by Leslie Heizman
According to the latest information from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 80 percent of American adults look online for health information. 1 According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 50 to 55 percent of women and 40 to 45 percent of men in the U.S. suffer from some type of vein problem. 2 How can you connect those “E-patients” to your clinic online? Social media.
Social media includes a variety of web-based tools allowing potential patients to begin a dialogue with you. Used correctly, these tools will attract your best prospective patients to you like a magnet. Social media helps you to develop a relationship with your potential patients. They can get to know you, begin to trust and like you, and the next thing you know they are calling you for an appointment!
This doesn’t happen overnight. It requires planning and attention. Someone on your staff–or an outsourced partner–must be the “social media champion”. This assignment must be a priority on somebody’s list or it will not happen. In the social media world, when you provide valuable medical information to your prospective patients, you become a respected authority on a particular topic. Over time, and done right, the prospect begins to anticipate receiving this valuable content. He or she may even share it with others. Then you know you’re on the right path.
So how to start? You likely have a website, and hopefully you are utilizing search engine optimization to help prospects find you. You may have a Facebook page, or a Twitter account. You may even have a blog. Utilize all of those tools together to enhance your practice’s credibility and acquire more patients!
Look at these recent statistics:
• 60% of e-patients say their most recent search had an impact (although minor) on their own health. 3
• 4 in 10 said it affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition. 3
• 3 in 10 said it led them to ask a doctor new questions, or get a second opinion. 3
• 2 in 10 said it changed the way they cope with a chronic condition or manage pain. 3
While those numbers are small today, they have increased significantly over the past several years. Now is the time to jump into the social media pool, and begin to take advantage of inbound marketing-marketing focused on getting found by customers.
Here are a few basics:
Your website: Tells your story and provides valuable infor-mation about you, your staff, and your services. Done well, it should be a resource that helps the prospective patient make an informed decision about choosing you and your practice to treat varicose veins. Blogs: A blog (a blend of the term “web log”) is a website usually maintained by an individual for the purpose of pro-viding commentary or information to followers. Effective blogs have regular posts, photographs and video content. LinkedIn: LinkedIn (linkedin.com) is a professional network with over 75 million members worldwide. 4 LinkedIn con-nects you to your approved contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals. It is primarily a business related site, and gives you access to business and clinical groups in a wide array of categories. Facebook: Facebook (facebook.com) is a social networking website launched in February 2004 with more than 500 million active users in July 2010. Users can add people as friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves. Additionally, users can join networks organized by workplace, school, or college. 5 Twitter: Twitter (twitter.com) is a social networking and microblogging site that allows users to post short messages (140 characters). As a user you may subscribe or “follow” other users, and you may have other subscribers “follow” you. This simply means that you receive these short messages (Tweets) from each other.
Ezine: Ezine (ezinearticles.com) allows you to submit articles on a variety of subjects for publication. Your articles and profile then become searchable online to an unlimited number of readers. This is a good way to build credibility, promote your practice and your expertise
Utilize social media to acquire new patients.
Start with a website. Make it intuitive and easy to find, easy to navigate, and load it with rich content. Then submit the site to the top dozen search engines to enhance your web presence. How will potential patients search for you? Use those terms to optimize your site, and make sure it’s built to take full advantage of search engine optimization.
The vein blog is next. The blog is not just about varicose veins. After patients complete treatment they have little need for your services; they can, however, continue to be a rich source of referrals. consequently, you should write about a variety of health related topics to keep them engaged.
Linkedin and Facebook are next on our list. Developing profiles on these pages is simple. The time consuming part of the process is inviting patients, friends and family to connect with you on these sites. The more people that you have connected with, the more exposure you get when you post a message. The trick here is to provide interesting nuggets of content that will keep your prospects coming back. Special offers to friends and followers also keep visitors interested.
Twitter can be a “real-time” way to connect to your patients and prospects. Twitter can be used to repurpose your blog entries. Twitter can be set up to populate your Facebook page and your LinkedIn profile. This can be a time and labor saver, since you can populate all three places with one consistent message!
Ezine articles help position you as an expert in your field. Becoming an Ezine author is a simple process, and allows you to show up much more frequently in Internet searches. More searchable content equals higher placement in searches.
After your social networking program is established, it should only take a few hours each week to maintain. Remember, the information you present must be:
• Interesting and informative to the target audience
• Timely, and
• Updated consistently
Social media, used properly, can be one of the most cost-efficient patient acquisition tools in existence today. As you practice the art of social networking, you will learn what resonates with prospects and then do more of it.
Each of the social networking components mentioned here work together to create a strong online presence. The bottom line? Your vein practice grows its brand, its credibility, its ability to acquire new patients and its ROI.
Leslie Heizman is Sr. Vice President of Martin-Wilbourn Partners and can be reached at [email protected] With a background in finance, Bill has over 20 years of highly successful experience in healthcare marketing. He currently serves as President of VeinMed, LLC; specializing in marketing and business development for venous disease treatment clinics. www.myveinhealth.com.
3. http://www.pewnternet.og/Reports/2009/8-The-Social-Life-of- Health-Information/01-Summary-of-Findings.aspx