Five Keys to Help Physicians Connect via Social Media

February 10, 2015

In the digital world, it's not about you, it's about your patients. They're looking for help answering their health questions.

So physicians, you've finally come to the realization that you need to be present in the digital world in order to be found. According to Pew Research, 80 percent of us go online first to answer our questions about health - before we call our family or friends or doctor. And you have updated your ancient website with a fancy new format that can be viewed in a browser, but also on mobile devices … right?

But you still don't have visitors to your website. And those people who do visit don't make appointments to see you at your practice. What are you doing wrong?

Too many of us use our websites as if they are traditional marketing materials: brochures, direct mail, etc. We place flashy descriptions on our home page about our services; we include our impressive credentials; maybe we even post on Facebook or send out Tweets about how great our practice is. And if we're really ambitious, we license some articles from Mayo or other sources, include some stock photos to make it pretty, and add those to our "blog" or digital newsletter.

But that's all about you.

In the digital world, it's not about you, it's about them. It's about your patients and your prospective patients. Frankly, they don't much care about where you received your degrees, or about your website's flashy features. They're looking for help answering their health questions. They're looking for evidence of expertise and authority in their area of need. They're looking for evidence of a caring physician who will listen to them. They are looking for human connection.

So how, exactly, do you achieve these goals? May I humbly suggest five keys to online content that connects with patients?

1. Understand your patients. You can't deliver if you don't know what they want. How to know? Easy: Listen. Keep a small notebook in your pocket during clinic. Record frequently asked questions (FAQs). Keep a similar record of patient FAQs at the receptionist's desk. Have these patient FAQs collated weekly to determine important themes. Then you can create content that people are looking for.

2. Serve them. A great content brand passionately serves its community's needs. Your content must be interesting and informative, but most of all, helpful. Above all else, great content helps solve your community's health problems.

3. Be consistent. Provide online content with a consistent tone, and consistent delivery. All of your marketing materials should deliver the same vision, image, look, and feel - the same message - to your community. Keep to a schedule: If you produce a quarterly newsletter, don't produce it weekly for a while, then every six months for a while. Be consistent.

4. Demonstrate expertise. By delivering helpful and accurate content, your practice becomes an authority. Your community will see you as their go-to source for any information related to your specialty. They will return. And when they need to make an appointment, they will call your practice.

5. Provide unique, quality content. Maintain a high standard, and don't stoop to licensed articles from other sources. Those will appear on many websites and dilute your authority. Your site may even be penalized for "duplicate content" by search engines. Better to produce less quantity and greater quality.

Russell Faust, MD, PhDis the CEO and managing partner of Windriven Group, a firm that helps hospitals and practices with their "content marketing" programs. He is also an adviser for several tech- and biotech-startups and a pediatric ENT surgical specialist.He also serves on the board of directors for health organizations that are improving global healthcare. Want more on where to find content you already have at the ready? Visit bit.ly/online-patient-content.