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Connecting with your patients or potential patients is more important than ever. Getting them to read educational material and sharing timely information is a great way to do this.
Twitter is one way to make that possible.
When patients feel connected to you and see you has an information source for current trends and techniques, they’re likely to stay in your practice, tell their friends about you, and see you as the only qualified expert around.
How I use Twitter
Twitter was originally started as an information-gathering source/tool. In fact, the Twitter website describes the biggest benefit of the service: “Find out what’s happening, right now...”
I post four to five Twitter updates per month, updating my followers with information and links to information I find online, or information/articles I’ve written.
This usually takes about five minutes to 10 minutes of time, once a week.
One secret of getting your Twitter updates out to potential patients is to publish them on your Facebook Fan Page.
You can learn the basics of setting up a Twitter account here.
How to compose a Twitter update
Step 1: Think about your audience
No one wants to read about some basic science article on Northern blots and protein analysis. Patients want to know "what’s in it for me?"
What benefit will the information you’re providing give to your patients or their families?
How will your information change what they do this week for the better?
Will your information protect them or prevent them from making a mistake?
Sometimes it helps to subdivide your audience into groups of people: moms, grandparents, working moms, stressed out parents, etc.
Step 2: Find something they would like to read
As I mentioned, one of the chief functions of Twitter is information-gathering.
Finding good stuff to share with your patients is as easy as using the search feature of Twitter.
Once you’ve thought of a topic you want to share with your patients, type that topic in as a search term and browse what others are already sharing.
Part of the fun and power of Twitter is discovering that many physicians are already well-connected with solid, current, useful information sources for patients. You just have to tap into those sources for the benefit of your current and potential patients.
You can also use Google Search to find information, but searching Twitter will show you the most up to date articles and news.
Step 3: Write the Tweet
Finally, write your Twitter update.
Here are three basic update (or Tweet) structures I use:
1. The question Tweet
Ask your readers a question about the topic.
If you’re sharing an article on the evils (or benefits) of eating more dairy, you might use the following questions to generate interest in the topic:
Are you making this mistake when drinking milk?
Why did this mom give up dairy completely?
These questions pull the reader in and make her want to learn more. This is far better than just making a bland statement about the article’s subject.
2. The breaking news Tweet
This type of Tweet can be used for almost any article, but reserve it for recent news-type information:
• Recently published research
• Story in the media (find these in the health section of sites like cnn.com)
• Reports from national medical meetings
• Articles from recent editions of consumer magazines
When you paste in the link to your article, Twitter will automatically shorten the URL. This link will be a live, clickable URL - usually placed after the text of the update. Here’s an example:
Some examples of the breaking news Twitter update:
Just released: researchers discover new dangers of dairy
Scientists report: stop eating this yogurt
Latest report on why kids have more allergies
If these look like tabloid headlines, you’re right! The idea here is not to give complete information in 140 characters, but to compel the reader to learn more by clicking on the link.
Don’t forget to use this type of tweet to let your patients know about office closings during bad weather or recent news about your practice and services you provide.
3. The teaser Tweet
Finally, the teaser Tweet offers a promise of tantalizing or useful information. It’s a way to spice up what’s on the other side of that link you want readers to click on.
For instance, in a recent Twitter update, I was sharing an article on osteoporosis. This was not a sexy, glamorous article; just a basic overview of the subject.
Instead of writing "Hey, osteoporosis is important - you should learn about it - click here", I wrote:
Find out who in your family is most at risk for osteoporosis
Pick out a piece of useful or surprising information in the article and highlight it in your tweet, but don’t give it away.
Other possible ways to do this are as follows:
Four dangers of drinking raw milk - number 4 can kill you
You may be at risk by eating this brand of cheese
Avoid the most lethal fracture with one simple tip
Start slow and focus on patients
Twitter for business and medical practice is a huge subject. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Start slow and just view yourself as a very narrow-focused reporter for your patients. Be on the lookout for solid, current, and interesting information as you surf the web.
Make a habit of finding one article a week to share with your patients.
Twitter is a great way to do this without wasting time or feeling pressure to put your personality or personal life out there.
Find out more about C. Noel Henley and our other Practice Notes bloggers.