Whether you have a communications/marketing department at the helm of your practice’s publicity or you’re doing it solo, it’s still smart for you, the practice administrator, to understand the reasons and motivation behind using social media. Having a clear-cut strategy will get everyone in the practice on the same page and promote consistency and professionalism online – even in a network like Facebook.
Follow these tips to develop a strategic social media plan that’s right for your healthcare organization.
Ask yourself: What’s your goal for using a social network?
- Do you simply want to increase visibility and awareness of your practice in the community?
- Are you looking for an easy way to bring staff and patient experiences together online?
- Will you use these channels to advertise new services, physicians or changes to your organization, possibly replacing some of the costs of mailings?
Knowing why you want to engage potential customers online will help determine which platform you should choose. For example, Facebook is great for creating a community where you can post events, pictures and video, while Twitter is ideal for reaching news outlets and increasing the visibility of your practice’s services. Don’t forget recruitment: LinkedIn offers a credible way to browse job candidates and post openings.
Take an inventory of your organization’s Web site
How often is it updated and what type of information do you post? What do patients and staff use it for? Often, they would be just as likely to look for the same information on your social network.
If you already house most of your organization’s information on your Web site, consider using social media as a tease to drive traffic back to your site. Over time, you’ll notice your social networks will begin to show up as referrals in your Web site’s analytics.
Know your audience
Which social network do most of your patients use? Consider polling them, either on your Web site or in your office during an appointment. Remember that younger members are often more familiar and more likely to be on social networks. Enlist them as your champions by encouraging them to join.
Educate your patients about engaging with you in the social network
So you have 500 fans on your Facebook page, but nobody’s talking. Or maybe your patients don’t understand the value of connecting with you on Twitter. Communicate what they can expect to see when they join your networks – whether it’s office closures, notices about vaccines or party pics from your last community event. Great ways to promote the social media that you already use include: your Web site, e-mail communications and signs in your office (especially patient rooms!).
Think beyond text
Pictures, audio, video and presentations are compelling ways to communicate with members – especially on social networks. If your Web site doesn’t currently have that capability, all the better! Facebook has free video creation built-in, while both Facebook and LinkedIn have the SlideShare app, perfect for uploading and easily sharing health-focused PowerPoints online.
Urology San Antonio began creating YouTube videos about a year ago, and now its “Vasectomy. Get the Facts.” video with 10,500 views appears first whenever someone searches for “vasectomy” on YouTube. The video was spontaneously produced in an hour while the crew waited to record videos on robotic surgery in the operating room. Communications Director Abbey Forney says urology lends itself to social media.“We deal with so many awkward topics – bladder issues and sexual issues,” that patients are comfortable learning about in the privacy of their own homes, she says. “It’s been great for our practice, especially for the things where people have the time to research online.”
Post regularly and quickly
Smaller blurbs are more effective because users of social networks usually have short attention spans. For example, tweets have a shelf life of 24 hours. Content shouldn’t go through a long review process, but it also shouldn’t be posted without hitting spell check. Several medical practices have embraced Twitter because it takes only a few seconds to update throughout an employee’s otherwise packed schedule.
Urology San Antonio has also used Twitter to make quick connections in the community. On Twitter, Forney spotted a family practice doctor who had just opened his business in the area, so she assembled some of the practice’s physicians to visit and let him know they’d be happy to accept referrals.
The key to encouraging engagement in any of these social networks is to be informal and approachable. Think about a patient entering your office for the first time. What do you want your first impression to be? Your strategy will follow.