The decision to use social media as a marketing channel for your healthcare organization or business can be daunting, as there are a number of considerations to review before you get started. For healthcare providers, social media can offer a wonderful opportunity to engage with a large community of patients, organizations, and industry leaders. It can also be a great tool to attract new patients, and to improve overall patient experience; however, it does not come without its challenges.
Before we address some of the top challenges and benefits associated with using social media as a healthcare provider, let’s review the basics!
Who is using social media?
Facebook remains the most popular social media platform, with 79% of internet users, and more than 50 million businesses using the platform. LinkedIn, which is the world’s largest professional network, has more than 450 million users. Instagram reached 600 million users in early 2017, and continues to grow quickly, adding 100 million users in only 6 months in 2016. Let’s not forget about Twitter – this fast-paced social media platform averaged 330 million monthly active users in 2017 alone.
It’s evident that most individuals are using social media frequently, but what does that mean for you as a healthcare professional?
Are your patients using social media?
Pew Research Center attributes the growth of the conversation surrounding health online to the availability of social tools, and the desire of patients to connect with each other. A survey conducted with over 3,000 adults found that 80% of internet users have looked online for health-related information, and another survey of 1,438 patients illustrated that 77% of patients use online reviews when selecting a new physician. Furthermore, 43% of baby boomers use social media to seek out health-related information. On YouTube, traffic to hospital sites has increased by 119% year-over-year – highlighting the importance of sharing healthcare videos.
Now that you know some of the basics, we would like to outline the key benefits and challenges associated with using social media as a healthcare provider. This will help you make an informed decision moving forward.
Benefit 1: Creating a Community
In an age where everyone is connected digitally, a social media presence helps to keep patients interested in your product, service, and company. One of the key benefits associated with a social media presence is creating an online community, where you are able to contribute to conversations with clients, patients, prospective patients, suppliers, other organizations, and the medical community at large. Patients are able to learn valuable information about your products and services, and can ask questions related to your organization or area of expertise. You are presented with the opportunity to make important new connections, and promote your skills.
Social media allows you to share a variety of content, including educational information, company updates and industry news – which is great! Social media also allows you to give patients and clients a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your organization. By sharing fun photos, and engaging in friendly yet professional dialect, you are able to appear personable – allowing you to truly connect with your audience.
Healthcare providers are also able to join online communities where they can network with colleagues, and discuss industry news, patient care and education – all while promoting their organization. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Did you know, that in 2014 there were over 2 million doctors and nurses on LinkedIn – and this number continues to grow! By joining relevant LinkedIn groups – such as Medical Doctor Network, connecting with professionals, and participating in discussions, you are able to leverage your expertise to promote your company.
The Challenge: Remaining HIPAA Compliant
Social media is a great marketing tool for healthcare providers, allowing them to share a wealth of valuable information with patients. However, healthcare providers are required to remain HIPAA compliant – and failing to do so can lead to large fines and penalties. At the very least, healthcare providers need to ensure that they:
1. Do not share any photographs or identifiable information without a patient’s written consent
2. Do not share situational details, or revealing references about a patient
It is imperative that any healthcare provider using social media creates a social media policy for their organization, and trains employees and staff members on how to, and how not to, use social media. A social media policy for healthcare providers should guide employees on how to speak generally about conditions and treatments, and how to regularly monitor the social media accounts being used.
Our dedicated marketing team can help you create a unique set of social media policies that will protect your organization, staff, patients, and clients. Learn more!
Benefit 2 – Sharing Valuable Information
When the healthcare industry effectively uses social media, the public is given easier access to medical expertise in a form that is often more current and concise than is available through more traditional forms. In the United States, 8 in 10 internet users search for health information online – and 74% of these individuals use social media!
As a healthcare professional, you can offer yourself as a filter to your followers. By posting evidence-based medical information through social media, you’re positively adding to the catalogue of information available to your patients and clients.
The Challenge: Remaining Credible and Professional
Like being active in any public venue, social media has the potential to have a positive effect on your reputation, as well as a negative one. As the social media audience is global, this result can be magnified.
Be sure to conduct yourself as you would in any public venue; speak to what you know, and engage when and where appropriate. Little mistakes, such as an improperly spelled word, or poor grammar can make your organization appear less credible and professional. Social media is fast-paced, and fun; however, it should be treated as seriously as other marketing initiatives. Creating a social media strategy prior to beginning to use your accounts will help ensure you have a reliable guide to follow, and help to minimize the chances of professional blunders.
Benefit 3 – Organizational Promotion
Social media allows you to reach a broad audience – including many potential patients or clients. When you share information on social media it reaches more than just the individuals who like or follow your profile. With the click of a button you are able to greatly increase your company’s visibility, market products or services, and provide customer service and support. Not only are healthcare providers able to reach a wide audience with social media, if used correctly, they are also able generate a great return-on-investment. In 2015 alone, Facebook influenced 53% of consumers’ online and offline purchases, and in general, 71% of consumers who had a good experience with a company on social media were likely to recommend that company to others! Two specific areas that greatly increase brand exposure, social media company reviews and social media advertising, are outlined below.
Benefit 4 – Company Reviews
Not only can healthcare providers use social media to share credible information with current and prospective patients, but they can also gain valuable feedback through social media reviews. Individuals seeking health-related information online often read a healthcare provider’s reviews before looking at the content on their social media profiles; in fact, a survey indicated that 42% of consumers have used social media to access health-related consumer reviews! Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer indicated that as consumer trust continues to greatly decline, peers have become more relevant than any other source of information. People trust other people, and having credible reviews on your social media channels allows your healthcare company to stand out from competitors.
The Challenge – Negative Reviews
Glowing Facebook reviews can really bolster the image of your healthcare company – but what happens when the reviews you receive are negative? If a potential client views your social media profile, and sees a handful of exceptionally negative reviews that have not been addressed, they are unlikely to consider purchasing your products or services. While we hope you are not receiving an abundance of negative reviews, even well-loved companies receive one from time to time. If you receive a review that is somewhat negative, it is best to professionally reply to the review, addressing any of the concerns that were identified. If you receive an exceptionally negative review, it is best to hide the review (so that other individuals do not see it) and privately message the individual who left it. From there, you can take the discussion out of the public social space by initiating an email or a phone call to address their concerns. No matter how you handle a negative review, it is always important to remain professional!
Benefit 5 – Advertising
You can take having a great presence on social media one step further by utilizing social media advertising. Social media advertising is an effective tool for healthcare companies to not only increase exposure, but to drive conversions to their websites and ultimately generate sales. There are more than 3 million businesses advertising on Facebook alone – and it’s no secret why. You can select target audiences (based on geographic and psychographic information) to direct your advertisements to, and provide clear call-to-actions. Ads are effective for both B2B and B2C healthcare providers, and can be used to target clients on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and more!
The Challenge – Doing it Right
Social media advertisements can be a very effective marketing tool for healthcare providers; however, as with any initiative, they are only effective if they are done properly. You have worked hard to ensure your healthcare organization is credible, professional, and trusted in the industry – and you do not want to tarnish your reputation with distasteful, unprofessional, or low-quality ads. On the flip side of things, an eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing advertisement will not drive sales if it is targeting the wrong demographics. It is important to create a social media advertising strategy prior to beginning to run your ads. Luckily – we can help you with that!
How effective is your company’s presence on social media? Are you reaching the right audiences? How do you stack up against competitors? Find out with our free social media assessment!