Marketing Your Medical Practice in the Digital (Social) Age

On Saturday, June 30, Tweeters, Instagramers, Pinners and the like will gather to celebrate the fourth annual Social Media Day, presented by Mashable, a leading online source for news and information focused on the Connected Generation. And each year, social media plays a greater role in #healthcare and #HealthIT. Here are a few stats from recent months:

  • 51% of those surveyed say that digital health communications would make them feel more valued as a patient
  • 90% of adults 18-24 years of age say they would trust medical information shared by others in their social media networks
  • 41% of people say social media would affect their choice of health care provider

To raise awareness about the social media benefits for health care professionals, I asked Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an athenahealth client, social-savvy clinician, practice owner and influencer, about best practices and tips for marketing a medical practice on social networks.

When did you realize it was time to put your practice on Facebook? When was that ‘a-ha’ moment?

It happened the day I started my practice, The Whole Child Center, in 2008. I recognized that savvy parents were using Facebook to gather and share information about their kids. They not only wanted to post photos of their one-year-old’s birthday party but also wanted to interact with their health care providers. I thought it would be great if we could develop this online community to build on the brick-and-mortar community we developed within the four walls of our practice.

To create an effective Facebook strategy, it’s key to know your audience and what you’d like them to do. Who are your Facebook target audiences? Are you surprised by any groups that you’re reaching?

As a pediatrician, my primary target audience is easy—moms. And for Facebook, that’s a key demographic. Recent insights showed that 80% of our Facebook audience is women with more than 60% ages 25-44.

The most surprising demographic? Other health care practitioners interested in the unique integrative and eco-sustainable approach we take to medicine.

Discuss the types of content you have generated and how you personally grown your Facebook presence and, in essence, your practice.

Initially, our content was mostly health information, current articles and trends in the news. I then realized that photos and videos garnered much more interest, so we developed a space for parents to post photos of their kids having fun in our office. With HIPAA concerns, we are really careful to never post patient information directly, but parents can certainly share information about their own experiences, and they love sharing these pictures. Also, I’ve found videos of my media appearances or webinars, when posted on seasonal or topical issues, always get a lot of likes and shares.

What are examples of online content that have increased visibility or engagement for your practice? 

The most gratifying and widespread content has been related to our response to the 2012 Hurricane Sandy tragedy in New Jersey and New York. We posted a call for new or gently used baby equipment—strollers, car seats, high chairs—for one of our practice’s  moms to deliver to a devastated section of Queens, NY.  In one week, we gathered enough donations to fill a box truck. This mom, who had family in the damaged area, was so thrilled to partner with us, and it really helped raise awareness in our area of the plight of young families.

Are there any rules of the road, things people should remember when marketing their practice on a social network?

Don’t post private information. Don’t pester your audience by posting 40 things a day. Be strategic, know your audience, pay attention to what people like and share, and keep your content relevant to hot topics, and local or regional health issues. In general, stay away from divisive political or religious issues.

What you post is going to be seen as a reflection of your organization’s values and will positively or negatively affect your reputation. Recognize the power of your social network to engage and build your community.

Dr. Rosen is an integrative pediatrician based in Oradell, N.J. and a contributor to the athenahealth blog

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.

3 Comments

  • There is a place for social media and a medical practice, the problem is, most of them don’t know what the place is.

    Then, they assign a person “who has used”, let’s say Facebook, before.

    The key item above was “be strategic”.

    Without a plan, without a policy, without training, a medical practice is setting them-self up for failure.

    It would also be smart to track results…as…they’ll probably find the ROI is rather low.

    I like bullet point 2 above: “90% of adults 18-24 years of age say they would trust medical information shared by others in their social media networks”…do you have the stat for the number of those 18-24 years of age who actually think about their medical situation? For most in that age group their medical information is a low priority.

    And back to strategy: if you don’t have one, you will fail. Look at how many “smart” people go on Twitter or FB (2 recent bad moves A-Rod & Alec Baldwin) and make fools of themselves.

    An employee who screws up on social media doesn’t embarrass them-self, they embarrass your practice.

  • John Brewer made some good points.

    Just because someone in your practice says they know Facebook doesn’t mean they know how to effectively market your practice on social media. It’s not a good idea to take the person in the office with the least amount of work to do and just assign them the task of managing Facebook (or other social media platforms).

    However, ROI isn’t necessarily going to be low. There are definitely ways to track that, despite popular belief. And I mean ROI in the real sense – as in dollars and cents – not likes, shares, follows, etc…
    Some practices do well, and others don’t. But the key is making sure the plan that’s put into place is also tracked and analyzed from every angle.

    Manage your Yelp presence. That’s rule #1! Don’t ignore Yelp. You may think that Vitals and similar sites are where people go to read and review their doctors, but Yelp is the top dog for all reviews in all industries.

    Great article by this pediatrician. Thank you for publishing it, John.

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