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Social media best practices for doctors - the Practice Growth Podcast

Discover how doctors can use social media to attract new patients and boost their online reputation.

patientpop the practice growth podcast

The Practice Growth Podcast is an educational resource for doctors, dentists, and other healthcare providers about how to market and manage a thriving healthcare practice.

In Episode 7, host Jessica Neyer is joined by Claire Webb, PatientPop Senior Manager of Content Strategy and Operations. The pair discusses the business value of using social media, and how doctors can get started on social media today. Click below to listen.

Find new episodes of The Practice Growth Podcast every other week on the PatientPop blog, or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Jessica Neyer: A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 59 percent of U.S. adult social media users said it would not be hard to stop using social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Twenty-nine percent said it would not be hard at all to give up social media.

Just because people can give up social media doesn’t mean that they will. In fact, social media usage has steadily risen since Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004.

Today, nearly seven out of 10 U.S. adults use at least one social media site — that’s nearly 181.5 million people. Some of these people live in your area. Some might even need the services your practice offers.

You have the ability to drive these patients to your practice when you add social media to your online strategy. Want to know more? Well, then listen up because today’s podcast is all about social media for doctors.

Hello, and welcome to the Practice Growth podcast, the doctors resource for marketing and managing a thriving healthcare practice. I’m Jessica Neyer.

Joining me today to talk about social media best practices is Claire Webb, PatientPop Senior Manager of Content Strategy and Operations. Claire has more than seven years of experience working in social media and content marketing. At PatientPop, she manages a team that produces tens of thousands of social media and blog posts on behalf of healthcare practices each month. Claire, thanks so much for being here.

Claire Webb: Thank you for having me.

Neyer: Let me ask you a question. I know a lot of people use social media for personal reasons, but what are the benefits of using social media for business purposes?

Webb: I think one of the biggest benefits is using social media to increase your brand awareness and visibility online. We know that 90 percent of small businesses say that social media marketing increased exposure for their business, which is how you ultimately get new patients and new customers. Also, 94 percent of patients say that brand reputation is crucial when they’re choosing a practice or a doctor who they’re going to see.

I think it’s also a really helpful tool to help you become more of an industry thought leader within your specialty. You can also express your creativity a little bit, and tell people what your brand is about and what your practice is about, which helps them connect more.

Neyer: I know you work with a lot of providers. What are the top concerns you hear from them about social media, and how do you help ease their concerns?

Webb: I think one of the biggest concerns I hear is just that they don’t have time to create content, or create an editorial calendar, and really just get the posts up, which totally makes sense. They’re running their business, they’re focusing on patients, and creating content and managing social media channels can be a full-time job.

Another thing that they find concerning is that they just don’t know what to write about, or don’t know what content to create. What I say to them is, it’s all about really taking time to set up an editorial calendar and then figuring out how you can consistently post content that’s engaging to your patients and markets your services.

Related: Why healthcare providers aren’t blogging — and why they should be

Neyer: I’m sure a lot of healthcare providers don’t know this: What is an editorial calendar, and what should doctors be creating on their own that they don’t necessarily have time for?

Webb: An editorial calendar is really just a plan, usually month by month, or you could do it in sort of like three-month sprints like we do for our clients. It’s basically just a plan on what you’re going to post and looking at current events or holidays coming up or just anything that’s related to your specialty.

For example, if you’re an urgent care facility or a family practice and you give flu shots, flu season is coming up, you might want to start talking about or sharing content of helpful tips of where to get a flu shot, including at your practice, or things that are going to be relevant and helpful and educational for patients that tie into the services you offer.

Neyer: There are a lot of social media sites out there. I know the ones I use, but that might not be what’s most useful for doctors. How do you determine which social media platforms you should post on, on behalf of a provider?

Webb: I think something that any good strategist will tell you, and it’s a simple answer, but you should choose platforms that you can effectively manage and stay consistent with. It’s better to post on one platform really well than do five off-and-on and poorly.

The second would be to really think about who your audience is, and then go where that demographic is. For example, we know that most Instagram users are under 35, and they’re probably more heavily female than male. If you are an OB/GYN and you’re marketing to new moms or you want to gain more patients in that demographic, then maybe posting on Instagram is something that you should do.

Obviously, I would say Facebook is great for all businesses. I mean, as of 2018 they have over 2 billion active users and two-thirds of adults in the US use this platform. I think any small business should be using Facebook to market themselves and to post content.

Neyer: What about the younger millennial generation, how do you target them?

Webb: Again, I think Facebook and Instagram are two great ways to do that. We know Millennials, I think, they use social platforms almost daily, mostly on their mobile device. Twitter can also be a great way to reach them. Although Twitter is sort of an interesting platform, it’s a great way to share more news-oriented or timely content, and we’ve seen, you know, people do better on Twitter if they’re posting multiple times a day.

As a small business, I think platforms like Facebook and even Google+ — we’ve seen data that indicates posting relevant content regularly, and it can be the same post you’re posting on Facebook — can help support your SEO strategy. I think it comes down to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and then Instagram if you can.

Neyer: What about Snapchat? It’s something I hear a lot about, but I know nothing about it; I don’t use that. I don’t know if doctors should either. What do you think?

Webb: I haven’t seen a lot of doctors using it successfully. I feel like Instagram is really the place that they’re going. Snapchat is really a platform that’s built for spontaneous content creation and live videos. It’s much more interactive that way. I think if you’re feeling creative, and you feel like you want to tackle it, and you find that there’s an audience there, I think that’s great. If a doctor came to me and wanted to Snapchat, I would probably say Instagram instead.

Instagram 101: Practice marketing tips for healthcare providers

Jessica: Right. Makes sense. Let’s say a doctor has chosen their social media platform. Let’s say it’s Instagram and Facebook. What’s the first thing they should do to get started, and what are some of the best practices?

Webb: I think one of the first things they should do is really take time to set up their profiles. I know it sounds simple, but taking the time to get a professional image; if you haven’t had a headshot taken, maybe get one of those.

Take time to fill out the business description information. This is something we do for every customer that we manage social media content for. We want to make sure their profiles are set up correctly, because there is evidence that Google actually will crawl social media profiles for information, so you want those citations to be accurate.

The second thing, again, would be to create an editorial calendar. Really just think about, maybe, what are the five things that you want to market or be known for, either in your geographical area or within your specialty? It doesn’t have to be a long list of things; you can really just distill it down to, “I want to be known for these few things.”

I would also say start creating posts with compelling visuals. The more original images, or video, or even stock images you can get to pair with your post would be great.

Another thing I tell practices is follow the 80/20 rule. This is pretty commonplace in content marketing. That means, you want 80 percent of your content to really be focused on educational informational or entertaining content for your audience, and then 20 percent should be really focused on marketing you and talking about your services. It might sound counterintuitive because you’re trying to market yourself, but you really want to make sure that you’re creating content for your customer to draw them in.

Neyer: Great. Let’s say a doctor has set up their social media platforms. They got everything under control. I know the biggest thing with social media is how many followers you have at the end of the day. How does a doctor grow their social media following?

Webb: There are two main ways to grow your social media following. I know people are really focused on just the number of followers, but another thing to focus on is just the number of engaged followers that you have. It’s better to have more engaged followers than just followers in general.

There’s two ways to do this. One would be with an organic strategy, so that would maybe consist of going on say Facebook and looking for local influencers, other people you do business with, or maybe your local chamber of commerce. You can connect with them, follow them, and like their content and interact with stuff that they’re posting.

Another great way is when you’re posting content mention and engage your patients. Say you’re posting a procedure or a testimonial video to tag the patient who is in that video — obviously with their permission. The more you can mention and engage your patients, the more followers you can expect.

The second way to do this, which is a really effective way and I think it’s for most people, would be to look into boosting and ads. Facebook is a really great platform for this, and with these tools, you can quickly get your content in front of more customers and actually target a specific demographic. That’s a really good way to get your content in front of more people and garner followers that way.

Check out: Everything healthcare practices need to know about Facebook advertising

Neyer: Great. I know, for example, Google’s changing their algorithms constantly, which affects the way your website shows up on different search engines, but I know Facebook is frequently changing their algorithms, too, and so are other social media sites. What’s the best way for doctors to stay atop of these changes, and how can they adapt their social media strategies to make sure their followers see the content they’re actually saying?

Webb: It’s a great question. Obviously, this can be a full-time job as well, but I think some of the biggest trends we’re seeing is just the activity increasing on mobile devices. Making your content short and snackable and easy for people to read on a mobile device is great. There’s also always going to be more of an emphasis on visual content. Facebook is optimizing even more for videos with their latest algorithm change.

I think some of the best ways if you really want to optimize your strategy is to follow industry publications and reputable sites that do this. I think hiring either an agency, or a content manager, or a service to help you manage this is going to be the best way to go for most practices, because then you can rely on someone who’s keeping track of these things and can help optimize your strategy over time.

Neyer: That makes sense. The more you talk I’m realizing this really is a science, and it’s not something a doctor can just tweet something in their free time and be good to go. You have to have a strategy.

Webb: Yes. The biggest thing doctors are worried about is just spending time on this and then not seeing the results, which I think is definitely a concern, because every time you’re putting effort into something like this you want to see some results out of it.

Neyer: Speaking of results, the best results come when you really engage your followers. I know it’s a little different in healthcare because you’re engaging potential patients and not everyone in general. Do you have any best practices for doctors on how to engage those people?

Webb: Yes. I think some of the things you can do is ask questions to your followers or your patients. And they don’t need to be really personal questions, but just maybe like, “Hey, have you gotten your flu shot, or are you planning to, or how do you feel about this medical trend?” Definitely asking them questions to solicit responses, and then responding to those comments or queries is a great way to engage people and just start a conversation with them. Social media is about having a conversation with your followers or potential customers.

I’d also say to play up the local angle in your content, as well. We’re constantly seeing that more local content is relevant to consumers in your area. It will be beneficial, because it’s something valuable they can use that’s applicable to their everyday life, which is great.

Neyer: This is great information. Let’s say a doctor is responding and engaging with their patients. Is there anything specifically they should not say to the patients, and what are those things in general?

Webb: I think we always want to remain HIPAA compliant: Any sensitive patient information you shouldn’t be posting on your social media channels. Obviously, if a patient consents to doing a testimonial about your service, that’s great, just get their permission ahead of time.

I’d also caution doctors to be aware of being preachy. You really just want to be more of a trusted friend and an advisor, not someone who’s dictating to patients they need to do this or don’t do that. The more offering them helpful suggestions that they can then make more informed decisions in their daily life.

Neyer: That’s a good point. This clearly takes a lot of time and energy which doctors clearly do not have because they are extremely busy people. How can they get the same benefits of social media as everyone else without taking time away from their patients or overburdening their staff?

Webb: As mentioned before, I think a great way to approach social media marketing is to hire someone to help you do it. If you’re a PatientPop customer, we offer a social media solution that’s specifically designed for doctors of all specialties, and we deliver content directly to the social media channels that matter most: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. We offer 20 posts a month, so it’s every week day almost, with high quality images and appropriate hashtags.

This is what we do for a living. We’re constantly refining our strategy, following trends and trying to make the content more tailored to not only a specific provider’s business but also that specialty. I think hiring some help is a great way to do this.

Neyer: That seems significantly easier. Claire, thank you so much for being here.

Webb: Thank you.

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