Physicians and other health care professionals have always gone where the patients are. These days that increasingly means the Internet and social media. But just because patients can find your practice on Facebook doesn’t mean you’re engaging and attracting
Here are five tips for taking social media to the next level:
Post with purpose: Whether you’ve just started a Facebook account for your practice or are managing five forms of social media, it’s important to understand the goals you want to achieve: Do you want to market specific cosmetic dermatology services? Educate patients about procedures and conditions? Keep current patients engaged? All of the above? Identifying your goals and prioritizing them will help you focus your posts and drive the right kind of traffic.
Know your demographics: Are you an orthodontist whose practice focuses on teens and young adults? Or a cosmetic dermatologist who primarily addresses the skin care needs of middle-aged women? Who you are – and who your patients are – should determine which social media platform gets the greatest amount of your time and attention.
For example, there are five times more women than men on Pinterest, and most of them are college-educated. Millennials, on the other hand, love Twitter and Instagram. Everybody uses Facebook, especially in the early afternoon. In fact, there are best times to post for different forms of social media. Do some research about your specific demographic(s) and tailor posts (and perhaps their timing) accordingly.
Stay relevant and stay safe: Forget the amusing but completely irrelevant funny cat videos. Stay away from ANY topic your patients might find controversial or offensive, especially political statements. Final word? If in doubt, don’t post.
Use humor, but carefully please: It’s great to use humor occasionally and gently, but again keep it relevant to your practice and don’t overdo it.
For example, Ob-Gyns can get tons of engagement from parenting humor posts or pictures of babies with funny captions. Likewise, cosmetic dermatologists might use a dash of humor to lead into a blog about dandruff or athlete’s foot, before getting to the more serious, expert advice.
Always stay professional: Although social media offers the chance to show your warm and human side, remember not to go too far. Stay positive and professional. Avoid rants. Stick to the facts and, for Pete’s sake, PROOFREAD. Finally, there are specific issues of privacy and ethics that health care professionals must always adhere to.
The long and short of it? Don’t post anything on social media that you wouldn’t be willing to display or say or do (and loudly) in the middle of your waiting room.
What are some definite no-no’s for social media? Here are just a few:
DO NOT post pictures of patients without their written consent. This is of particular concern to cosmetic patients, who may not want to go public about a procedure or condition.
DO NOT post real-life stories from your practice: Even if you think nobody will recognize the subject, you can never be certain. In general, it’s always safest to speak about general conditions and problems, rather than specific cases.
DO NOT offer medical advice. Even if asked, don’t answer – it violates patient privacy. Offer general information and use your social media platform to encourage a direct, in-person consultation.
For more information about professional ethics, privacy and social media, see the Federation of State Medical Boards for guidelines specific to health care practices.