It seems that consumers have collectively decided about social media and health care. They’re in favor of it as an information tool and use in droves. More importantly, over 40 percent of people say that social media would affect their choice of a particular physician or hospital.
If a significant group of people (i.e. prospective patients and patients) is influenced by social media, then metaphorically speaking, doctors who want to attract new patients should be fishing where the fish are biting.
But many healthcare providers take a more conservative perspective. On one hand, better than one in four US hospitals have a social media presence. But as a group, doctors—who may use social media personally, privately or with peers—have been reluctant to engage is social media with patients.
If you are among the still-standing-on-the-sidelines crowd, here are some tips and tactics to help widen your social media comfort zone:
Join LinkedIn and create a professional’s profile. LinkedIn is a business-serious platform for physicians and hospital executives. It’s an opportunity to showcase your CV (in not-too-clinical terms) for other professionals and serious-minded audiences. Think of LinkedIn as an anchor for your online professional reputation.
Get acquainted with Doximity, the HIPAA-secure base for doctors only. Think of Doximity as a Facebook for doctors that every physician can use to, among other things, comfortably network with peers and colleagues.
If you’re still SM-shy, listen and talk among friends first. Sermo is sort of a virtual doctor’s lounge. Here’s our list of more than a dozen online gathering spots for physicians and medical specialists.
Add a blog to your website. Take the time to say something (with appropriate cautions about confidentiality) that is authoritative and interesting for your target audience. All doctors have something worthwhile to communicate and regular blog pages expand your online visibility, extend your reputation and engage prospective patients.
Contribute to other health and medical blogs. Getting onboard with hospital blogs and social media is a natural means to add visibility and meaningful content for patients and public.
Expand your digital footprint. Continue to embrace the social media tools that patients use—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others—and link your website to them. Make it convenient for the public to connect with you…and convenient for you to see and hear the public conversation.
Social media is an opportunity to communicate with people who respect the voice of professionals and really want to know what the doctor has to say. What’s more, the Internet has helped fuel that shift to more informed and empowered consumers.
For most medical practices, a digital presence is a primary means to reach, engage and attract new patients. In short, a doctor’s marketing and new business development efforts will be most productive when “fishing where the fish are biting.”
RELATED READING: See our previous article in this series titled, The Compelling Case for Doctors to Warmly Embrace Social Media.