Where does social media fit into providing healthcare? At first glance social media and medical practices may seem worlds apart, but medical professionals are continuously drawn to these platforms – particularly Facebook – to connect with patients.
Having an active Facebook account is one of the core components of a strong medical practice brand. It reinforces credibility which, for starters, is necessary to combat misinformation online. Facebook engagement also nurtures relationships with patients as providers can interact in a more relaxed, and conversational environment.
Why Medical Professionals Should Not Sleep on the Social Media Opportunity
On Facebook, users tend to tell stories, share inspiring images, quotes, and have robust discussions of current events. This channel continues to be an environment conducive to meaningful connections.
What Medical Practices Gain from Social Media Engagement
Social media became particularly instrumental during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as people feverishly shared information and used humor to cope and stay connected. Medical practices still have a valuable opportunity to chime in on influential health-related conversations by offering the latest information from credible sources.
As a marketing channel, social media for healthcare also reinforces your medical practice brand. The layout of a Facebook page allows you to upload high quality logo images and cover photos that effectively express your unique brand. On your business page, you can give all the basic information you would have in an online medical directory.
While attracting patients is top of mind when it comes to medical practice marketing, also keep in mind that healthcare professionals use social media to decide where to apply and to prepare for upcoming interviews. You serve your candidates well when your Facebook page reflects your values, company culture, and care philosophy.
But most importantly, social media gives your medical practice a chance to stay connected to patients. The average American visits the doctor four times a year, but it is likely that a fair amount of your patients only come in about once per year. Facebook is an effective way to maintain relationships with patients between visits.
What Medical Practices Forfeit by Not Engaging on Social Media
Patients who make Facebook an integral part of their lives will question why a brand – medical practices included – does not have an active social media presence, as this is often their preferred communication method. While participating on Facebook has nothing to do with your competence as a healthcare provider, it can cause patients to doubt your credibility.
Medical practices also miss out on the power of patient endorsements when they opt out of Facebook engagement. For example, if a Facebook user makes a post asking for recommendations, their Facebook connections can tag a practice in their answers. This generates a link that goes directly to your Facebook business page where the prospective patient can learn more about your practice.
Facebook also captures patient sentiment the same way online reviews do. For example, a doctor posts a video explaining a procedure. Though the practice only intended for this video to be informative, a patient leaves a comment sharing that her procedure was done by this same provider and how pleased she is with the outcome. As it stands, no other marketing channels present engagement of this nature.
Finally, medical practices miss the chance to expand their online presence overall. A Facebook account is one of those things that can make a significant difference in your digital footprint, and even helps search engine optimization (SEO).
Compelling Stats on Social Media Engagement
While you may have personally seen the impact of social media for healthcare, the following statistics confirm its influence.
- Over 93% of internet users are also social media users [Source: Hootsuite]
- 70% of adults in the US use Facebook [Source: Pew Research]
- Around 67% of Facebook users use it daily [Source: Hootsuite]
- US. users of social media spend an average of two hours and 11 minutes per day on social media [Source: Hootsuite]
- 66% of Facebook users will visit a local business page once a week at a minimum [Source: Facebook]
- 82% of patients share their healthcare experiences on social media [Source: Binary Foundation]
- 91% of patients affirm that online communities influence healthcare decisions [Source: Social Health Network]
- 60% of doctors believe that their participation in social media has improved patient care [Source: The Park Report]
As patient engagement on social media continues to trend upwards, we can expect even more expansion as we watch the digital patient journey evolve.
What Medical Practices Can Expect from Social Media Engagement
Social media for healthcare fosters patient loyalty, helps you reach new patients, and helps build effective digital ads with advanced tools. While social media is known for its power to propel brands with viral content, this is not something healthcare marketing experts see happening for healthcare brands.
Medical practices can expect a small – yet solid – social media following that consumes regular content and offers mostly positive engagement. Compared to other digital channels, social media marketing does not typically generate significant website traffic or generate the most revenue. However, it is still essential for building trust with the public, which is a core component for a strong medical practice brand.
How Medical Practices Get the Most from Social Media Marketing
Using social media for personal use, you may not give much thought to what it takes to operate social media on the business side, much less for a medical practice. As with any other digital marketing initiative, there are many aspects at play. Here is your practice marketing social media crash course:
Step One: Understand the Purpose of Healthcare Social Media
Here are the primary functions of social media engagement for medical practices:
- Provide customer service to patients
- Community outreach
- Patient education
- Public relations
- Crisis communications
- Brand monitoring, including reputation management
Step Two: Decide Which Social Media Platforms to Utilize
There are many social media platforms to choose from, but Facebook has become the default because of the substantial size and usage habits of its audience. However, if your patient population includes a target market that spends more of their time on another platform (such as younger people gravitating toward Instagram) you may want to engage audiences on other platforms in addition to Facebook.
Step Three: Set Up Your Accounts
Virtually any business can have a social media account, medical practices included. All you need to do is set up a Facebook business account (also free, but different from your personal account) and fill it in with your medical practice details, including the images for your branding such as your logo.
Step Four: Map Out Your Content Calendar
A medical practice social media post schedule is ideally a mix of different types of content. It is not all promotional, nor strictly informational, nor absent of entertainment value. Instead, it is a balanced blend of all elements that provides the most value to your audience.
Step Five: Appoint a Social Media Manager
One of the myths of social media management is that it is so easy that anyone can do it. While it is true that most people can use social media, it is not true that everyone has the time, skill, and instinct needed to keep a business page running properly. This responsibility should only be handed to someone with media experience who can be trusted to make judgement calls.
While the above is only a summary of our complete healthcare social media template, we encourage you to read the full article for more in-depth guidance.
Can Your Medical Practice Manage Its Own Ongoing Facebook Engagement?
A successful Facebook business page requires regular attention. Annually, a content calendar must be planned. Monthly, posts must be scheduled. Daily, comments and inboxes must be monitored. Does your practice have the resources to see that management tasks are done on a consistent basis?
Consider that with all the investment put into a revitalized medical practice digital marketing strategy, the goal is to grow your patient base. The intended outcome of bringing in new patients naturally leads to staff directing most of their time to serving patients, which can easily result in initiatives like social media management being forgotten. So, if you neglect your Facebook page for too long you will eventually lose the benefits of social media engagement.
What If Your Medical Practice Lacks the Capacity to Successfully Maintain Facebook Engagement?
For medical practices that understand the value of social media for healthcare, but realize that the work involved doesn’t fit into operations, hiring a third party is usually the most sensible solution. While some medical practices may be reluctant to outsource social media marketing, there are many benefits that may not have been considered. Reasons medical practices choose a digital marketing agency include:
- Experienced social media managers have established a well-balanced and reliable social media content calendar
- Medical practice digital marketing professionals understand the judgement and nuance involved with appropriate social media best practices for healthcare, including social media guidelines for healthcare professionals
- Experts in medical practice digital marketing can demonstrate how to get the most benefit from Facebook
- Healthcare social media managers ensure client Facebook pages are running as they should be
When it comes to a choice between keeping digital marketing in-house versus outsourcing to an experienced medical marketing agency, many medical practices are opting to move such efforts externally.
Summary: Social Media for Healthcare
Social media is one of the core digital marketing channels now included in the patient journey. From discussing medical issues in Facebook communities, to vetting where to go for care, to following their favorite providers for updates, social media users influence public opinion on healthcare.
Medical practices benefit from engaging in social media when they counteract misinformation, attract new patients, attract top talent, and nurture patient loyalty. However, to get the most benefit from social media, engagement with the audience must be consistent, and for this reason many medical practices choose to offload this responsibility to an agency.
Seize the Opportunity to Engage Patients on Facebook
An active, polished, and approachable Facebook page is a core component of a strong medical practice brand. While social media may not directly generate the bulk of revenue or website traffic, it is still a strong pillar that supports digital marketing for your practice. To learn more about how digital marketing channels – especially social media – are ingrained into the modern patient journey, download our eBook, or feel free to contact us with any questions you have about Facebook marketing.