Medical professionals – yes, that means you – can benefit from using social media to build awareness and create loyalty among your patients, referral sources and future patients too.
Social media has become the driving force in today’s cyber marketing world. However, the healthcare industry has been slower than others to embrace this growing marketing tactic. According to a recent survey*, less than 16% of hospitals are engaged in social media. Yet, over half Americans use the Internet to search for health care information*. If you aren’t yet using social media, you are missing out on this captive audience that is looking for help online. Why not get it from you?
How can you use social media to effectively promote your services? First, go on a test drive and reach out to your internal audience, your employees and physicians. Believe it or not, physicians spend an average 20 hours per week online*. Try setting up an internal page on Yammer or Tinychat. These social network pages give you the power to control who can join, so you can keep internal conversations just that, internal. To protect yourself and others, make sure you have a social media policy in place for your employees, train them on it and have them sign these guidelines, just like they sign HIPAA guidelines each year during their review period.
Next, try creating a Facebook page for your organization. This can be viewed by anyone who chooses to “like” your page and is a great way to promote your services, physicians and facility. To get the most from this medium, you need to post daily, but that’s not as hard as you may think. Post articles on new technologies or discoveries in your practice area. Provide beneficial health tips and invite fans to educational events at your office. Recognize donors for their kindness or share awards that your doctors have won. Get input from all your staff, and even ask your patients what they’d like to see. You’ll be surprised how much information you really have when you start thinking about things to posts.
Another powerful medium is YouTube. Here you can post videos or television advertisements, and then link those to your other social media outlets. YouTube is the second most used search engine on the Internet; only Google is used more. So get creative. Certainly post your TV ads, if you have them. Interview your medical professionals about the latest trends in medicine or exciting new discoveries. If they are willing, talk to your patients about their experience at your facility and create online testimonials to post. You will be surprised how many hits you will receive. The more creative the video or television ad, then of course the more interest you will have.
Twitter is a great tool for reaching audiences every day, but is especially powerful in times of crisis. During a media crisis, utilize Twitter to distribute time-sensitive messages to your audiences. Encourage any media contacts you have to follow you on Twitter to receive the latest information. This is also a time when YouTube can be valuable. If you are in a high-profile situation, getting information out quickly can be vital. Twitter is now the go-to source for up-to-the-minute information. (Just look at the “Arab Spring” and tell me Twitter isn’t powerful!) It is a great tool in very high-profile crisis situations with a lot of media interest. In those cases, you may receive so many media calls that you cannot return them all individually in a timely manner. Utilize YouTube or Twitter to disseminate information quickly to the masses.
Start a blog. This is a great tool to provide health information while positioning your organization as a thought leader that is in touch with its community. Blogging does take time, and you need to post consistently to really get the results you want. To get regular content, why not ask various members of your staff to write posts to get a variety of perspectives. Or you can comment on outside articles, which takes less time but is no less effective. Or if you need help, there are many ghostwriters who can create content for you too. Don’t just write it off as too much work. This is a great way to gain patients and customers.
There are so many ways to utilize social media to your advantage, and you will see benefits from your efforts. Social media isn’t just a fad, and it’s not going anywhere. Remember, there was a time when people thought email was just a fad, and imagine your life without it today. But on the flipside, don’t think you have to jump into all social media outlets at once. Take small steps and get comfortable with the available mediums. You may also want to talk to your marketing consultant or agency to get their advice and see how they can help. They can help you get started and make the process less scary.