How to Make Social Media Work for You

How to Make Social Media Work for You

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Organic Social Media 

When social media exploded onto the scene nearly two decades ago, marketers and healthcare professionals were a little too excited about its potential for healthcare marketing. 

Who could blame them? The fantasy was great.

‘All I have to do is figure out how to create a free Facebook business page, and then our business will get lots of new patients the next day!’ (Everyone loves free patients.) 

Sadly, the promise of social media fame and easy money far exceeds reality—then and now. In our experience, while organic social media can bring in a few new patients, it rarely brings in a lot. Also, while some people call organic social media “free”—because you don’t pay money directly to a social media platform—organic social media involves a lot of hard work. 

That being said, several “medinfluencers” have experienced tremendous success by leveraging organic social media strategies, including

  • Dr. Sandra Lee, aka Dr. Pimple Popper (@drpimplepopper)
    She is a dermatologist who came up with a unique, memorable concept. Combining her natural beauty, can’t-look-away content, and personable nature have made her a hit with her combined 29.5 million followers.
  • Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, aka Doctor Mike (@doctor.mike)
    He is a family medicine doctor with a combined social media following of over 21 million people. He uses his skill, knowledge, and good looks to create viral TikTok and Instagram videos to inspire change in the younger population and combat the spread of misinformation online.
  • Dr. Zachary Rubin (@rubin_allergy)
    He is a pediatrician allergist/immunologist who has grown his TikTok following to 855K since the start of the pandemic. He uses humor, bow-ties, and a very relatable personality, to provide evidence-based education to the general public in efforts to combat misinformation.
  • Dr. Eric Topol (@EricTopol)
    He is a professor of molecular medicine, executive vice president of Scripps Research, and founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. He is also a noted author and speaker on healthcare trends and technology and shares his insights about emerging technologies with his combined 700,000 followers.
  • Dr. Kevin Pho (@kevinmd, @kevinphomd, @kevingmdblog
    He is a board-certified internal medicine physician, media commentator, public speaker, author, and prominent medinfluencer with a combined following of over 290,000 people. He uses his platforms to share medical insights and give clinicians a voice. 

What do these and other rising social media stars have in common? 

Most seem to be “naturals” who possess great social media instincts, enjoy the process of winning followers, have something unique to say, and work very hard at building a following. 

Take, for example, Sheila Nazarian, MD, who has earned 18,000 TikTok followers, 36,000 Facebook followers, and 872,000 Instagram followers. In addition to sharing medical insights online, Dr. Nazarian is a charismatic, board-certified Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who stars in the Netflix original series Skin Decisions, Before & After.

She employs full-time social media employees and a marketing agency to manage her brand reputation, marketing strategy, and social media presence.

If you want to become a social media medinfluencer, have the right stuff, and are willing to create engaging content every day with no guarantee of success, these best practice recommendations can help you get started. 

Be forewarned, however,

  • Likes and followers do not necessarily translate into direct revenue and new patients
  • Reaching high-quality followers for free is getting much more difficult.

If you are like the vast majority of providers who don’t have the time, budget, skills, or inclination to do what it takes to become social media famous, the principles herein can help you build a solid, prioritized social media presence that attracts some patients along the way. 

Assuming that sounds more like you, social media should be part of your marketing plan, but definitely not your only—or even primary—marketing strategy. Either way, let’s get started. 

Organic Reach is Dead

Organic reach has steadily declined over the last decade as social network giants increasingly enforce a pay-to-play model. 

If you want more visibility, followers, and business opportunities from your social media activity, you basically have two options:

  • Get lucky with viral organic content
  • Pay to promote your posts to a larger audience

Organic Reach by Social Media Platform

Social Media platform

Facebook 1.9%

Instagram 4.2%

Twitter 3.4%

Think for a moment about what these stats mean. First, it takes a near Herculean effort for the average practice to win 1,000 followers on any social media account. Then, it takes creativity and time to develop suitable content to be shown to less than 50 people, most of whom are already patients.

Declining organic reach, combined with the labor and skill required to master social media, are the fundamental reasons most practices fail to attract a significant amount of new patients from their organic social media efforts. 

However, it is still worth doing. Here are some reasons to focus some time on tactics that build your organic reach

  • Brand advocacy and loyalty
    A social media presence makes it easier for your target audience and patients to find and engage with your brand. It also encourages loyal patients to support and promote your brand.
  • Patient referrals
    Social media profiles on the platforms your patients prefer creates an organic opportunity for conversations, leading to more offline referrals.
  • Patient retention
    Engaging with patients on social media helps build trust and credibility, the cornerstones for patient retention.
  • Community building
    Creating an online space where your patients can connect, ask questions, and support one another can help you build a community of loyal patients.
  • Thought leadership
    Leverage social media to share high-quality, medically accurate blogs, articles, medical research, and emerging technologies. This will position your brand as a leader in your specialty.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    Many SEO experts believe social signals like shares, likes, comments, and follows, improve your online visibility and page rank.
  • Employee recruitment
    Sharing thought leadership pieces, announcements, events, and daily updates helps prospective employees evaluate your company culture.
  • Humanize your organization
    Social media is a unique way to connect with your audience one-to-one and treat them to (curated) behind-the-scenes photos, videos, and stories about the people in your organization. 
  • Testimonials, case studies, before and afters
    Leveraging social media to share patient testimonials, case studies, and before and after photos is a great way to increase engagement and grow patient volume.

More on these later.

This article is a revised excerpt from Chapter 9: How to Make Social Media Work for You in the book, “Cash-Pay Healthcare: How to Start, Grow & Perfect Your Business,” written by Mark J. Tager, MD and Healthcare Success CEO, Stewart Gandolf, MBA. We have updated statistics, medinfluencer information, and other facts throughout.

The book and original version of this text is available in its entirety on

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