According to Pew Research Center, just 8% of U.S. adults used social media at the end of 2005. By the end of 2016, that number grew to 69%.
As social media usage increased, so too did people’s comfort asking questions of businesses like healthcare practices on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. In the year 2018, social media savvy healthcare providers will not just use the feed to answer questions and engage with patients; they’ll use Q&A and messaging tools, too.
In this blog, we explain how two popular social media question and answer tools work and how healthcare providers can use them to market their practices.
Google recently rolled out Questions & Answers for local businesses. Questions & Answers can be seen in a business’ local listing, which is the box that is populated with information like business name, address, phone number, and website URL from your Google My Business profile.
The purpose of the Questions & Answers is to allow any person to ask questions they have about a local business — and for people with knowledge of the business to answer. For example, a person could ask whether a particular Italian restaurant offers spicy dishes on its menu. Someone with knowledge of the menu — perhaps a patron but ideally the restaurant owner — could provide a detailed answer. “Yes, we offer several spicy meat and vegetarian entrees!”
Healthcare practices can expect questions about types of services offered and insurance accepted, parking availability, wait times, and more.
Questions & Answers is a collaborative, crowdsourcing effort; however, Google prefers answers to be written by business owners. “Google wants to be the platform business owners use to communicate with customers, so it encourages them to respond to questions,” says Joel Headley, PatientPop director of local SEO and marketing, who formerly worked for Google.
Healthcare providers have a few incentives for replying to questions through their Google My Business profiles. First, they ensure the answer is accurate. Second, they receive an “owner” designation, which might boost reader confidence. And third, each answer is an opportunity to market your practice to prospective patients. Plug useful information about your services — or offer special discounts — right into your answers.
For several years, healthcare providers have prioritized use of social media site Facebook — and for good reason. According to Pew Research Center, 76% of Facebook users are on the site every day, compared to 51% for Instagram and 42% for Twitter.
A good Facebook strategy for healthcare providers could be to publish at least once per day on four or five days each week. Posts would include relevant hashtags and link to quality content, whether a blog or service page on your website or a third-party article.
These posts would encourage users to click off of Facebook, but most people do not want to navigate away from the webpage they are viewing, says Kyle Johnson, PatientPop director of marketing technology. “Instead of trying to direct a person away from Facebook and onto your website, drive communication through that medium,” he says.
That’s where Messenger comes in. When Facebook users peruse your practice’s business page, they have the option to chat with you via Messenger. You can access Messenger through Facebook on desktop or download the Messenger app to use on your phone.
Some current or prospective patients might have already communicated with your healthcare practice via Messenger. For example, a patient who forgot to ask a question before or after a service might ask you via Messenger rather than phone.
Potential patients might ask about insurance, services, and parking. Because messages are private, they might also ask questions about symptoms they are experiencing or even request an appointment. Although you should not diagnose or treat a person through Messenger, you can encourage them to book an appointment.
If your patients are not yet communicating with you via Messenger, you can encourage them to do so. Once that communication line is open, Johnson says healthcare providers can “use Messenger like advertising” by reminding patients to schedule appointments, sharing information about new services, and offering promotional discounts.
Utilizing social question and answer tools can increase engagement and satisfaction among current patients and could spur more appointment bookings from prospective patients. Healthcare providers who carve out some time to use Google Questions & Answers and Facebook Messenger will reap the benefits as soon as this year.
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