
  • Brand monitoring 

Through effective social media management, you have the power to build trust and consumer confidence in your medical practice. 

Customer Service for Patients Through Social Media 

As it is a highly interactive environment, social media is considered to be a primary option for contacting customer service, by many consumers. Since this method of problem resolution is becoming the norm, medical practices can expect patients to sometimes reach out in this way.  

Even if a practice may not have received customer service issue communications through social media, that does not mean it will not happen. Medical practices should regularly monitor their social media accounts for direct messages, tags and comments on posts that bring up issues related to customer service. Taking longer than 24 hours to respond, or never responding at all, may escalate the issue further or cause the patient to give up and go to another practice altogether. 

Outreach Through Medical Social Media 

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. Social media is ripe for promoting events and other initiatives you want to bring to your local community. 

“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, of Medical Advantage’s digital marketing team. 

How Healthcare Social Media Helps Educate the Public 

Leaders in healthcare have acknowledged their responsibility to be the voice of reason among the prevalence of social media misinformation. “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. 

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. 

The Role of Healthcare Social Media in Public Relations 

Most social media content tends to end up in either two categories: informational or entertainment. However, some of the content for a medical practice’s social media calendar should be devoted to public relations (PR).  

PR helps promote what you want to be known for in your community and your market. For example, some practices firmly believe that giving back to the community is an indispensable component of their practice. Content that shares how you support the community, and recognizes key groups is a pure expression of your practice values. 

Social media comment sections can end up being a way to harvest patient testimonials. For example, a patient sees a video of their doctor on social media and comments with highly positive words. Now the practice has a testimonial in public view. 

Medical Social Media as a Vital Channel for Urgent Clinic Communications 

When there is a natural disaster or regional emergency, many will flock to social media to check on loved ones and watch the news feed for posts from media and government agencies. In addition to email and text messages, posting urgent notices on social media is a proactive measure to disseminate time-sensitive information. 

Social media is also the ideal channel to share other notable news such as reminders of clinic closures, doctors who are out, new doctors added to the practice, moving offices, or opening a new location. 

Social Media as a Recruitment Tool 

Social media comes into play at a few stages of the hiring process. Some examples: job hunters look for job posts on Facebook, or candidates preparing for an interview peek at your social media. For this reason, medical practices should: 

  • Have a social media presence that clearly expresses why candidates should work for you, including the quality care you provide to your patients. This message does not have to overtly state, “Why you should work here,” but you should evaluate your current page content for how well it “sells” the practice to applicants. 
  • Have social media content that appeals to sought-after medical talent. In recent years, the medical industry has been rattled by labor shortages for critical positions such as doctors and nurses. In-demand talent knows they have room to be choosey about where they work, so it helps to have social media content that exudes professionalism. 
  • Have social media content that tells candidates everything they need to know. In preparation for an interview, medical professionals will scope your social media. The more information they can find about your practice, the easier it will be to determine. 
  • Spread the word about job openings. When recruiting talent through social media, posting about open positions is just the beginning. You also can promote open houses or job fairs. Cast an even wider net by cross posting in Facebook groups, Facebook jobs listings, or even incentivizing your followers to refer talent. 

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. 

Claim What’s Yours and Establish Your Brand 

Whether they realize it or not, all medical practices have a “brand,” and how they present their practice on social media reinforces it. Many social media users place tremendous importance on social media, meaning that they will question the legitimacy of your practice if your profiles appear to be neglected. 

Along with your practice website, your social media accounts are another way to shape and express your brand. High-quality graphics consistent with your branding promote consumer confidence in your practice. 

Branding is also a way to set your practice apart from others in your market. Branding and content that is distinct from other practices in your area helps patients learn who you are by making comparisons to other options. 

Medical Social Media Strategy Step by Step 

The experience of being a social media manager is very different than that of a casual user. For example, if you don’t post on your personal account for a few months, that has no effect. But if you go months without posting on your practice account, you are missing a fundamental step in social media marketing for medical practices. 

Step 1: Decide Which Social Media Platforms to Utilize 

Facebook tends to be the platform of choice for most businesses, including medical practices, because it has the largest digital audience. 

Some medical practices are content with just using Facebook, but if you want to broaden your reach even further, it helps to know where you are most likely to reach your target audience.  

The table below is based on a report from Pew Research and will give you an idea of where on social media your patient population is – and is not – spending time. 

Why Facebook? 

Facebook is arguably the most feature-rich for businesses, and medical practices are no exception. It allows patients to “check in” to your practice locations, leave reviews, and even sometimes show “friends” of the patient that they commented on your content. 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. 

When a Facebook user asks for recommendations, the app will automatically format comments by including a matching business page. The individual who is posting can click on the responses to go to the associated page. 

Step 2: Claiming Your Accounts 

Not many people are aware of this, but Facebook uses local business data to create pages for said businesses automatically. Before setting up a Facebook page, do a search of your practice name to see if a page has already been generated. 

Designating a social media administrator who will be responsible for logging in and managing the accounts is necessary at this stage, but it helps to have more than one administrator attached to the account so that login access is not lost easily. It would be unfortunate if you lost access to an account with a big following because no one else can log in. Also, remind staff of phishing scams where login information is stolen so it can be used by unauthorized parties who may post embarrassing things under your practice name. 

Here is a brief summary of how to get started with the “big three” in social media. 

Setting Up Facebook 

There are two ways to set up a Facebook account. The administrator can set up a page from their own personal account, or you can set it up through a separate channel specifically for businesses and organizations.  

Once this is done, you can add your branded images, and populate information areas. 

Setting Up Instagram 

Once you have your Facebook account set up, you can use it to create a new Instagram account. As with Facebook, you can set up a new account using an email address and appoint alternate administrators. 

Again, you will add branded images and basic information about your practice, but many professional accounts opt to add image categories to their profiles. Instagram is image-focused, so every post will need to have a photo or graphic. 

Setting Up Twitter 

Twitter allows you to set up an account through your Google or Apple accounts in addition to phone number or email. As with Facebook, you can add branded images for your profile picture and your banner along with a description of your practice.     

Again, it is imperative to have back up administrators who can recover an account if something out of the ordinary happens with the primary user. 

Step 3: Map Out Your Content Calendar 

The responsibility of maintaining a content calendar can go to either the designated social media manager, a team effort within the practice, or be outsourced to an agency specializing in social media for medical practices. If you think it will be too difficult to remember to post content, platforms such as Facebook allow you schedule posts. 

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. Through social media activities, you build upon your practice’s brand personality. Here are some ideas: 

  • 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 or polls 
  • Share day-in-the-life photos from your team (familiar faces attract more attention) 
  • Share your accomplishments both of individual staff members and as a practice 
  • Post inspiring stories and quotes 
  • Offer health tips and healthy lifestyle reminders 
  • Share health-adjacent news stories that are relevant to your audience 

The power of video cannot be emphasized enough. YouTube continues to be Facebook’s top contender with the second largest user base. Other platforms took notice of this and started putting video content to the forefront of media feeds.  

Videos featuring faces of your providers and staff are likely to get people to stop scrolling and engage. This helps boost your content. Videos also are effective at holding attention, so if you have an important message or a new service you are promoting, this kind of content can be your best bet. 

Step 4: Appoint a Social Media Manager and Establish Guidelines  

While there may be more than one admin for the page, usually one person is sufficient to manage the page by posting content, making updates to the profile, and monitoring patient communications – either through direct message or comments. It is best to choose a social media manager with good judgment and some experience in media management. 

Some practices may find that they are too busy to hand over responsibility to a staff member and would rather hire for additional medical positions than a social media manager. Many practices will outsource social media management to a healthcare digital marketing agency. Should you work with a third party, it helps to provide them with fresh images and new videos featuring the people in your practice. 

At this point, it becomes necessary to establish guidelines for social media accounts. Think about language that could be considered controversial or insensitive. Most importantly, ensure that patient privacy laws – such as HIPAA – are not violated. This means that patients can only be visible in photos and videos with properly documented consent (a signed release). 

If you do enlist the services of a social media management agency, choose one that specializes in healthcare and has experience with the issues surrounding social media in relation to healthcare regulations. 

Step 5: Keep Posting and Keep Monitoring 

What you get out of social media is what you put into it. More posts lead to greater 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). 

Responding to patients is also important for social media maintenance. If messages, comments asking questions or for help go unanswered, this negatively affects the patient experience. Jumping into the conversation in comment sections is also a great way to encourage more engagement and nurture relationships with patients. 

Summary: Doing Social Media for Healthcare the Right Way 

Social media for medical practices is a prime opportunity to meet patients where they are, both current patients, future patients, and perhaps even returning patients. Being competitive in your market means that your practice must stand out. Building your practice brand through social media is one of the most effective ways to attract and engage patients – and differentiate your practice from competitors. 

Additionally, medical social media is an effective tool for: 

  • Customer service  
  • Community outreach  
  • Patient education 
  • Public relations  
  • Crisis communications 
  • Recruitment 
  • Brand monitoring 

Your medical practice social media plan should – at minimum – include these action items: 

  • Select what platforms to use based on your target audience (Facebook is highly recommended) 
  • Set up your accounts (search for your practice in Facebook as a profile may have already been generated, this will help avoid confusing duplicates) 
  • Designate more than one administrator to ensure continuous access to the account 
  • Establish a content calendar routine with a mix of content: entertaining, informative, inspirational, featuring your staff, etc. 
  • Designate a social media manager or hire medical social media services 
  • Establish rules that avoid sensitive terms, and follow patient privacy rules and regulations 
  • Be consistent in posting and monitoring for patients who leave comments and messages that warrant a response. 

Medical Advantage Can Help 

Could your medical practice use some help with social media? Many medical practice leaders may feel intimidated by social media or recognize that staff should be focused on patient care and not distracted by social media notifications. Whether you are just getting started with social media or have come to realize that it is impossible to keep up with your accounts, our practice marketing services are here for you. 

Our expert medical social media services take the reins of your Facebook account by posting thoughtfully selected content, responding to the public, and escalating patient matters that warrant your attention. Because we are solely dedicated to healthcare, we have a deep understanding of best practices regarding patient privacy and other government rules. Get in touch with us today to get started on your social media success plan. 

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