Social media continues to evolve, but the question you should ask is "How do I connect in a meaningful way with patients."
The overarching social-media theme for medical practices in 2014 was change. That was true for everyone, in all businesses. So what does 2015 hold in store? Here is where I think the trends will go in 2015, and what that means for your practice.
1. Video, video, video
You had better get your game face on when it comes to short videos. Based on my company's research and previous trends, videos will dominate social media as the format of choice. Even better than the occasional video are video segments, done either weekly or monthly.
Taking this a bit further, I expect to see YouTube-hosted videos slowly being replaced by videos hosted directly on social networks. For example, Facebook is beginning to give extra organic exposure to videos hosted on their platform.
So, if you are convinced that video is the way to reach your patients, how would you make it work in your own practice?
Well, to start, shooting a quick video of yourself introducing your practice can be easier and have more impact than writing a review for the local newspaper or community website. Providers or nurses can also do brief videos giving weekly tips for patients - like healthy eating, exercising, smoking cessation, an introduction to allergies, and any number of other easy topics. But don't stop there. Ask your medical biller/insurance expert to talk for 90 seconds about tips to help claims get paid quicker, or your receptionist on how to use the online scheduling system in the patient portal.
2. Bullhorn breakdown
Last year, there was still a disconnect between patients and practices when it came to social media. This happened because many practices did not grasp the use of social media as a tool for communication and connecting with patients. This year, you will see more practices realize that humanizing social media, connecting with patients on their level, is required to cultivate a community and not simply push a message.
How can you make it work in your practice?
The days of knowing just a little about social media are gone. Successfully managing a personal Facebook page or Twitter account does not mean you can successfully manage a professional-looking business page. Your practice should partner at some level with a social media expert, to ensure that social media is a voice that inspires patients to take action on their health. This transformation, even with expert help, doesn't happen overnight - but is an important long-term strategy.
3. Niche groups
With the decline in organic reach on many social media platforms, private groups (like those on Facebook) are beginning to take hold. These groups focus on specific shared qualities or interests. This type of interaction on social media will continue to grow in 2015.
How would you make this work for your practice?
Depending on your specialty, it may be appropriate to begin an online support group for your patients and prospective patients. For example: support groups for new moms; diabetic patients; rheumatoid arthritis patients; patients with allergies; or any other small subset of patients you can imagine.
Overall, social media will continue to evolve in 2015. One thing is for sure, it's not going away any time soon. Establishing a strong social-media presence for your practice, if you haven't already started, is becoming a more time-intensive and expensive proposition, but it is well worth it.