Do Medical Practices Really Benefit from Using Social Media?

by Cait Blanton

When it comes to social media, Facebook and Twitter are full of examples where huge companies spend countless dollars implementing social media campaigns to boost sales and brand awareness. While your medical practice may not have a multimillion-dollar advertising budget, there are still countless benefits to establishing a company presence on social channels. In fact, the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report shows that it is small business owners who are seeing the greatest return resulting from social media marketing efforts. With such enormous potential for reward, medical practices are finding it worthwhile to participate in social media and join the online conversations about their companies.

More than one quarter of time spent online is on social media networks, making that the number one online activity. With so many users participating in social media networks, practices are able to reach out to potential patients who previously could not be accessed without a tremendous amount of paid advertising. This is an especially important factor for small and newly established practices, when every dollar spent on advertising must offer a return on investment.

Social media has drastically changed how medical practices communicate with their patients. When practices interact with patients on the social web, a community is established, creating a personal connection between patients and the brand. In addition to conveying a business’ message to patients and prospects, utilizing social media allows a company to listen to its audience and better learn their needs.

Once a relationship has been established with the patient, social media presents an opportunity to provide valuable, informative content. Utilizing posts to offer solutions, tips and tricks, expert advice and links to thought-leading articles will establish your practice as a credible source of relevant online information. By doing so, patients will look to you for industry relevant information in the future, returning to your website and social media page(s) for expert advice.

With such potential to grow your medical practice using social media, what should you do next?

• Understand that not all content is created equal. Shared content must be carefully selected and reviewed to ensure that it is relevant and interesting to your patients.
• Learn that purely promotional content is not a strategy. While sales and special offers should be regularly included in your social media postings, there needs to be a balance between incentives and thoughtful leadership articles providing value.
• Develop a social media strategy. A long-term strategy with the appropriate balance of content and posting frequency will keep your customers engaged and interested. Avoid posting too frequently or posting irrelevant content as it will cause you to lose patient attention and, possibly, their business.
• Listen to your patients, adjust your strategy based on their feedback and work to meet their needs and expectations rather than expecting them to accept and adopt your strategy.

Social media is an incredible tool for facilitating the increase of brand awareness, encouraging business growth and using low-cost channels to expand the reach of marketing efforts. Patients that connect with your practice on social media channels are inviting you into their lives to communicate with them. By engaging with patients and prospective patients you will not only create a stronger connection with the brand, but humanize the company. Social media networks are a powerful tool that no medical practice owner can ignore. Choose to take advantage of its benefits and you will reap the rewards.