The importance of social media to your practice's growth.
With this blog, I illustrate the value of having a social media presence and how to use social media to attract new patients. I used social media to promote my medical practice for 5 years. I can be found on the first page of Google search results for several medical conditions I treat and manage. As a result of these high search rankings, I have added two to four new patient visits every day.
You can achieve the same results using the techniques described in this blog. You certainly can buy banner ads and create traffic to your page, but I want to show you how to get on the first page of Google using the natural, organic method.
Push vs. pull marketing
There are two ways to share your information on the Internet:
Facebook and how it relates to your practice
Initially, Facebook was developed as a way for people to see what was going on in each other's lives and a method to stay in contact with one another. Initially, it was friends, family members, or groups of like-minded individuals frequenting each other's Facebook pages.
Facebook has evolved. Today, companies, businesses, and, yes, medical practices are trying to "pull" more Web site visitors to their Facebook pages. Large companies and large group practices like the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and MD Anderson Cancer Center have whole social media departments that post regularly, respond to comments left on their pages, and answer questions posted by those who "like" their page or site.
Individual practicing clinicians and most smaller practices need more money for a social media team. They also don't have the time or the training to write effective copy that is so compelling that Web surfers are drawn or "pulled" to their Facebook page. However, your patients expect you to have a Facebook page, and they expect you to have quality information that is helpful and relevant to their well-being.
Can Facebook generate new patients? You can place a lot of information and pictures on Facebook; potential patients can leave comments or ask questions easily. You can start a dialog with a patient without medical advice and motivate her to see that you provide medical value before establishing the doctor–patient relationship. A Facebook page can generate new patients if the information you post is current, credible, and informative.
For instance, your practice is probably restricted to a few zip codes surrounding your office and hospital— which means you only want patients in your area to visit your practice's Facebook page because those are the only ones likely to call and make an appointment. Unless you are highly specialized in a particular field, the Facebook surfer from New York isn't expected to come to your practice on the West Coast for medical care.
Competing with larger practices and hospitals with more dedicated staff to draw prospective patients to practice through Facebook appears difficult or impossible. However, the real, overarching challenge is to improve your website rankings on the major search engines, to be on the first page of Google, Bing, and Yahoo search results. And what we do know is that Google has placed a high value on Web site rankings through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—that is, of course, if your Facebook page provides content that has keywords relevant to your target market and the content on your page links back to your website.
You will get more visitors to your website if it is found on the first page of search engine results because of your Facebook posts. Your website must be set up correctly for easy navigation and visitor conversion. In that case, you may need help to obtain the desired result of gaining new patients. You need a website with marketing and patient conversion systems built into it.
YouTube has become a significant search engine for every product and service you offer. There are millions of videos on YouTube, and viewers can search for topics simply by typing in any medical topic.
There are five ways your practice can benefit from a video posted on YouTube:
Getting started with YouTube
A video can be a PowerPoint presentation. Studies have demonstrated that it is more about the content of the video than a physician being in front of a camera. You can use many websites to record a presentation; one of the most popular and easy to use is Zoom.com.
You can select a few frequently asked questions (FAQs) that your patients regularly ask and record providing the answers. Look at what is new, relevant, or controversial regarding the procedures you perform or new medications you prescribe. The ideal video length is 3 to 5 minutes in length. It is my experience that it is hard to hold a viewer's attention for more than five minutes.
Using Twitter (now X) to attract new patients
The most amazing example of social media and building a fan base is Twitter. Here's a question: Who are the people with the most extensive Twitter following? The answer: celebrities, rock stars, and athletes. As a society, we are obsessed with these groups and want to know their every thought, what they like, what they had for lunch.
How do you expect to build a base of website surfers who want to know your every thought on a medical condition? The harsh reality is if you think you will get new patients by making posts on Twitter of 140 characters or less every day, you will be disappointed.
Twitter is one of the top-accessed Websites in the world. Linking your own content from such a website increases the connection to your practice of content when a potential patient performs a general Google search.
Use of TikTok
TikTok, a social media platform known for its short-form video content, has found an unexpected but valuable niche in the healthcare industry. Healthcare professionals and organizations increasingly use TikTok to educate, engage, and connect with patients and the wider public.
One of the most significant advantages of TikTok in healthcare is its ability to simplify complex medical information. Doctors, nurses, and health educators create informative and entertaining videos on topics ranging from basic first aid to mental health advice. These videos educate and break down barriers, making healthcare information more accessible.
TikTok has an impressive user base, especially among younger demographics, making it a potent platform for healthcare professionals to disseminate information and engage in meaningful conversations about health-related issues. TikTok is about having fun, being creative, and connecting with potential patients.
Is social media effective?
The effective use of social media can attract new patients daily to your practice. Regularly posting quality information is helpful to your existing patients and especially potential new patients. Social media can help you get new patients through search engine rankings. Even if you want to avoid doing any work on your social media sites, you can hire companies that will do it for you. Suppose you decide to outsource your social media efforts. In that case, I recommend that you work with a company with medical social media experience.
The Bottom Line
Today's patients are technologically sophisticated, and these social media techniques will continue to evolve. Stay caught up. And keep your competitors from dominating one of the most important sources of new patients you have, along with patient and physician referrals. Jump into this world of social media, and you will be richly rewarded. The social media train is leaving the station, and I hope I have shown you how to hitch a ride. See you online!
Neil Baum, MD, a Professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Baum is the author of several books, including the best-selling book, Marketing Your Medical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, which has sold over 225,000 copies and has been translated into Spanish.