Why Healthcare Practices Shouldn’t Shy Away from Social Media
Healthcare has traditionally been slow to adopt social media. While some practices and healthcare organizations excel at marketing and engaging patients through this medium, in general, the industry tends to shy away.
Ask a healthcare executive why their organization isn’t active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any number of other popular channels and you’ll get a wide variety of answers. The resources aren’t there. Fear of violating HIPAA laws. Not enough in the budget. The list goes on.
For every one of those excuses, there’s at least one anti-excuse that points to the value of social media in healthcare outweighing any of the negatives. I’m of the belief that standing still due to fear can keep a business from enjoying the success it’s truly capable of achieving. This is as true in healthcare as it is in any industry.
Healthcare should embrace, not shy away from, social media. There’s a world of potential for organizations to use social media to enhance the patient experience, communicate more effectively and drive significant growth.
Let’s talk about that growth thing first
Unless you’re just administering care to patients for fun, your organization likely lists growth as one of its goals. As your patient-base changes and younger generations come-of-age and become your patients, it’s critical that you stay on top of their preferred modes of communication.
Traditional advertising has its place, but it doesn’t have the impact it once had. At least not without some help.
Take a quick glance out into your waiting room. Tally up the number of patients reading the months-old magazines you’ve carefully laid out on end tables and coffee tables. Now compare that to the number of patients busily tapping away on their smartphones. I’d wager the latter will win out…heavily.
Those patients are likely perusing posts across a variety of social media channels, and if you aren’t active on those channels but your competitor is, they’ll be influenced by the wrong people (or at least the wrong people in your mind). By actively communicating with your patients via social media, you can effectively strengthen your relationship with them, find out more about them and keep your practice top of mind.
And the best thing is, happy patients = referrals. Referrals = growth. Nothing beats word of mouth, and word of mouth can lead to new patients and significant growth.
As your patient-base changes and younger generations come-of-age and become your patients, it’s critical that you stay on top of their preferred modes of communication.
That’s what we call loyalty
Loyal patients are extremely valuable. Not only do they spread positive word of mouth, but they also keep coming back, meaning you don’t have to spend tons of money to attract new patients (although you should certainly not stop trying to attract new patients).
Social media can be an excellent tool in creating a loyal patient base.
By communicating effectively with patients, you show that you’re listening. Social media gives you the ability to communicate with your patient base on a mass scale.
Changes to practice hours? A new doctor on staff? Improved waiting times or other enhancements?
If you’ve built a proper following on your social media channels, you can easily disseminate that info, showing your patients that you care, you’re listening to them, and you’re consistently working toward creating a better experience for them.
Valuing your staff’s time
It’s true. Someone will have to physically post on your social media channels. Which, of course, requires the time of one of your staff members (you could always outsource as well). And time is money, right?
I realize it may seem like I’m failing at selling this with what I just said, but stick with me here. Dedicating your staff’s time to social media can help you save time, and consequently money.
It can cut back on the amount of time spent answering individual emails and phone calls by sending communications to all your patients (or at least those following your pages) in one blast. Communicate to your patients that staying up-to-date with your social media posts can keep them in-the-know about valuable info, practice updates and more. They’ll likely keep an eye on your posts, and you can avoid many of the phone calls and emails by answering frequently asked questions in one fell swoop.
Becoming the authority
The info you provide to your patients on social media can also position you as a go-to resource. According to some studies, up to 80% of Internet users have at some point searched for a health-related topic online. Your patients are no different.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to answer their questions. If you don’t, your competition just might.
Consider creating a blog and offering your expertise in the form of articles written by your staff. Think about the questions your patients frequently ask. You can even find this out through a quick survey.
Then start creating articles that answer those questions. This can help on many levels.
You’ll become the authority. Your site stands to benefit by potentially experiencing rising Internet search results, which can lead to new patients. And, you might even help a few people along the way. It’s a win all around.
So, be brave and don’t shy away
Hopefully I’ve laid out a solid argument for taking the next steps and implementing a social media strategy for your practice. I’ve seen a lot of great examples of healthcare organizations using social media, so things are trending the right direction.
Don’t shy away and fall behind. Think about your patients and what they’d want to see. Consider your current resources and how you’d best be able to handle a social media presence. And, don’t be afraid to ask your patients what they want. You’ll likely receive a very positive response to your move toward social media.