By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
In a recent study, 90% of older adult internet users said they’ve used social media to find or share health information. Undoubtedly, social media is a major part of many people’s lives. And if you’re in the business of healthcare, social media may help increase brand loyalty and boost your reputation.
You just may need a little help getting started setting up and maintaining your healthcare social media account. But first, make sure you know what you’re getting into…
Healthcare Social Media: Is It Really Worth It?
Here’s the hard truth: Facebook’s organic reach is dead. Businesses hoping to reach potential patients and clients by simply posting somewhat frequently on Facebook are extremely unlikely to see a return. Due to changing algorithms on Facebook and Instagram, followers are much less likely to see organic (unpaid) posts from your brand than from their own friends and family.
For more on this topic, see our article: The Biggest Misconception about Social Media in Healthcare
That said, it is certainly worth setting up and claiming your social media accounts. Updating your social media accounts can also boost search engine optimization and generate patient referrals. But if you’re simply hoping to gain patients from your marketing efforts, we recommend you do not spend a large portion of your time on organic social media.
Paid advertising is another story. Targeted campaigns reach people throughout your geographic target (not just followers) based on age, gender, and other qualities. For this, we recommend hiring a healthcare social media advertising agency.
Either way, you’ll want to get your account up and running as soon as possible, and establish some guidelines for posting and sharing. Here’s what a healthcare social media account manager should do.
1. Create a new page (or claim an existing one)
Of course, the first step with any new social media platform is creating your new page. With Facebook, you’ll simply go to facebook.com/business and follow the directions on the screen.
You’ll be able to link this new business page to an existing personal profile or create a new profile to manage the page. You can also invite current employees as administrators and give select access to posting and editing capabilities.
In some cases, a Facebook page already exists for a business thanks to patients checking in at your location and tagging themselves on Facebook. In this case, you can claim the page using these instructions.
To setup an Instagram account for business, first create an account from the Instagram app on your phone or tablet. Then, find the settings (the gear icon on your page) and press “Switch to Business Account.”
Twitter’s page creation is incredibly simple. Keep in mind that Twitter uses the same profiles for business pages and personal pages. Simply go to Twitter.com to set up your new account.
2. Learn your social media platform
Once you’ve updated your basic information, you’ll want to get to know the particular platform you’re working in. Each platform is unique. For example:
- You’ll need a header image and profile picture for each account, but every platform has different requirements. You can find an up-to-date guide on image sizing here.
- It’s a good idea to use relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, but it’s not very useful on Facebook.
- On Twitter and Instagram, it’s a good idea to start following other accounts related to yours as soon as possible.
- Facebook is a great place to post and share events.
3. Get to know your audience
Doctors may be interested in sharing the latest research studies or stats on the newest equipment out there. But do you think patients want to comb through a complicated 30-page report? Of course, patients are interested in your expertise. However, they would prefer an easy-to-read, quick professional assessment of a study.
Learn what types of content your audience prefers, and try to contribute something they will appreciate and share.
- Can you explain a new treatment option briefly and succinctly (or link to a source that does this)?
- Can you direct them to in-person or online support groups for their illness or recovery?
- Do you have an announcement to make about your location or services? (Note: Important announcements to existing patients are better left in email inboxes.)
4. Use clear images throughout your profile and posts
A plain text post may go over well with your friends and family. But if you’re trying to attract attention from prospective patients, images and video are key to gaining attention—especially with paid social media advertising.
You don’t need any fancy equipment for this. The latest iPhone takes incredible high-quality images. However, if you don’t already have a collection of in-house photos to use in your posts, stock photos are a good way to go. There are free stock photos available on sites like Unsplash and Pexels.
You can also overlay text using free, easy-to-understand tools like Canva.
5. Remain compliant with HIPAA and other regulations
Of course, you take HIPAA and other regulations seriously, but it helps to remind staff members who are the most active on your social media platforms.
We recommend consulting a lawyer if you are unsure of any issues of compliance. Some starting tips:
- Photos of patients and clients, of course, require their signed consent.
- Any pharmaceutical promotion requires disclosure of risks, etc.
- Patients may comment on your page regarding their visit, but you should take care not to confirm they are a patient.
Organic Social Media vs. Paid Healthcare Social Media Ads
Some doctors have seen success by posting organically on social media—but these accounts are few and far between. If you hope to gain followers as a “thought leader” in your specialty, you’ll have to post very frequently and become involved in conversations online daily.
Still, thought leadership does not guarantee patients in your area. Social media can help build your brand and even improve morale around the office—but it’s not recommended for lead generation. That is, unless you work with a social media advertising agency to target local patients in your demographic.
For more information, call our team of experienced healthcare marketers at 800-656-0907.
You can also buy my new book with Mark Tager, MD, Cash-Pay Healthcare, for even more detailed information about social media marketing and more invaluable advice for healthcare businesses.