Social media can be daunting for any business. It’s difficult to keep up with platforms, changes, and best practices. Marketing for doctors and medical practices have the added challenge of Protected Health Information and HIPAA.
We see doctors taking all kinds of approaches to addressing social media for their practice. The first question that begs to be answered is, “why address social media at all”?
Because it’s important: 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility. (The Spark Report)
For the reasons mentioned above, some doctors have a strategy of simply avoiding it all together. Others have tasked a millennial within the practice to “do” social media.
Whether you are a physician trying to develop a strategy for social media, or a practice manager looking to understand some best practices, here are some do’s and don’ts of social media for doctors.
Do have a purpose.
Before pulling the trigger on that Facebook post, make sure you have a reason for posting… and it needs to be more than, “because we haven’t posted an update in a while”. Share a resource or other content that is relevant for your patients. It’s great to create your own content, but don’t let that stop you. Curate good content from other sources and share that with your patients and prospective patients. Don’t be afraid to pull back the curtain and post something that makes the practice more personal. Does the staff dress up for Halloween? Can you offer congratulations to everyone’s favorite nurse that recently had a baby?
A best practice that can help you have a purpose: Use social media to talk with people, not at people. It’s a two-way street meant for communication, so engage with your audience.
Do keep your name, address, and phone number updated and consistent.
There is a lot of debate around social media’s effect on search engine rankings, and we’ll leave those debates to the search engineers. For a local medical practice (or any local business), it’s important to look at social media as a citation – a verification that you “are who you say you are”. Citations are a big part of which listings Google and the other search engines choose to show when it comes to LOCAL intent searches.
The key elements of a citation are a business’s Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP), and the more citations you can get, the better. These citations must be consistent to get all of the juice out of the squeeze. A practice’s social media profiles are a natural, and free, citation.
Do update your hours and location.
While double-checking that your NAP matches on your social profiles take a peek at your hours and location on those networks that support maps. If your hours are incorrect or your map marker is in the wrong place, it can lead to frustration for patients… and frustrated patients leave poor reviews. Update your hours and double-check your map markers, and make any needed corrections.
Don’t try to reach everyone.
Take some time to develop and define your ideal patient profile. This profile should include demographic data like age, location, gender, etc. Take it a step further by looking at your current patients, and perhaps your specialty, and include their health goals, pain points (sometimes literal), and season of life.
Don’t divulge PHI or violate HIPAA.
PHI and HIPAA present a unique challenge for doctors when it comes to social media. A best practice is to simply play it safe. Take care when responding to comments and scan your social channels to look for information patients may have posted your page, posts where patients have checked in, or tagged your practice. Talk to a professional and develop a policy or game-plan on how you will handle interacting with patients on social media.
Don’t give specific medical advice.
The idea is to share content that your ideal patient will find useful and interesting. Avoid giving specific medical advice on social media. Again, play it safe. If you’re looking for a way to “see” patients online, find a suitable telehealth (http://www.cchpca.org/what-is-telehealth) or telemedicine provider.
Doctors can use social media to increase the visibility of their medical practices. It will allow new patients to find your practice and take those word-of-mouth referrals into the digital age.
About the Author Casey O'Quinn
Casey founded Gravity Digital in 2000 after serving as the Internet Services Director for a Nashville-based Ad Agency. He's a rare breed that operates both left and right brain, so along with oversight of the company he's active in the creative process for our clients.
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