Some 72 percent of U.S. adults use social media, according to the Pew Research Center. Given these numbers, it’s almost inevitable that the majority of your target patient base has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or another popular social media site.
If you’re having trouble generating a sizable following for your healthcare social media profiles, try these tips to increase your reach.
1. Create a presence on the most popular networks
Different people prefer different social media platforms. For example, 69 percent of people use Facebook, 37 percent are on Instagram, and 22 percent have a Twitter account, according to Pew Research Center.
Diversifying your healthcare social media presence is important because your patients don’t all use the same networks. Focusing exclusively on one platform will cause you to miss out.
2. Complete your profile
Optimizing your profile is crucial for social media marketing success because it helps patients find you. Choose a recognizable username — i.e. Dr. Mike or Dr. Pimple Popper — write a biography that shares a bit about you personally and professionally, and include a link to your practice website. This will provide a thorough introduction to new patients and ensure existing ones know the account is yours.
3. Set goals for your healthcare social media
Decide exactly what you want from your social media presence. This will allow you to create goals that help your practice move forward.
For example, you might strive to get a certain number of referrals from social media each month or garner a specific amount of shares. This will help ensure you’re not aimlessly posting content.
4. Follow the right people
Part of gaining a following is showing an interest in others. Extend your reach by following users relevant to your practice — i.e. medical associations, your peers, and people in your local area. Many people will return the follow but, at the very least, they’ll likely check out your profile to learn more about their new follower.
5. Decide who’s in charge
Managing multiple social media accounts is a big job. Busy healthcare providers don’t have time to be effective in this role, so they should delegate it to an employee or outside agency.
Having someone else oversee your social media accounts ensures they’ll receive the attention they deserve. Provide your employee with the time and resources to really become a resident social media expert.
6. Join the conversation
In life and social media, no one wants to be around someone whose favorite topic of conversation is themselves. Avoid falling into this trap by showing an interest in others. Engage with other users by liking, commenting, and sharing their posts. Your attention will flatter them, and they’ll be more than happy to return the favor.
7. Know when to automate
All social media posts do not have to be sent in real time. Automating pre-approved content saves time and makes it easy to post outside office hours, without hindering anyone’s work-life balance.
Do note, one thing that should never be automated is your replies to comments left on your post. This always requires a human touch — even if it means a reply isn’t instantaneous.
8. Respond to comments quickly
Most people (76 percent) expect businesses to reply to comments on social media, according to Clutch. When you respond also matters, as 83 percent want to hear from you within a day or less.
Fast replies make patients feel valued. Make sure your profiles are monitored frequently, so no engagement opportunities slip through the cracks.
9. Focus on quality content
If you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t join the conversation. Posting content just for the sake of doing so won’t extend your reach.
Curate content designed to engage and inspire your target patient base. Putting thought into the process will take more time, but it will generate more attention.
10. Post often
There’s no hard and fast rule about how frequently you should post for social media in healthcare. However, users’ feeds are flooded with posts from their followers, so you want to share content often to ensure it doesn’t get buried.
Try to aim for one post per weekday on every platform, except Twitter. Sharing more is better on Twitter, according to HubSpot, so tweet several times per day if possible.
11. Promote your pages
Properly maintaining a social media account is hard work, so make sure people know you’re out there. Include icons linking to your social sites on your website and in your email signature. Alternately, you can feature feeds to your social media accounts on your homepage. If you make it easy for them, patients are more likely to follow you.
12. Use hashtags
There are two different types of hashtags and they’re equally useful. First, patients can click on all unique hashtags you’ve created — i.e. #AdviceFromDrSmith — and quickly locate all content you’ve posted containing it.
Second, you can capitalize on trending healthcare social media hashtags by including them on relevant posts. Anyone following the hashtag will see your posts, putting you on their radar.
13. Take advantage of sponsored content
Your patients are on social media, so using these platforms to get in front of them makes sense. Presented in the form of an engaging article or video, social media sponsored content is a type of native advertising.
It’s not actually an ad, but posts are marked “sponsored” or “promoted” for full transparency. This designation allows you to highlight a specific product or service and include a call to action, encouraging patients to reach out.
14. Analyze your stats
All types of content won’t interest your patient base. Determine what appeals most — and least — by carefully examining the statistics attached to each post.
Most platforms have insights tools and there are also plenty of other free and paid options. As an added bonus, you might determine optimal days and times to post, so you can reach your patient base when they’re most active.
15. Cross-promote with relevant brands
Get your name out there by teaming up with brands you trust. For example, if you’re a dermatologist, you might take over the Twitter account of a company that makes a product you recommend to patients and answer questions from their followers for an hour. This allows you to highlight your expertise while tapping into an entirely new — and potentially much larger — follower base.
Extending your healthcare social media reach can bring more patients into your practice. Accomplishing this isn’t easy, but it’s well worth your time and money.
For more information on the topic of social media in healthcare, check out “The healthcare provider’s guide to getting started with social media.”