Does it matter if a medical practice actively participates in social media? Platforms like Facebook and TikTok are predominantly viewed as a source of entertainment, but there is more to it. For many, social media is a primary source for information, creating an opportunity for healthcare organizations of all kinds to be a source of credible information.
There are many reasons for providers to be active on social media. In this social media guide, you will learn the many ways social media is useful for both providers and patients alike, and the best practices involved with social media management.
Why Medical Practices Should Engage on Social Media
There is an upward trend of healthcare consumers turning to social media as an online resource to find providers. Survey results seem to confirm what medical practice marketers have known for some time now:
- 41% consult social media to decide where to go for care
- 82% will share healthcare experiences on social media
- 91% say online communities influence healthcare decisions
- 60% of doctors believe that their participation in social media has improved patient care
Meeting patients where they are online is central to the modern patient experience. So, if your goal is to encourage loyalty from existing patients and draw in new patients, a social media presence is a core component for your online strategy.
The Essentials of Healthcare Social Media Engagement
Studies have found that healthcare social media serves seven essential purposes:
- Customer service
- Community outreach
- Patient education
- Public relations
- Crisis communications
- Brand monitoring
Let’s go over how these medical practice social media elements apply, one by one.
Customer Service Channel for Patients
Many consumers are now in the habit of using social media to contact companies with questions, especially those providing a service. By providing this convenient method of contact, you improve the patient experience. However, be cautious with visible conversations (like the comment section) that may contain disclosures that violate patient privacy laws.
Public Outreach, Public Relations, and Patient Education Channel
While there are differences between outreach, public relations (PR), and patient education, there is also much overlap. Your practice can use social media to promote health initiatives either individually or from the healthcare communities you belong to. By building a following, you become instrumental in a patient’s care decisions as an influential voice.
Survey: 60% of social media consumers will trust their doctor’s information over other sources.
Urgent Communications Channel
While text and email are effective ways to send out urgent messages to patients, social media also is an ideal method to get the word out. People turn to social media to get updates from family, friends, and official sources such as the government. By using social media to post helpful information during times of crisis, your practice demonstrates your commitment to social responsibility.
In several ways, social media helps connect quality candidates to employers every day. Common ways to recruit talent through social media are:
- Having an impressive online presence that clearly communicates why your practice is a great place to go to work every day, including the quality of care you provide
- Posting appealing content that demonstrates your professionalism and competence in your area of practice that instills confidence in candidates
- Providing plenty of “study” material to help candidates prepare for an interview, as it is a best practice to know as much as possible about an employer prior to meeting
- Posting the open positions wherever applicable including your page, cross posting in employment groups, placing social media ads, and more
Opportunity to Nurture Your Practice “Brand”
Every practice has a brand, and the health of its brand hinges on the strength of its online presence. Patients who use social media consistently may wonder why your practice does not have an active social media account, or prospective patients may notice that you rarely post. Though unfair, this can negatively impact consumer confidence in your practice.
Working in tandem with your practice website, social media accounts help shape and express your brand. High-quality graphics consistent with your branding create an air of professionalism. The kind of content you post expresses your practice “personality” and deeply-held values.
Social media comment sections can be an opportunity to harvest patient testimonials. For example, a patient sees a video of their doctor on social media and can’t pass up the opportunity to share their endorsement. Now the practice has a testimonial in public view. But again, medical practices must be diligent to ensure that comments do not include details that violate privacy laws.
Medical Practice Social Media Strategy Step by Step
Through effective social media management, you have the power to build trust and consumer confidence in your medical practice. However, managing a professional account is quite different from use of a personal account, and for this reason a game plan must be put in place.
Step 1: Decide Which Social Media Platforms to Utilize
Facebook tends to – overwhelmingly – capture most demographics, so it ends up being the default platform for many businesses, medical practices included. Facebook also offers many tools to help business pages manage and monitor engagement.
Since the ultimate goal of social media marketing is to meet your patients where they are, you may consider adding other platforms to your rotation. This report from Pew Research provides a snapshot of where your patient population is – and is not – spending time.
Step 2: Setting Up Your Accounts
Once you have determined which platforms to use, it is time to begin using them. This involves an email address, but whose email address should you use? Some may be okay using the designated social media manager’s email address while others may use a general-purpose email address.
Either way, it is important to have a way to access your accounts should something happen with the primary user; otherwise, you may not be able to get back into your account. Set more than one user as account administrator to have an alternative way to access the account. It would be unfortunate if you built a strong following only to lose your account.
As you set up each account, you will need branding images sized to the standard dimensions of each social media platform. Though these images may be different in shape, they should be consistent in appearance, including colors, fonts, logos, etc.
Setting Up Facebook
Did you know that Facebook automatically sets up business pages per directory data? You may already have a page, and you only need to claim it. There are two ways to set up a Facebook account. The administrator can set up a page from their own personal account, or an account can be set 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
When it comes to posting on social media, it can easily slip your mind. This is why having a content calendar mapped out in advance is absolutely necessary to keep your engagement efforts consistent. If you think it will be too difficult to remember to post content, platforms such as Facebook allow you schedule posts.
An engaging mix of content may include:
- Videos, especially original ones featuring your own providers and staff
- Targeted hashtags for your specialty, market, and current trends
- Interactive activities like quizzes or polls
- Day-in-the-life photos from your team (familiar faces attract more attention)
- Accomplishments both of individual staff members and as a practice
- Inspiring stories and quotes
- Health tips and healthy lifestyle reminders
- Health-adjacent news stories that are relevant to your audience
The power of video cannot be emphasized enough. Videos featuring faces of your providers and staff are likely to get people to stop scrolling and engage. This helps to boost your content. Videos also are effective at holding attention, so if you have an important message or a new service you are promoting, video content works well.
Step 4: Appoint a Social Media Manager
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. The social media manager will be responsible for:
- Updating the pages and accounts as needed
- Checking posts for quality and scheduling them according to the content calendar
- Monitoring for patient interactions including comments and direct messages
- Exercising excellent judgment with posting, commenting as your practice, and responding to sensitive situations such as a patient who is irate or shares private information that violates privacy laws
- Understanding best practices for keeping passwords safe, such as training on phishing scams, as a password falling into the wrong hands could lead to irreversible damage
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.
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: Do Not Leave Accounts Unattended
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).
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 or public-view comments that ask questions or request 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
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. Social media is also instrumental in patient retention as it maintains a connection with patients between office visits.
Additionally, medical social media is an effective tool for:
- Customer service
- Community outreach
- Patient education
- Public relations
- Crisis communications
- Brand monitoring
When mapping out your medical practice social media plan, be sure it includes:
- Platform selection based on your target audience (Facebook is highly recommended)
- Account set up (search for your practice in Facebook as a profile may have already been generated, this will help avoid confusing duplicates)
- Assignment of social media management responsibilities, including back up access to accounts (such as having more than one administrator) or outsourcing to healthcare social media management professionals
- Content calendar creation containing mix of content: entertaining, informative, inspirational, featuring your staff, etc.
- Set guidelines regarding sensitive terms, and following patient privacy rules and regulations
- Cadence for posting and ongoing monitoring for comments and messages that warrant a response.
Learn More About Medical Practice Social Media
For more tips on how to use social media to your advantage, read our blog on Facebook content tips contact us with your questions about social media management.