3 Ways to Use Social Media to Grow Your Medical Practice
Social media channels can attract thousands, if not tens of thousands and millions of eyes, to important updates, educational content, and marketing campaigns. As such, social media can also be a powerful driver of customer acquisition, beyond just brand awareness.
This is why it should never be an afterthought for healthcare organizations in growth mode. Findings from The 5th Annual State of Digital Marketing in Healthcare Report underscore how the market is responding to the value of social media:
- 80%+ of healthcare marketers are leveraging Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram
- Facebook Ads are the most used online advertising tool in healthcare Facebook Page Insights is the most used tool for measuring digital return on investment
And yet, more than 70% of organizations cite lack of organizational buy-in as an obstacle to success. In the spirit of getting over this hump toward better, measurable ROI, here are three social media growth strategies for the healthcare vertical.
1. Share Your Brand’s Personality (and Humanity)Part of the reason WHO, Scripps and other health organizations are so prevalent on social media is the connection. Healthcare consumers want to connect with their providers and develop longer-term relationships. They also want service providers to care about them, to show a degree of empathy, community involvement, and transparency.
Benefits of Building Brand Personality on Social Media
Building your social media brand helps:
- Strengthen brand loyalty/affinity
- Create brand champions that engage with, share, and evangelize your content
- Increase word-of-mouth recommendations
As you plan your social media campaigns for the months ahead, schedule some of the usual branded content. Think about it: what aspects of our brand make up our personality? What are we doing now to cultivate relationships with our patients and communities?
Here are some ideas of what it might look like:
- Highlight your providers by telling their stories and sharing their photos and quotes
- Build out a “Message from Dr. Bob” series in which a distinguished physician discusses hot topics (such as vaccination)
- Embody your brand’s values, mission, and what you care about in all of your brand building social media posts
- Highlight community involvement, philanthropy, and media coverage
Example 1: OrthoCarolina on Facebook
What we love about this feed:
- OrthoCarolina shares real-life examples of what an orthopedic surgery will look like
- Photographs of real people associated with OrthoCarolina and no stock images
- Provides content not just on orthopedic health, but health overall
2. Educate, Encourage, and Reassure Healthcare Consumers
For those who worry or have questions and concerns, healthcare organizations can be a voice of confidence. The same goes for people who don’t know they have a problem or risk. Both groups will face complex medical decisions that require research and testing. And both groups can benefit from thoughtful and timely content posted by their healthcare providers.
This is the place for ongoing thought leadership streams, awareness campaigns, and even questions and answers. By posting this type of content on social media, healthcare providers can reach their followers to learn, make informed decisions about their health, and even rate service providers.
Examples of Educational Healthcare Content
- An educational series directed at a particular patient demographic. An OB-GYN might speak to what expecting mothers need to know. Orthopedic surgeons can share info on preventative maintenance for chronic lower back pain. Behavioral health specialists will likely share information on how to get help.
- Information about different procedures, including who they’re for, how they differ, and associated benefits/risks. This is a good place to embrace video and “go under the hood” to make healthcare knowledge accessible. It’s also an opportunity to showcase case studies and patient testimonials.
- Seasonal awareness campaigns that help drive core public health initiatives, like fall/winter flu vaccinations or summertime sun exposure guidelines.
Benefits of Educating Healthcare Consumers Through Social Media
From a growth perspective, educational campaigns of this sort have a few key benefits:
- Alleviates doubts by showing people that you know how to help them
- Builds authority in a particular practice area or specialty
- Persuades prospects that you’re the right provider for them, especially in competitive markets, such as plastic surgery or dentistry
- Provides an effective way to keep in touch with patients and nurture them through what can be a long journey
- Helps maintain your relationship with existing customers and prevent attrition
3. Highlight Positive Reviews, Social Shoutouts, and Patient Testimonials
Similar to some possible social media accounts, many healthcare providers still post the same generic content. All very “we, us, our”. Boring content aside, what most of these accounts have in common is the lack of social proof.
In other words, people want to read real reviews and see real people!
Ideas for Testimonial-type Content and Reviews
One of the easiest ways to showcase “patient voices” is to do just that: share User Generated Content (UGC), videos, and posts that cover your practice. You’ll need to follow specific mentions or hashtags to find the right kind of post. From Sprout Social to Hootsuite, there are plenty of solutions to help manage social media channels in one place.
Another option is to share testimonials, which include images and stories with text, videos, and quotes. For example, it’s a great way to connect with people who have concerns about a particular procedure.
Finally, keep in mind that some platforms, such as Facebook Pages, allow users to rate and rate businesses. For example, these reviews can be embedded on a website’s testimonials page or shared on other social media channels. They can also be managed and engaged directly, which is especially important if you receive negative reviews.
Bonus: Embrace the Power of Paid Social
As effective as the three strategies above can be, they primarily support “organic” reach on Facebook. Unfortunately, growing organic reach is more of a long game, and has become more difficult thanks to updates to the Facebook algorithm. These updates now only show a fraction of your posts to your followers.
For healthcare organizations to reach new audiences on Facebook, increase their reach, and keep their pipelines filled, they need to move beyond purely organic growth strategies. Enter: paid social media advertising. Paid social media is a great addition to the three-part organic strategy outlined above. It can also be used to leverage your organic tracking in more bookings.
Here is why social activities are paid:
- Highly targeted. Get positively scientific with your ads, with the ability to target based on demographics, interests, geographic location, and more. Remarketing ads can be used to show ads to people who recently visited your website. You can also target ads based on engagement, such as liking a post or watching a video, as well as lookalike audiences.
- Low cost. Where else can you reach over 1,000 people for less than $5? With various available bidding models, such as cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM), cost-per-download (CPA), and cost-per-like (CPL), there are more ways to get the most bang for your buck. The most common model is CPC and it will cost you $0.97/click on average, for example.
- Fast results. The Facebook Ads platform is very accessible. Account setup is straightforward. Done correctly, you can get set up and generating clicks, calls, and leads by the end of the day.
For many medical methods, Facebook ads are a new concept. Sometimes you should start with little fruit. Let’s say you are a dental group with an existing Facebook business page. Before creating any complex ad campaigns, we recommend that you serve targeted ads to people who have interacted with your organic posts. Maybe they liked a teeth whitening testimonial video you shared and watched in the first 30 seconds. Based on this data, you can create a teeth whitening campaign that targets people who have watched the video and encourages them to make an appointment – or even offer them a special promotion to attract the last name.
Takeaway: It Takes Two for Thriving Social Media
Having people at the heart of what drives most healthcare organizations is a big plus. At least it should be. Many healthcare marketers fail to view marketing channels especially social media – as simple streams of patient acquisition. While this is a pleasant and achievable goal, it is to put the chariot before the horse.
Growing your patient base on social media takes some grounding. We’ve come up with three specific strategies above, and each is based on one basic premise: Things get better when everyone gets involved. Basically, social media channels are a great place to start a conversation – to encourage comments, shares, and comments. To create conversations and hear from real people.
This requires a thoughtful approach that adds value to the patient’s journey. Do you need to wait until you have 12 million-person following, like WHO? Of course not. But you have to get people on your channel and get them talking. From there, all sorts of avenues for growth open up, from paid social advertising (retargeting, boosted posts, etc.) to chat overlays.
Finally, remember that the best health marketers know how to read rooms. Running successful social media channels means knowing what’s going on in the world. Today is the COVID19 vaccine. Tomorrow or later there will be other health topics that people will ask or worry about.
For many people, social media will be the first place they go.