7 Tips for Marketing a Physician Practice Online and Healthcare IT Social Media

I was recently invited by Michelle McNickle of Healthcare Finance News to talk about tips and suggestions for marketing a physician practice to patients. Looking at the article on Healthcare Finance News I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. I think there’s some really good information in the article for those looking to market their practice online. Here are the 7 tips for those who don’t want to read the entire article:

  1. Develop a Social Media Plan
  2. Remember, the Goal is to Connect
  3. Understand Your Community
  4. Take Control of Your Online Presence
  5. Start Your Own Blog
  6. Don’t Be Afraid of Making Mistakes
  7. Find a Good Partner

I’d love to hear what other suggestions people have to market a practice online. Turns out I’m doing lunch with a local Las Vegas company that does this for the physician and dentist markets. I’ll be interested to hear their thoughts. Plus, I have another project which partially touches this space as well and will be a nice extension to Influential Networks. More on that in the future.

Healthcare IT Social Media
At HIMSS 2012, I found I was talking all the time about healthcare IT social media. I was on a Meet the Bloggers Panel, answered questions at the Social Media Genius Bar, participated in the #HITsm chat, hosted the New Media Meetup, etc. While I certainly enjoyed each of these events, I must admit that one of my favorite healthcare IT social media things I did at HIMSS was talking one on one with a company about social media.

It was funny how it happened too. The PR person had setup a meeting for this company to talk about whatever news they had coming out at HIMSS. I can’t remember what news, because when we sat down to chat they said they wanted to tell me about the news and they also wanted to pick my brain about blogging and healthcare social media. We probably should have taken the chat in that order, but we started discussing blogging and an hour or so later time was up.

From this experience I learned a couple important things. First, I have quite a bit of knowledge and skills I can share with healthcare IT companies interested in social media and blogging in particular. I also really enjoyed the one on one format where I was talking with one company about their social media and blogging needs. While you can certainly generalize a lot of points, there’s always some slight variation which helps a company better understand what they should really do.

I’ve actually gotten a number of requests from companies interested in assistance with their company’s social media efforts. I’ll admit that I’ve never felt comfortable with the right way to approach these requests. Can I see value for these companies to do social media? In 99% of cases, yes. Should all of these companies have a social media presence? I’d say in 75% of cases they could and should. What about the other 25% of companies? While I think pretty much all companies could benefit from social media, there’s some share of companies (I put it at 25%) that don’t have the company culture to make it happen. It’s kind of like trying to force an EHR down a 4 physician practice where none of those physicians wants EHR. The same goes for a healthcare IT company that doesn’t want social media.

As I considered all of these things, I wondered how I could help out companies interested in healthcare social media since there’s a big demand for it now. My biggest problem is that I have a hard time seeing outsourced social media working well for most healthcare IT companies. If you’re a billing or ICD-10 company how are you going to find someone who can really be authentic in your social media presence? At the core of good social media is authenticity.

Sure, you can outsource a well designed one off social media campaign, but I think this falls apart for long term social media efforts. Some of the best social media brings out the culture of the company and how can someone outside that culture effectively communicate it? It’s possible, but much harder and can often fall on its face. Plus, this doesn’t even take into account the scam/sham/joke companies out there that use all the buzz words, but do little to benefit the company.

For me, healthcare IT social media is best done by the company. Some ancillary services can compliment what the company is doing, but the voice of your social media should be people in the company. Then, you can use other outside services to amplify that voice.

How then do you “train” your company so that social media is just a part of what the company does? I’ve been kicking this idea around in my head. It seems the best way would be to have an expert come for a day seminar with your company to talk about social media and your company. There would be prep done before the seminar to understand the needs of the company, the current social media footprint and make sure the company is ready to run. It makes no sense for an expert to train a company that’s not interested in running or that isn’t ready to dive into social media. Plus, I’ve been writing an online resource for blogging that I’ve been thinking about adapting for use by healthcare IT companies. It could serve as the “handbook” for the seminar.

What do you think of this idea? Do you think that social media can be outsourced for a healthcare IT company?

My gut feeling is that many healthcare IT companies are lost in the ocean of social media. They need help knowing how to focus their energies. Many see the need to engage in social media and have the desire to be part of it, but aren’t sure what to do and where to start. However, most would be better served to learn how to swim in the social media waters as opposed to buying a ticket on the boat which drops them off back where they started.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

4 Comments

  • There are many advantages for healthcare IT companies that manage their own social media accounts. In addition to having an authentic voice, companies can make timelier news updates because they can post “in the moment” instead of having to relay the message to an outside person who then posts the message. A person outside the company may be skilled at writing in a voice that mimics the corporate culture, but it’s difficult to find a social media guru who also has the HIT expertise necessary to participate in meaningful conversations about highly technical topics or engage industry thought leaders on such topics. Because T-System manages our social media accounts in-house, we are able to respond to media and sales inquiries with near immediacy every time. It has also been easier for us to leverage our employee and client brand champions since we already have those established relationships. That being said, it can be helpful to hire an outside social media specialist to help a healthcare IT company get set up and trained on social media if there is no resident expert. Then, the company can take back full control once it is up to speed on how to use social media tools.

  • Adrienne,
    Thanks for sharing much of what I was trying to share in a very succinct way. Plus, you added in a number of reasons which I agree with whole heartedly.

    The training to get set up in the beginning can be incredibly valuable. Plus, they can help you devise a strategy for which social media tools will work best for your specific company. Not to mention, teach you some tips on social media culture.

    However, the goal should be as you say, having the company take back full control. Although, an outside perspective and analysis of what you’re doing can also be beneficial every couple years as well. I know I learn a lot from other social media users when I talk to them.

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