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Healthcare Social Media / Inbound Marketing

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  • 1. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your Efforts Table Of ContentsGetting Started 27 Great Ways to Use Social Networks 3The Most Prominent Sites 5Other Valuable Options 8Develop A Winning Plan 10Partnership Has Its Benefits 12 1
  • 2. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your EffortsGETTING STARTED WITH SOCIAL MEDIAIt doesn’t matter if you’re a sole practitioner, part of a small clinic or managing a largegroup practice or hospital, medical and dental professionals and those in relatedspecialties all need an effective social media presence.You don’t manage your practice – or, Heaven forbid, provide exactly the same care – asyou did 10 or 20 years ago. You use the very latest tools and techniques to give yourpatients the best care possible. It’s exactly the same with marketing – using the latesttools and techniques can establish you as a leader in your field. And these dayspatients expect nothing less.It’s all about sharing.Recommendations and referrals from friends, or friends of friends, and reviews fromtotal strangers can all carry more weight than anything you say about yourself. Butsocial media – if you use it properly – doesn’t focus on you talking about yourself. Itgives others an opportunity to do the talking, and to share their thoughts with everyoneelse.That’s your goal.Consumers – your current and future patients – are using social media to search forinformation as well as services. They want professional advice from real doctors. Notsurprisingly studies show they trust doctors and dentists far more than drug companiesor others with apparent bias. Nowhere is trust more important than in healthcare. Youneed to establish yourself and your practice as trusted resources for accurateinformation.On the other hand, patients are starting to see themselves as equals. They want to playa greater role in managing their own care. They’re using social networks to help makethat happen, and they expect you to join them.Marketing is essential to sustain and grow your practice.With traditional advertising, you put your message out there and hope appropriatetargets see it when they care enough to follow up. Or remember your advertising whenthey do care. A dubious proposition at best.Social networks can help draw people to you, people already interested in what youhave to offer. You can acquire more patients through direct referrals and by attractingprospects to your website for more information. Using social media:  Personalizes you and your practice. That’s particularly important in the medical or dental fields where people are so often leery or feel intimidated, even more so with complex specialties that involve surgery, reconstruction, etc. 2
  • 3. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your Efforts  Appeals to younger patients, important for growing your practice.  Builds your reputation among patients, in your local community and in the medical community.  Is infinitely cheaper than traditional methods, most of which have often been considered “tacky” by healthcare professionals. Yet it’s far more effective.It’s important to recognize that using social media isn’t the only answer, it’s part of theequation, and not every social network is appropriate for healthcare professionals. Butperception is everything. So if you ignore social media, or your efforts are off-target orunfocused, your practice will surely slip by the wayside.7 GREAT WAYS TO USE SOCIAL NETWORKSEach social network is unique, with a different set of users. So each one offers adifferent set of potential opportunities to marketyour practice. But there is one universal truth:whatever you post must have value. It must beinformative or interesting enough to resonate withyour audience, so much so that they feelcompelled to respond to you and/or share yourcommunication with others.Educate patients -- and their friends.A recent Pew study notes that 80% of internetusers have searched online for healthcareinformation. Since not everything they find isaccurate, it’s doubly important for you to have apresence, sharing your knowledge with useful information.You can use social platforms to explain what you do, and how. Answer questions andallay concerns. Sharing educational materials and other resources establishes you asthe local expert and helps you connect with and engage patients and prospectivepatients. Introduce your staff and the work they do. Speak out about healthcare trendsrelating to your specialty or pending legislative issues that could affect your practice orpatient care.Telling stories demonstrates your expertise and personalizes your work. It also helpsreduce the fear factor, something that often keeps dental patients in particular frommaking or keeping needed appointments. 3
  • 4. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your EffortsBetter communication can improve patient compliance and outcomes. It can evenreduce the volume of email and phone questions that take up precious office hours foryou and your staff.Start a conversation.Since social networks are based on sharing, it’s easy to truly interact with patients andhelp them interact with one another. Encouraging them to share their experiences withone another helps alleviate concerns and it can share hope for the future when it’sneeded most.Generate referrals.Participating in social networks humanizes you, but it also helps people get theinformation they want and need about your credentials and experience – facts that willsupport their decision to choose you over someone else. Or to refer you to others.Accumulate online reviews.If you think online reviews and ratings are only for hotels and plumbers, think again.Consumers rely on the internet to make decisions about everything these days, and thatincludes healthcare providers. There are several websites devoted specifically toreviewing medical practitioners in various specialties.So when patients are complimentary about you and your practice, ask them to postthose comments online, too – not just on the review sites but on your social mediapages.Online reviews provide valuable feedback for you, too.Improve efficiency.You can use social media for practical purposes such as setting and managingappointments, including filling last-minute openings in your schedule.Promote your practice.Of course you can use your online networks to make specials offers to patients andprospects. After all, your goal is to market yourself and grow your business. Just don’tmake that your primary objective or your overtures will quickly become the onlineequivalent of junk mail. 4
  • 5. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your EffortsLearn more about your patients.You can capture detailed demographic and sociographic information about your onlinefriends and fans and use it to better analyze and refine your social media marketing.Armed with the right data, you can identify new groups of potential patients and bettertarget your outreach efforts.Perhaps this goes without saying, but it’s unethical and inappropriate to allude to patientdetails or other confidential information in public social network posts. To furtheraddress privacy and liability concerns, the AMA and other professional associationssuggest you separate your personal and professional social media presence. Patientswant to know you’re skilled and trustworthy, they don’t need to see pictures of yourvacation or join your fantasy football game.For many people, especially busy professionals, the social media scene can feeldaunting. The well-known options are overwhelming enough, and new sites keepappearing. You’re not alone if you can barely keep up with your Facebook page –assuming your practice even has a page – let alone all the others.So let’s examine what’s out there with an eye toward how each of these sites mightwork for you.THE MOST PROMINENT SOCIAL MEDIA SITESMore than half of dentists use Facebook, a third or more use Twitter and LinkedIn, and17% use YouTube. 36% are using Google+. That’s professionally. Even more usesocial media for personal reasons.Within the confines of the particular platform, your posts can be about anything thatrelates to your practice, your specialty or healthcare in general -- any excuse to putyourself in front of patients and potential patients. You’re giving them regular remindersthat you’re available to help them, with information and with professional services.FacebookThis is the social networking Big Daddy, and the site is ideal for promoting every aspect of your practice to patients and prospective patients, so a presence on Facebook is a must-have.Visuals are critical here -- you can publish text-only posts,but they’ll be ignored. So post some comments toaccompany photos of your new receptionist, a new serviceyou’re offering or other news about your practice. Share 5
  • 6. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your Effortslinks to your newest video, your blog or information people can download from yourwebsite. Share links to valuable offsite resources. Tie in with local or national news orevents such as National Chiropractic Awareness Month.Run an occasional promotion or contest. After all, your goal is to market your business,so it’s OK to overtly do that as long as self-promotion doesn’t dominate your postings.Require participants to “like” you first, and give them a reward for following through – adiscount or even something as simple as a free toothbrush. Reward them for referrals,too.Thanks to their sharing power, your current patients are your strongest Facebook allieswhen it spreading the word about your postings and commenting on your services. Butyou can also create special promotions to recruit new patients, perhaps with a discountfor their first visit.TwitterNo pictures here. And with only 140 characters per tweet, this isn’t the platform for complex posts. On the other hand, Twitter users do like a two-way conversation, so this is another good place for contests or promotions aimed at starting a conversation or recruiting new patients. Tweeting is a also great way to send quick notifications about a new blog posting, the latest last-minute appointment availability, or your initial reaction to proposed healthcare legislation. Tweet a “tip of the day” that relates to your practice or specialty – something people should do, a link to something they should see or read, etc.LinkedInThis is the business end of the social equation. Your page can include comprehensiveinformation about your current endeavors as well as your background – education,credentials, experience, accolades, all the things that go intoestablishing your reputation, in all your “communities.”Having and using a LinkedIn presence is essential for anyhealth care professional.You can join professional groups to discuss issues, trendsand best practices, network with one another and obtainreferrals that go beyond your existing offline professionalrelationships. 6
  • 7. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your EffortsOriginally conceived as a networking site for job hunters, LinkedIn is also an excellentforum in which to discover or recruit new staff.LinkedIn has become the best source of leads for B2B companies among social medianetworks. Therefore, any specialist who relies on general practitioners or otherspecialists for a steady stream of new patients should be active on the site. Connectwith other Drs. on LinkedIn and share updates or, even better, links to your own contentand build up your reputation and referral network.Google+ This is the hot new network that functions much the same as Facebook, although in some respects it’s easier to use. It may seem like a redundant parallel universe, but Google+ is growing so fast you can’t afford to ignore it. And since it’s part of the Google family it interfaces seamlessly with Google search, Maps, YouTube, etc.You can use Google+ in all the same ways you use Facebook, plus you can postlocation markers – important if you’re a small, local practice but useful even if you’re aregional medical center or nationally known specialty treatment facility.The Circles feature enables you to more easily group your contacts and maintainseparation between your online professional presence and your online friends-and-family. You can share with one person, a circle or everyone.Google+ ratings are becoming as important as “likes.” Viewers can give your posts a“+1” and you can share that with others. Put the Google +1 button on your website andblog, too, so people can share that content with others.Business pages here link with Google+ Local, formerly known as Google Places. Withso many people searching online for local businesses, including healthcare providers,it’s important to be listed here. It’s not a social site, it’s more like a business card withphotos, but your free listing will make it much easier for people to find you using Googlesearch, Maps, etc.YouTubeSeriously. Virtually all your patients, and certainly the younger ones you need to growand sustain your business, grew up with television. Videos may seem intimidating, butthey can do wonders for your social reach. They’re perfect for patient and public 7
  • 8. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your Effortseducation and staff training. They demonstrate your professional expertise, so you canattract attention from your peers, too, depending on the topics you choose.You can create YouTube videos using a camcorder, your digital camera, most cellphones or that tiny webcam that stares at you from your laptop. Brand your video at thebeginning and end with at least your name and web address, and do that somewhere inthe middle, too. You want to ensure viewers associate you with the content.Two critical caveats: keep it short and keep it simple.Set up a monitor in your waiting room where patients can watch your videos. And, ofcourse, post the link to all your social media contacts whenever you create a new one.SlideShare Think PowerPoint, only online for everyone to see. If video scares you – though it shouldn’t – you can create similar content in static slide format. Unlike a conference presentation, though, your slides can’t just have a few bullet points because typically there’s no narrator.You can incorporate pictures or other graphics to illustrate or dress up the text. And youcan actually turn your presentation into a webinar by syncing the slides with MP3 audio.This is an extremely popular site that offers broad-scale potential for building yourreputation, promoting your practice and attracting new patients. You can share publiclyor privately.The same best practices apply here as to YouTube – keep it short and keep it simple forpublic consumption, and be sure each slide is branded with your name and webaddress.Professional communitiesOnline professional communities – too specialized and numerous to include here – arean increasingly popular way to share and learn from your peers. You can consult withcolleagues on individual patient concerns, discuss trends and current issues within yourspecialty and the healthcare industry in general, and obtain referrals.OTHER POTENTIALLY VALUABLE OPTIONSThe list of social media opportunities continues to grow. Clearly you don’t have time –and it doesn’t even make sense – to pursue all of them. But some of these newer ormore niche sites do have potential to help you market your practice. 8
  • 9. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your EffortsPinterestThe scrapbooking craze has moved online. This hugely popular site,primarily with women, can be a valuable additional postingopportunity for all the photos you post to Facebook, Google+,etc. You don’t post on Pinterest, you “pin” your photos onboards.Pinterest is divided into subject-matter categories, so yourmaterial won’t get lost in an irrelevant world. Perhaps thebest part is that you can let patients do all the work for you,by inviting them to pin their own pictures -- little Susie’s before-and-after-braces smile, or an ongoing weight-loss saga. If you’re anorthopedic or maxillofacial surgeon, you can pin a series of photos showing progress ona complex case, making sure it’s anonymous of course.Photos help patients and their families understand what you do and what’s going tohappen during procedures. Of course showing the results is always a positive.RedditThis is yet another web-based news site, as in “I reddit online.” Get it? Topics run thegamut from highly cerebral to entirely insipid, and it’s a popularity contest, with sitevisitors voting to determine how prominently each news article is displayed.Registered users can post to this site and share links, and you can conduct “live chat”Q&A sessions. Even President Obama hosted one. Overall, though, this site isn’t likelyto become a focal point for promoting healthcare-related businesses.QuoraAnd here’s yet another new site designed to help people find answers to whatever theywant to know. Here, your search is organized using“boards” where you can pose a question then collectanswers you find elsewhere or – and here’s the good part– write your own.You can become a contributor by writing something new,but you could also repost or repurpose content you’vecreated for other platforms, including articles you’ve written 9
  • 10. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your Effortsfor professional publications, helping build and reinforce your reputation as a trustedresource.Using a variety of social media platforms provides exponentially greater benefits. Thepoint is to post appropriately for each platform then link them to one another, creatingan aggregate value and far larger audience than any one network can provide,regardless of its size. It’s the sharing that makes it “social.”DEVELOP A WINNING PLANYou have to focus your efforts to be successful and efficient. There’s no way even themost avid, social-media-focused business person can do all this without a cadre ofdedicated marketing staffers, but even the smallest practice can create a social mediamarketing plan that’s scaled to fit and makes sense.You don’t have to do it all at once. In fact, spreading yourself too thin would just diluteyour efforts anyway. So start small and work your way up – slowly and systematically.To create your social media marketing plan, you’ll need to follow a familiar series ofsteps – the same ones you use every day in your practice:  Diagnosis. First, review your current situation and clearly define your goals. Exactly what do you hope to accomplish via social networking? Are you looking for better communication with patients? To grow your practice by acquiring new patients? To enhance your professional standing within the medical community or your visibility where you live and work? Maybe all of the above, but you’ll need to prioritize.  Developing an individualized treatment plan. Which social media outlets will most closely meet your needs depends on the unique attributes of your practice and also your goals.  Monitoring and analyzing results. Any medical professional can readily understand the importance of benchmarks and testing to ensure progress is being made as desired. If the prescribed treatment isn’t efficacious, it needs to be modified. Thankfully most social networks offer reasonably detailed tracking. You can get the data almost instantly, allowing you to alter your plans quickly.And here’s where social media management diverges from at least some areas ofhealthcare management: the process never ends.Social networking is an ongoing, continuous marketing activity. If you just take a shot atit and quit, it’s no different than running one print ad in some magazine and expecting itto support your practice forever. Or expecting a patient to take one pill and be cured.Best practices in social media are as important as they are in patient treatment. 10
  • 11. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your EffortsThe rules of engagement and etiquette vary somewhat from platform to platform, butyou’ll need to bear in mind these best practices that apply to all social networks:  Keep personal pages entirely separate from professional ones. Everything you post, link, etc. to or from your professional sites should be relevant to your practice.  Complete your bio in as much detail as possible and make sure people can see it. Twitter gives you just 160 characters, Facebook and LinkedIn give you a more extensive opportunity to tell people about yourself. Do it. Use a photo, incorporate your most appropriate keywords, include your web address (no abbreviations, please) and other contact information.  Customize each site as much as you can. It should look and feel just like your website to provide a consistent impression of you and your practice.  Link each site to your website and also to your other social media accounts. Actively link back and forth among them when you post messages. And advertise your social presence offline, too, by putting the icons on your business cards or other marketing materials, correspondence, email signature, etc. It’s called cross- promotion.  Always – as in every time – respond to any negative reviews or comments, as quickly as possible. Say thanks for the compliments, too, as often as you can. Both are considered essential for establishing the kind of relationships that make social media valuable for marketing your practice.  Have some fun. No matter how serious your work, there’s always a lighter side or random elements of humor that you can share, and your friends and fans will especially appreciate that. It’s one more way to humanize yourself and your practice.  Don’t overdo it, not that you have the time. 11
  • 12. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your EffortsThere’s more, but you get the idea. To successfully use social media for businessmarketing, you have to learn the basics and understand the nuances of using each siteproperly. It can seem as if the minute you get fairly comfortable the site itself changes ortrends in social networking veer in a different direction, so you have to learn all overagain.And to be truly effective, your social networking must integrate seamlessly with yourother online efforts, especially your website. You need carefully crafted landing pages,timely and well-targeted keyword research and mobile optimization to capture attentionand response from the increasing number of folks searching for information via mobiledevices.PARTNERSHIP HAS ITS BENEFITS You wouldn’t attempt to handle your own legal or accounting work. You may be a highly educated and specialized professional, but not in those fields. The same holds true for social media marketing. It’s time-consuming to keep up with the constantly evolving landscape, and even the initial learning curve can be steep. Each of the sites is continuously offering new features, not to mention the entirely new sites that keep popping up. What’s a professional to do? Team up with another pro,one that’s expert in all aspects of inbound marketing including social mediamanagement. Think of it as a consultation.Your marketing pro will work hand-in-hand with you every step of the way, to make sureyour social networking is fully on target. They’ll help you outline a course of action thatfits your interests and time constraints. And they’ll ensure your social networking plansmoothly and strategically augments the rest of your marketing.Your marketing pro will help you evaluate results so you can easily see which factorsare most important and how you’re doing overall, the same way you discuss treatmentprogress with patients. They’ll help you avoid both the common mistakes and the moresubtle missteps that can weaken or nullify your efforts.They can even help you execute the plan. That’s critical, because focus is important,but so is consistency. You have to stay active with social media. Because if you aren’tthere patients and prospects will move on without you. 12
  • 13. Healthcare Social Media Advisor: Where To Focus Your EffortsMore Great Resources:For more great marketing tips be sure to check out the Screwpile Marketing Blog 13