by Christa Nuber
SEO. Tweets. Hashtags. SEM. These are digital marketing buzzwords you have heard at some point as you walked by a marketing consultant in an exhibit hall. While all these marketing buzzwords represent elements that are important to a marketing plan, what you should really be listening for is the pitch for a “complete web presence.” In this digital age, you need to promote and position your practice online, along as many channels as possible, in order to help you build your web real estate empire and grow your practice. To do this, you need to have a web presence strategy.
As a healthcare provider, your area of expertise is most likely not in marketing. So, how do you come up with a strategy for building a web presence? Work with a marketer who understands the web and can help you build your web presence the way you would win a game of Monopoly—by strategically building up a real estate empire and developing it in a way that will dominate the marketplace.
When approaching your web presence like a game of Monopoly, the strategy is to build a presence so strong that your practice monopolizes the web’s real estate— search results, social media, directories, lifestyle or review websites, and blogs. Your practice and your doctors will be popping up everywhere! Much like the game of Monopoly, this requires developing a plan to accumulate your real estate over a period of time. In other words, you can work on building out your web presence over time as you grow your practice. Ultimately, the more spaces you inhabit on the Internet, the more likely it will be for searchers to find you. Now that you’re ready to pass “Go,” let’s go through the process step-by-step and play a little game of “Web Presence Monopoly.”
Building a Web Presence: Where to Start
To build a web presence, you start with your practice’s website, which you establish as the hub of your online marketing efforts. Remember when you played the game of Monopoly and your first step after passing “Go” was to buy up all the properties in a single color group? That was your strategy for getting a monopoly, and that first monopoly was the center of your initial activity and growth. Once you had that first monopoly, you were free to develop it in order to get the most out of it from other players who landed on those properties, and you were wellpositioned to buy other properties on the board in order to extend your reach in the game. The greater presence you had around the game board, the more chances you had to garner returns and build your real estate empire.
It’s the same way with building your web presence online as a healthcare provider. Think of the Internet as your game board. Your starting point is to establish your practice website in the online healthcare marketplace, then to develop it in a way that offers readers helpful information and brings your practice the greatest returns. Once your website is optimized to continue engaging new traffic and converting visitors into new patients, your next step is to extend your online reach beyond your website. Expand your web presence into other key areas on the Internet so readers and new patient leads can find you via as many avenues as possible.
Social Media Giants Facebook and Twitter Can Deliver Web Dividends
As a healthcare provider, you may feel that you don’t need to be concerned about establishing a presence on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, because these networks seem more appropriate for social commentary and popculture dialogs. Not necessarily. Social media is hot, hot, hot—used and seen by millions. In this digital age, the way people consume information and make decisions is heavily weighted on social feedback or peer-to-peer recommendations online. These two social media giants – like Monopoly’s two prime properties, Boardwalk and Park Place – have the potential to deliver huge dividends. When handled correctly, Facebook and Twitter will drive more traffic to your site, and more new patients to your door.
And, much like a chance landing on the Boardwalk property in Monopoly, there is a good chance that a consumer may unintentionally land on a tweet or post about you from a friend or trusted influencer that resonates with them— perhaps due to a new diagnosis or medical concern. In this way, using social media to establish your web presence and share your content creates more opportunities for you to be seen and heard. Taking the time to create shareable content and interact with the patient audience online will help you carve out your social media real estate.
Directories and Review Sites: Solid Investments for Practice Growth
As you know, savvy consumers looking for a good buy or a top service provider will go online to research local directories and consumer rating sites before making a choice. They want to know: What is the experience of other consumers? Lifestyle or community review sites like Yelp. com include customer reviews that help consumers choose anything from the best local restaurant to the best local dog groomer. People use the same approach when they’re searching for a new doctor. Doctor ratings and healthcare review sites, such as HealthGrades.com and Vitals.com, can help consumers find the best local healthcare provider that offers the services and treatments they are seeking.
By making sure your profile appears on at least one of these types of directories and local review sites, you are utilizing an important online marketing resource that helps you build out your web presence. You should be branding your practice and posting to every relevant site—all websites or networks that make sense for reaching your target market audience. This strategy will increase the likelihood that your practice shows up in a patient’s search journey.
Reputation Management: Handling Your Reviews and Ratings
Research shows that seven out of ten consumers trust and rely upon online reviews. What does this mean for you? Patients are able to talk about your practice all over the Internet, which means a few bad reviews can hurt your reputation. Reviews and comments aren’t limited to just one directory or review website—links enable those comments to be seen in multiple locations on the web, from local listings and review sites to blogs, social media pages and forums. Therefore, once you’ve taken the time to build your web presence, it’s crucial that you work with a marketer or use software that can help monitor your online reputation. You want to put a system in place that continually works on protecting that real estate empire you’ve just built up!
So, if you are listing your practice on different directories and review sites to help establish your web presence, you’ll also need to work proactively to cultivate positive reviews—and relationships—with your online audience to manage your reputation.
A big part of reputation management is the cultivation of your online and “real life” relationships with your patient community. So, post content online that allows you to “speak” to your audience and connect with readers. When it provides education to patients, content is kind of like the online version of Monopoly’s “Community Chest” – it can bring you additional, and sometimes unexpected, returns. Your reputation among your patient community is further enhanced when you make the effort to spearhead local meetings or seminars that provide patient education—even more so if you promote and discuss your “real life” activities in the digital space. Building up your brand in both the digital and real life patient communities can yield an immense amount of positive, word-of-mouth feedback.
Search engines love content, so posting informative, high-quality media content is a good way to help online searchers find you and land on your posted content pages—the surest way to extend your web presence. Whether your content is in the form of articles with images, streamed video (on your site with links to and from YouTube) or infographics, the goal of content should be to share your expertise in the interest of educating patients.
Media-based content that uses images, video or graphics to illustrate the information quickly and clearly is highly shared amongst peers on social media networks. Whenever you see a story go “viral” on the web, you’ll usually find some type of image or video attached to it. (Need an example? Check out BuzzFeed.) Videos and graphics help humanize an issue or idea, and will help you reach a vaster audience. Generating shareable content will help you claim even more of the web if your audience and their friends and followers will continue to click that share button.
Reaping the Benefits of Your Web Presence
It is important to remember that building your web presence doesn’t happen overnight. Just like in the game of Monopoly where you have to build your real estate empire by acquiring new properties stepby- step, implementing your strategy to expand your web presence must be carried out in steps over time. And, the payout for your efforts may not be immediate. However, if you stick to the plan, it will pay off when online searchers find your practice popping up all over the Internet—the same way other players cannot avoid landing on the multiple real estate properties you own all over the Monopoly game board!