Social Media 101 For Doctors
What do Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube have in common? You probably know the answer. They are all social media platforms--places where anyone (including you) can create and share content.
Is this great news for your practice? You bet. Here's why:
Zero Down / 0% APR / No Payments Ever
These platforms are free to use, as in $0.00. Zero! Though some offer enhanced business versions for a fee, you are not obliged to purchase, nor do you necessarily even need to. Is that your financial manager smiling? You should probably take a picture.
Open All Hours
Submit your content whenever you like. Want to blog in your pajamas at 3:00 a.m. while snacking on a tuna melt? Knock yourself out! Now that's convenience.
The Helm Is Yours, Captain
Content is controlled by the owner. (That's you!) Say whatever you want, however you want to say it. It's smart to steer clear of divisive topics, though, especially politics and religion. And, of course, never post confidential patient information. Also, if you're concerned about crossing doctor-patient professional boundaries, here's an easy solution: set up an account specifically for your practice, and use this to post practice-relevant content for your patients. Don't invite patients to follow any personal accounts you may have; instead point them towards the practice account. That way, there are no ruffled feelings when a patient asks if they can "friend" you on Facebook, and you get to keep your private life private.
Text. Photos. Audio. Video.
Content format is not limited. Take your pick, or pick them all!
Size Doesn't Matter
These platforms are scalable. What does that mean? Well, you won't suddenly be able to leap Everest in a single bound. But you will be able to reach ten people, ten thousand people, or ten million people, with equal ease.
But the biggest deal of all?
Communication: A Two-Way Street
Social media platforms are interactive. They allow information to flow back and forth between you and your fans (your patients and colleagues!). A simple way to network within your community? On a scale of one (meh) to ten (awesome), that's an eleven.
Fantastic, But Who Has Time?
"This is great," you say. "But do I really need to invest time in social media? I'm already so busy."
If this sounds like you, consider the following:
- Social media is not going away. The telephone was once new-fangled tech. So were the internet, email, and mobile devices. Long story short, your patients almost certainly have social media accounts, assume your practice does too, and would love to hear from you.
- If you'd like to set up social media accounts but time is just too scarce, we can help. Remedy's Healthcommunities offers social media management services. We can build and maintain your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sites, and provide posts and tweets that you approve.
So, ready to jump on the social media bandwagon but don't know where to start? Here are a few key players:
Twitter is a microblogging site. Each "tweet" (mini-post) can only be 140 characters long at most. Perfect for highlighting a useful link, event reminder, or health alert. Upload an accompanying photo, or link to a video on YouTube, and it displays right in your tweet. "Follow" (subscribe to) other users, send them messages, "retweet" their posts, and vice versa.
Facebook is a social networking service. Users create a personal profile, and post announcements and content including photos and video. They also "friend" and "message" other users, "like" and "follow" an organization's or public figure's page (school, work, the President, your medical practice), and join common interest groups where multiple members contribute content. (A Facebook page for Real Doctors of the 4077th? Why not?) Users can like individual posts, too, and their thumbs-up is instant feedback on what content they find most helpful and engaging. There are over one billion registered users on Facebook, so your practice's Facebook page is a great resource for connecting with patients.
LinkedIn is a social networking site for businesses and professionals. Users create profiles and form "connections" with organizations and other users. They can join groups, write recommendations for other users, or request introductions to their connections' connections. Organizations can post jobs, job seekers can apply for them. Both potential employees and patients with LinkedIn profiles can research your practice's LinkedIn profile, so setting up an account can add to your online credibility.
Google+ (Google Plus) is a social networking and identity site. It's part of a family of Google services (Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps and more) all of which connect to a user's Google account. Add an "Event" to your Google Calendar, invite other users to attend, then share photos and video live. Set up a Google+ Page for your practice, create a profile and add posts, and other users can subscribe to your page and "+1" (vote for) your posts. You can join "Circles" (groups with shared interests or connections such as colleagues or family) and limit sharing of your content to specific circles. Another benefit? Google+ can associate content with its author (you again!), boosting your online visibility.
Pinterest is an online pinboard. Upload your photos and videos as "pins", or "pin" ones you discover online, organize them on "boards", and "repin", "like", or "comment" on the pins of other users. You can "follow" other users, whose pins then show up in your "pin feed". Text accompanying each pin is limited to 500 characters. If you have a product to sell, Pinterest can be a helpful marketing tool by adding another layer of visibility to your online presence. Use it to link to content on your website--pins linking to your health articles, your online store, upcoming practice events, and doctor bios are just a few of the ways you could use Pinterest. Or you could pin links to local organizations and events relevant to your patients.
YouTube is Google's video-sharing site. Upload videos in various formats and resolutions, including high definition. Viewers can watch them on YouTube's website using multiple devices (computers, gaming consoles, TiVo, smartphones), comment on them, and rate them. Link to your videos from your medical website and social media accounts, or "embed" them so patients don't have to navigate to YouTube.com to see them. Ease of access makes YouTube an excellent patient education resource.
And there you have it, the main social media sites that can help you connect with your patients and colleagues.
Other options not covered here but possibly worth a look include Blogger (weblog publishing), Flickr and Instagram (photo sharing), Tumblr (microblogging), and Vimeo (video sharing). Some are more suited to a medical practice than others, so use at your own discretion.
Need ideas on what to post to Twitter or Facebook? Here you go:
- Link to great articles
- Promote flu shots, allergy clinic hours, or smoking cessation classes
- Post a general reminder to patients to schedule back-to-school or annual check-ups
- Answer frequently asked patient questions on a FAQ page on your website, and link to it from Facebook and Twitter
- Highlight National Health Observances to raise awareness for health-related issues and causes
- Support local charities that benefit your community by mentioning their upcoming fund drives
- Got new patient forms on your site? Let patients know with a quick tweet
- Your terrific interview on Channel 5? Publicize it on your website, Facebook, and Twitter
Take advantage of social media. They complement your website and are a convenient way to keep in touch and show patients you care.
You don't have to pick just one platform--each has its own strengths. That's why you can follow Facebook and LinkedIn on Twitter, and why Twitter has a blog.
Best of all, social media need not mean a big time commitment on your part, especially if you take advantage of the social media management services that Remedy's Healthcommunities provides.
Bonus tip: When you set up your social media accounts, don't forget to link back to your website!
Remedy's Healthcommunities provides social media management services. We can build and maintain your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sites, and provide posts and tweets that you approve. Call us at 1.888.950.0808 to learn more or get a custom quote!
Want to boost your online visibility? So do we! Call Remedy's Healthcommunities at 1.888.950.0808 and ask about our custom-tailored SEO strategies, our Online Business Directories service, and the Google Authorship Markup initiative.
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