If you’re thinking about setting up social media accounts for your medical practice — or if you’ve already done so but aren’t sure what to do now — take heed. We’ve listed some quick and dirty do’s and don’ts for health care providers who need some help keeping those Twitter, Facebook and Instagram streams flowing with great content.
Do adopt a publishing mindset.
To attract and engage patients online, you have to continuously give them content they can use. Decide how often you’ll post (we recommend at least weekly, if not more frequently), and then start coming up with topics that are relevant to them — preferably ones that they’ll respond to and share with their own online social networks.
We realize physician burnout is a very real problem in the U.S., and the last thing doctors need is another item on their to-do list. But engaging and retaining audiences in social media takes time and a dedicated effort to planning out content ahead of time. Here are a few things to consider with your new publishing perspective:
- What are you going to post?
- How often are you going to post?
- How will you interact with your online friends and followers?
- Who’s going to come up with all of this great content that you’re going to share?
- Who in your practice is allowed to post on your behalf?
Do write blog posts — often.
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are great for short posts, but in many instances, you will want those posts to link back to your website where followers can find more in-depth information. After all, how well could an orthopedic surgeon explain potential causes of shoulder pain in a 140-character tweet?
A better tactic is to compose a well-written tweet that piques your followers’ interest and provides a link back to your blog. Once readers find your blog, if you’re providing relevant information and updating it frequently, they’ll keep coming back for that great content you’re offering.
Do start with your blog and branch out from there.
Think of your blog as the hub that holds all of your content. Every other social media effort is a spoke coming out of that hub. For instance, let’s say you write a 600-word blog post with tips on managing asthma symptoms at home. You know it’s a great blog that would be helpful to scores of patients (or potential patients).
To promote it and get people to it, write a couple of Facebook posts and tweets related to the post, and provide the link to the post itself. In other words, don’t think of your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest as separate entities, but rather as an ecosystem where you can cross pollinate one platform with content from another.
Don’t violate HIPAA.
Don’t write about patients in a way that could identify who they are. Instead, focus on conditions, treatments or research.
Don’t focus on yourself too much.
“Patient-centered” isn’t just about the care you’re providing. This practice should flow into your blog and social media presence as well. Write about things your patients or prospective patients want to know about. What are the top 20 questions patients ask you during an exam?
Turn each one of those questions into a blog post, which you then promote on social media. What are some things you wish you could tell patients but don’t have time to in a typical office visit? Bam. Those are all blog ideas.
We’re not saying to never post about yourself. But find a good balance. A widely used rule of thumb says that for every 10 blogs or social media posts you write:
- 5 of them should come from other sources that your audience cares about. For instance, let’s say the FDA is considering a controversial new drug that may benefit some of your patients. Share the latest news about this, and provide your commentary.
- 3 posts should be content that you’ve written that’s relevant to your audience. If you’re an OB/GYN practice, you might create a post about common remedies for morning sickness and whether they actually work or not.
- 2 posts should show that you’re human. If something funny happened at your practice that your audience might find interesting, share it. Is one of your employees training to run a marathon on the Great Wall of China? Your audience might like to know this. It shows that this employee cares about living a healthy, active lifestyle — plus it shows that your practice supports and cares about its employees.
Need some help thinking about what to write about? Check out these 10 great content ideas for your Facebook page.
Don’t wait too long to respond.
“Social media has raised patient expectations around response time,” according to a 2015 health care and social media study done by Expio and TCU’s Neely School of Business. “About 70% expect a response within 24 hours.”
All too often, practices start Facebook pages and Twitter feeds only to abandon them months later because they didn’t plan out content ahead of time. Maintaining a robust social media practice takes a lot of forethought, time, commitment and adjusting course as you analyze your efforts. Make sure you’re well prepared!