Healthcare social media 101: Getting started with social media marketing for practices

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The majority of Americans are social media users,1 making social media a critical marketing tool for any business owner. Although it has been around for decades, social media has evolved in recent years into a significant influencer during the consumer decision-making and purchase journey. When considering purchasing options, younger generations — particularly individuals between the ages of 16 to 242 — use social media more than search engines to research brands. That’s just one reason 88 percent of marketers agree their social media strategy positively affects their bottom line.3

Although most U.S. consumers are already on social media, utilization continues to climb each year. Over the past year, there has been 10 percent growth in the number of social media users.4 Today, the average user spends nearly two-and-a-half hours a day on social networks and messaging,5 giving medical and dental practices the opportunity to connect with prospective patients where they already spend time each day.

Healthcare practices can use social media to both inform current patients and attract new ones, reinforce their brand, boost web presence, build credibility, and enhance their online reputation. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and even TikTok are generating valuable returns for businesses across the globe — with no signs of slowing down. More than half of marketers plan to increase their investments in Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok in 2022.6

Social media has become a critical component of healthcare marketing because it gives practices the opportunity to drive readers directly to their website, where they can learn more and book an appointment. Eighty-seven percent of consumers say they are likely to visit a brand’s website or app if they follow that brand on social media.7 For healthcare practices, more website traffic means more new patients and a solid growth trajectory.

In this whitepaper, we’ll explain the powerful role social media can play in your healthcare marketing, how to get started, content types to consider, tips for growing your audience, and how to measure success.

How healthcare practices can get started with social media marketing

Why healthcare social media marketing?

To successfully market your practice, you must meet your audience where they are. Today, they’re on social media. Although young people were the first to integrate social media into their everyday lives, people of all ages now regularly use sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

Approximately 70 percent of U.S. adults are Facebook users — that translates to an estimated 226 million U.S. adults you could potentially reach with social media marketing.8

As an example of a large target audience, an estimated 71 percent of young adults (ages 18-29) use Instagram.9

Healthcare social media lets you build meaningful relationships with your patients by maintaining a connection online. Social media channels offer a powerful platform for healthcare providers to share their expertise and thought leadership. 

Just creating your social media profiles is part of a healthcare marketing strategy because each profile further expands your online presence and increases your chances of being found by patients. Seventy-five percent of people have looked online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care — and more than half do so with regularity.10 Beyond that initial search, social media and content marketing work hand in hand to generate awareness for healthcare practices among new patients, and keep your practice top of mind for existing patients. 

Your social media profiles and posts give prospective patients a glimpse of the patient experience at your practice. By posting photos of your office, providers, and staff, and featuring positive patient reviews and testimonials, you build a familiarity with potential patients before they even contact you.

Similar to an online directory, social sites like Facebook invite practices to offer important business information like your address, phone number, and hours — making it convenient for patients to connect with you.

Getting started on social media

The first step to including social media in your healthcare marketing is determining your strategy. A well-defined social media marketing strategy helps you focus your approach so you don’t waste time and energy.

Ask yourself: “What are my specific social media goals?” They might include:

  • Broadening and expanding your web presence 
  • Driving more prospective patients to your website
  • Building a relationship with current patients
  • Establishing yourself as a thought leader

You also want to ask “Who is my target audience?” Both questions will help inform your decisions on which social media platforms are best and the type of content to share. Keep in mind that social media should complement the rest of your marketing strategy and should not be your only method for attracting and engaging with patients.

If you have not already, set up accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. These are the three most popular social media channels among social media marketers, in order. They are also the top three social platforms that consumers want brands to use more of.11

Other important channels to consider: Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok, particularly if you have a physician who is a thought leader (Twitter and LinkedIn) or have patients with compelling success stories (TikTok).

Setting up your accounts


Platform overview 

Nearly 70 percent of adults in the U.S. use Facebook.12 As the number one social media network, Facebook helps more than 200 million small business users connect with current and prospective customers.13 It’s also best known as a community-oriented platform that connects friends and family members from across the globe.

The Facebook audience skews slightly more male (57 percent vs. 43 percent female).14 Fifty-eight percent of the Facebook audience is ages 25-54, with the largest group being 25-34 (26.4 percent).15 Facebook is a great platform for virtually any medical specialty, but particularly for those with broad appeal, such as family and internal medicine, urgent care, and OB/GYN.

When you’re selecting your Facebook name, keep in mind that the name will also be in the URL.

Getting started

Log in to your existing Facebook personal account, and then create a page for your business. Because you’re creating this page for either yourself (as a provider) or your practice, select the option to create a page for your business or brand. You will be prompted to choose a page name and a business category. For the category, we recommend being as specific as possible, choosing your specialty (e.g. dermatologist, podiatrist) rather than identifying yourself as a doctor or dentist.

When selecting your Facebook name, keep in mind that the name will also be in your URL (web address), which you can edit later if necessary. Your URL is one component of your Facebook presence that will promote your practice. Keep your Facebook page name simple, relevant, and memorable — the name of your practice is often the best choice.

Fill the ‘About’ section of your Facebook page with as much detail as possible. Include basics like your location, phone number, email and mailing addresses, hours of operation, and the services your practice provides. Also include links to your website so visitors can easily navigate there to learn more about you.

Next is your Facebook profile picture, which people will see in their Facebook feeds. It represents your practice visually, and plays a vital role in marketing your business. If you have a logo, the profile picture is a great place to use it. If your Facebook page is for you as a solo practitioner, consider using a professional headshot. 


Platform overview 

Instagram is designed for sharing photos and videos, and is incredibly popular among young adults. More than 60 percent of Instagram users are under the age of 35.16 More than half (52 percent) of Hispanic Americans, 49 percent of Black Americans, and 35 percent of White Americans report using the platform.17 Because of its focus on visuals, Instagram is an ideal platform for plastic surgeons, weight loss specialists, dermatologists, and aesthetics practices.

Like your Facebook Page name, your Instagram username should easily identify you and be simple, relevant, and memorable.

Getting started

Your first step on Instagram is choosing a username. This simple requirement inspires some research; find a social media handle that is available across all the social media channels you intend to use. If you’ve already created your Facebook page, see if you can secure a username that matches your Facebook page URL. People expect your social media handles to be consistent and, with a single handle, you’ll only need to mention one username when promoting your accounts.

As with your Facebook Page name, your Instagram username should be simple, relevant, and memorable, and easily identify you. Choose your name or the name of your practice (e.g. @drjohnsmith or @drsmithpediatrics).

Then, link your Instagram account to your Facebook business page, and switch your Instagram account to a business account. This allows you to place prominent calls to action (CTAs) on your Instagram page, add business information such as location and hours, and see more advanced analytics on each post’s reach and engagements. Some business information included on your Facebook page will autofill onto your Instagram account.


Platform overview 

As the second-largest search engine in the world (behind Google, owners of YouTube since 2006), YouTube is America’s go-to video-sharing platform. Whether it’s for entertainment, research, or learning, YouTube is used by roughly 81 percent of all Americans18 and 91 percent of Americans ages 30-49. The average American spends 24 minutes a day on YouTube,19 giving healthcare practices and innovative providers a great place to connect with current and prospective patients, using video as the hook. 

Getting started 

To set up a YouTube account, you’ll first need a Google account. Even if you already have one for personal use, it’s probably best to establish a new Google login for your business. This prevents any worries about keeping your personal Gmail account private and secure. 

From there, visit the YouTube homepage and create your business channel. When prompted to choose a name for your channel, it’s best to stick with your practice name. If you’re a single-provider practice and well-known as a thought leader, we recommend using your name (e.g. John Smith, MD); otherwise, it’s best to choose your practice name (e.g. Smith Pediatrics). 

Next, customize your channel by filling out details about your practice. (This strategy of adding specific details is applicable for any online profile, most notably your Google business profile.) With YouTube, you can add imagery and icons, and any details that ensure the channel reflects your brand and helps prospective patients get to know your organization. Be sure to include a logo (if you have one) and a branded banner. In the channel description (the ‘About’ section), highlight specific information about your practice and the services you offer. 

YouTube also allows you to add up to five links and customizable hyperlink text (up to 30 characters) to your channel description. Use this opportunity to add a link to your website, your online scheduling system, your email address, and any other social media accounts. This can help prospective patients connect with you directly from YouTube, driving more potential new patients to your practice.  


Platform overview 

As a relatively new kid on the social media block, TikTok launched in 2016 as a platform for short videos, and has taken the internet by storm ever since. Thirty-six percent of Americans use TikTok;20 61 percent of U.S. users are female.21

Although the TikTok audience skews young (62 percent of users are ages 10-29), the video platform is gaining traction among older Americans.22  Businesses are adopting the platform to show their fun, whimsical side, taking an opportunity to relate more to an audience and appear less “corporate.” 

Getting started 

After downloading the TikTok mobile app, tap on the ‘Me’ icon and register/sign up. You’ll then need to switch your account to a business account, which can be done under the ‘Manage account’ settings. Then, choose a category that best fits your business, and add a brief bio. Now, you’re ready for TikTok!


Platform overview

With a focus on the written word, Twitter attracts approximately 20 percent of all U.S. adults. The platform is a popular source for news and information, and is often used to share thought leadership and opinions. As such, its audience is highly educated with more than 40 percent of U.S. users having a college degree.23 Notably, 70 percent of Twitter users are male,24 making it a great platform for medical specialties such as urology. 

Getting started

As with other social media platforms, you’ll need to come up with a username (handle) for your Twitter account. Ideally, it should match your Instagram handle. If you cannot get an exact match, get as close as possible. If you already have a Twitter account and want to modify your username, the service (and Instagram) allow you to change your username at any time.

Writing “About” descriptions/biographies

Include your bio across all your social media channels. Your bio tells people who you are and what you do, and perhaps why you’re a great physician. If the social media account is for your practice, describe your brand, services, and procedures.

Although you don’t want to be too salesy, you do want to let people know what makes you a great doctor and how to contact you.

Keep your descriptions professional yet relatable by highlighting what makes your practice unique. Include light-hearted personal tidbits about your providers, if and when appropriate. Facebook and YouTube allow for higher character limits than Twitter and Instagram, but it’s important to be clear and concise in all your descriptions, regardless of length.

Choosing profile and cover photos

Your profile picture is the most prominent expression of your brand on social media. It identifies who you are, and is the one aspect of your social media presence people will see most as they scroll through their feeds.

If your business profiles represent you as a healthcare provider, consider using a professional headshot. The photo should be high quality and zoomed-in enough for followers to identify your face. If your accounts are for your practice, use your practice logo as your profile picture. Whatever your choice of profile image, make it consistent across all your accounts.

Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter also allow a cover photo, which is a larger banner at the top of your profile. Facebook even permits video for this section. This gives you yet another opportunity to showcase your practice to prospective patients, perhaps with a staff photo, lifestyle-type image, or other visual that complements your brand.

Most brand pages include cover photos on their accounts, so leaving this blank makes your profile look incomplete. The suggested dimensions for the cover photo vary per social media website, but all channels give you a preview of how your image will look before you publish it. As a best practice, use a large, high-quality landscape image. When you preview your selection, make sure to check both desktop and mobile devices.

Instagram offers a small icon to represent your brand. In most cases, take a graphical element from your logo to fit the small, circular space Instagram provides. 

Sharing content on social media

Types of content to share

Consumers follow brands on social media for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to learn about new products or services, be entertained, or stay up-to-date on company news.  

Patients follow you to learn about your offerings, receive medical insights, and know if you have a change in hours or staff, or even add a new location. Above all, people want content that’s primarily visual and always engaging. 

Which types of social posts are most valuable? Marketers feel video and images work best (favored by 54 percent and 53 percent of marketers, respectively), followed by text-based posts (30 percent), stories (26 percent), and live video (25 percent).25 

No matter what you share, follow the 80/20 rule: Fill 80 percent of your posts with informative, non-promotional content, and the other 20 percent on your brand, with a call-to-action (CTA) related to your practice.26

A few content ideas to consider include:

  • Blog posts: Publish blog posts on your website, and then share links to those posts on your social media profiles. If you’re wondering what topics to cover on your blog, you can answer questions patients frequently ask, discuss your treatments and services, or talk about timely health-related topics.
  • Patient testimonials or reviews: The majority of today’s consumers look online for the digital version of word-of-mouth recommendations. In fact, 74 percent of patients find online reviews very or extremely important when choosing a healthcare provider.27 Sharing positive online reviews or powerful video testimonials via social media can drive preference for your practice and influence patient decisions, supporting your growth strategy.  
  • Photos and videos: Showcase your staff and office space in photos and videos. Also consider showing off your patients, with their written permission.
  • Media articles: Follow news related to your specialty, and share any compelling stories, research, or information — this content tactic helps highlight your thought leadership in the field. If you are quoted in a media article, share that, too. Within the post, add more context to the article for your followers.

Finally, because Instagram is all about images, it offers a particular opportunity to showcase beautiful visuals and get creative in marketing your practice. Try using Instagram Stories to share behind-the-scenes images of events you attend, or feature new products and services.

Length of posts

The only social media channel with strict text limits is Twitter. Historically known for its 140-character limit, Twitter doubled that to 280 characters in 2018, allowing tweets of a couple of sentences. On Facebook and Instagram, you can worry less about your posts getting cut off, but…

...industry research suggests that shorter posts receive more engagement than longer ones.

Many marketing websites post guides to optimal character lengths — just conduct a Google search for [social media character limits] — but adhering to a specific length is not as important as creating posts that invite engagement. Some tips:

  • Keep it visual: It bears repeating that social media posts with a visual element perform better than text-based posts, so get creative. If you’re sharing details about a new office location, add a photo or a “coming soon” graphic. You can complement virtually anything you post with an image, so get familiar with tools that make it easy to quickly create graphics (e.g. Canva, Crello) 
  • Get personal: People love stories, so tell yours. When sharing a link or video, explain what the content means to you and why you’re posting it.
  • Use a compelling quote: Let’s say you publish a blog post in which a woman shares her experience with a recent surgical procedure and how it changed her life. Pull a gripping quote and feature it in a social media post.

Another Instagram detail: Because it is a photo-sharing app, your image caption is primarily there to add context. Keep it short so it doesn’t take focus away from the photo.

Use of hashtags

Hashtags are used on all social media platforms. A hashtag is a descriptive, clickable keyword that “tags” what your message is about. For example, if you click on the hashtag #beach, you’ll see recent posts that feature that hashtag — likely accompanying ocean views from across the world.

Hashtags are most popular on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, and can help people find your posts. As a relevant example, you can use hashtags on Twitter to engage with your peers in the medical community: #PatientExperience, #Nurses, and #physicians are just a few hashtags often used by thought leaders in the health space.

You can also create your own hashtags as a part of your brand image. If you have your own logo or brand name, make it a hashtag by simply putting the pound symbol (#) in front of it. Tags like #drjoeshealthtips or #dentistdilemmas can become topics your followers look forward to seeing.

When there’s a big news item, look for and use the hashtag associated with it. Then, when you share the news story and add your thoughts, you’ll introduce a new audience to your expert commentary.

How many hashtags should you use in a single post? On Twitter, results are best if you limit your tweets to one or two hashtags.28 On Instagram, it can be tempting to post north of 20 hashtags to increase the visibility of your post, but experts recommend sticking to a range of five to 11 hashtags.29 

Scheduling content in advance

You can streamline your approach to social media by scheduling your posts in advance. Some social media management platforms allow you to schedule multiple social sites at one time, and  track any messages you may receive. Some of the most popular include Hootsuite, Later, and Buffer.

Growing your social media

If you’re just getting started with your social media accounts, building your audience is an important early step to expand your reach. The key to growing your follower counts is posting valuable content on a consistent basis. If you share engaging content on a regular schedule, you will organically increase your follower count. 

You can also build your social media audience by following other like-minded businesses or thought leaders, and engaging directly with them and your followers (respond to questions, comments, and even complaints). 

Using sponsored content

Social media sponsored content is paid advertising that looks like organic posts. It appears directly in the feed, and users can react or comment just like they can with “regular” organic posts.

Sponsored content is becoming a necessary part of social media marketing, and has proven a highly effective tool for marketers. In fact, social media spending rose by 13.1 percent in 2021 and is forecast to rise an additional 10 percent in 2022.30 Facebook and YouTube are among the most popular platforms for advertising due to their high-earning users.31

Social media spending rose by 13.1 percent in 2021 and is forecast to rise an additional 10 percent in 2022.30

With sponsored content, you can reach people beyond those following your accounts. Similar to other types of advertising, you can target specific audiences by shared interests or location. You can even build “look-alike” audiences using a patient database, helping you target people with the precise demographics of your current patient base. This increases the likelihood your content will be seen by prospective patients, and that they’ll follow your page to learn more about you or your practice.

Sponsored content also helps spread brand awareness. With your name out in the market more frequently, patients not yet ready to visit your practice are more likely to remember you when they do need care.

Engaging with others

One common element between online and real-life relationships is that they are both two-way streets. To get the most from your social media accounts and gather more followers, you must engage with others — people in your area, providers in your professional network, and medical organizations and associations. 

After all, being “social” is the name of the game. If you’re engaging with others through liking, commenting, and sharing, you’ll see that in return for your own valuable content.

Be mindful of HIPAA

All information that healthcare providers share online must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) — but don’t let this scare you away from growing your online presence. Simply follow guidelines for protected health information (PHI) before posting to social media.

As a reminder, PHI is anything that can be used to identify a patient. This includes patient name, age, gender, occupation, date and time of their appointment, geographical information (such as city and county), important numbers, and vehicle information, among others.

How about using patient photos on social media? This absolutely demands explicit written consent from the patients. Even if a photo shows just the back of a patient’s head, or their leg or arm, you may not share it without their signed approval.

You may not share photos of a patient without their explicit written consent, even if it's just the back of their heads or a leg or arm.

Also, remember never to give specific or personal clinical advice on any of your accounts. Finally, when patients are followers, don’t address them as such, even if they identify themselves first.

If you choose to give social media responsibility to your front office staff, be sure to educate them on HIPAA and establish a set of rules to maintain your practice brand. If you take a picture or video in your office that’s intended for social media use, make sure there are no documents with PHI visible in the background.

Monitoring social media success

When you invest time, energy, and money into a social media marketing strategy, it’s important to measure the results of your efforts. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all give users insights into how their posts are performing. If you use a social media management system such as Hootsuite, you can view analytics for all your accounts in one platform. 

We recommend tracking the following metrics:

  • New followers: Take note of your follower count. Is your audience growing? If so, keep track of how many new followers join you every month. This will give you an idea of each account’s growth rate. That way, you’ll know when you have a particularly great or slow month.
  • Impressions or post reach: Impressions track the number of people who have seen your posts. This is an important metric because effective healthcare marketing requires more eyes on your content and more people to be aware of who you are.
  • Engagement: An engagement is an action someone takes within your content. This includes liking, commenting, and sharing, but can also include swiping through a photo slideshow or watching a video you’ve posted. An engagement shows that someone did not just scroll past your post; it’s an indication that people are interested in your content. Monitor your engagement so you’ll know whether your content is resonating with your audience.

Healthcare social media is an essential part of an acquisition strategy and building your online reputation as an expert in your field. You now have the information to help jumpstart your social media efforts: establishing your accounts, starting to post regularly, and building authentic relationships online.

Remember, social media is just one part of a comprehensive approach to healthcare marketing. To learn more about other components of a successful healthcare marketing strategy, visit

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2. Social Trends 2022, Hootsuite
3. The Sprout Social Index, Edition XVII: Accelerate
4. The Global State of Digital 2022 Top Takeaways, Hootsuite
5. Digital 2022 Global Overview Report, We Are Social/Hootsuite
6. 80+ Essential Social Media Marketing Statistics for 2022,  HubSpot
7. Sprout Social Index, Edition XV: Empower and Elevate
8. Facebook usage in the United States – Statistics & Facts, Statista
9. U.S. Instagram reach by age group, Statista
10. PatientPop 3rd annual patient perspective survey
11. The Sprout Social Index, Edition XVII: Accelerate
12. 10 facts about Americans and Facebook, Pew Research Center
13. Facebook fourth quarter 2020 results conference call
14. Global Facebook user distribution by gender 2022, Statista
15. U.S. Facebook users by age 2021, Statista
16. Instagram by the Numbers: Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts, Omnicore
17. Social Media Use in 2021, Pew Research Center
18. Social Media Use in 2021, Pew Research Center
19. How Much Time Does The Average Person Spend On Social Media?,
20. The Sprout Social Index, Edition XVII: Accelerate
21. TikTok by the Numbers: Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts, Omnicore
22. TikTok: How Fast Is It Growing in the US, And Who’s Using It?, MarketingCharts
23. Twitter Statistics 2022: How Many People Use Twitter?, Quantum Marketer
24. Twitter Statistics 2022: How Many People Use Twitter?, Quantum Marketer
25. The Sprout Social Index, Edition XVII: Accelerate
26. What is the Social Media 80/20 Rule?, Eden PR
27. PatientPop 3rd annual patient perspective survey
28. How to Use Hashtags in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, SurveySparrow
29. How to Use Hashtags in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, SurveySparrow
30. “The strongest rise in over a decade”: Global ad spend to reach $665 bn this year, WNIP
31. Social Media Marketing for Small Business in 2022, Podium

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Healthcare social media 101: Getting started with social media marketing for practices