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December 2012

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December 2012

Can Your Practice Survive Without Social Media?

Your knee-jerk reaction may be an unqualified “Yes,” but a deeper look into the social media phenomenon reveals quite the opposite. Unless you practice in an isolated rural area where the printed Yellow Pages directory is still the primary means to reach out and touch someone, you need social media more with each passing day…

Social media success starts with the patient experience

Step away from your practice for a moment and try to see it through your patients’ eyes.
Call your office pretending to be a patient (or have someone else do it for you). Do they answer the phone with a hasty “Please hold” then put you on hold for 5 minutes where a recording tells you repeatedly how important your call is?

What happens when you try to access your practice website from a mobile phone? Is it slow to load and hard to read or navigate? Does your website contain Flash animation so you can’t view it on your sleek new iPhone? What kind of review would you give your own practice online?

How long do you keep patients waiting in the “waiting room”? Do you take the time to answer their questions and understand their concerns? Do you explain things in plain language? All of these questions speak directly to your patients’ experiences. When your patients have good experiences, they will be more interested and open to connecting with you through social media.

Humans have an innate need to connect with others in groups

This is at the heart of social media’s success. A billion people from all over the planet now connect on Facebook. A hundred million may connect to watch the same silly cat video on YouTube. When they find content they like, they share it with all of their online friends and strengthen their connections.

Connect with your patients regularly through email, online newsletters and social media. It’s important to keep in touch because it helps draw patients back to your practice again and again for their health needs. Connecting regularly makes them think about your practice even if they don’t read all your emails. Stay on their radar and they’ll be more likely to call you when they have another health concern.

Make sure that your emails, newsletters, blog and social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) content delivers benefits to your patients in the form of useful information. If they perceive your messages to be self-serving, they won’t stay connected for long. If you give them good information that helps them get or stay healthy, you strengthen your connections with them.

Attraction comes from engaging with patients in sickness and in health

Social media engagement occurs when people qualify themselves by showing interest in your practice. They’re sufficiently attracted to want to get to know you a little better. People who engage with you online are more likely to become patients and tell their friends about you. Whether you want to strengthen relationships with existing patients, attract new patients or cultivate more referrals, social media is, increasingly, the most cost-effective way to go.

Once patients become attracted and opt-in to your social content, make sure they stay by re-engaging them on a regular basis. That means delivering interesting, new and relevant content that spurs them to take action (e.g. call for an appointment, refer a friend). Social media attraction includes “likes, comments and shares” plus downloads (e-brochures, health information reports, etc.) and event registrations (health fairs, community health talks). Remember that online attraction often translates to offline engagement.

Once you have gained that initial attraction, add a social media platform (a virtual place or an online group where your patients can gather) and experiment with different content to learn what patients like and share most. Measure your results and repeat what works.

The real magic of social media is in the math

When your small social network begins sharing your content within their social networks, your practice gets exposed to an ever-increasing pool of new patient prospects in a geometric progression. You share something of value with one connection who then shares it with his or her network of connections, which leads to dozens, hundreds or even thousands more connection and attraction possibilities.

Social media takes time to develop in its earliest stages. Positive patient experiences will lead to positive online reviews, which lead to more patients who are more open to receiving your social media messages. Over time, you build a strong following for your practice that can sustain itself for the long term. As your online followers become offline patients, you repeat the positive patient experience that laid the foundation for your social media cycle in the first place.

Diagnose Your Practice

It all starts with one person: You

It all starts when you put yourself in your patients’ shoes. That’s when you’ll understand why it’s easy for them to stay in touch with a healthcare practitioner they trust – one who has helped them to a better quality of life. Give them reasons to trust you and give you positive online reviews. Attract them with good content and valuable health information aimed at making their lives better.

Remember that social media marketing is an opt-in strategy. And new patients are more likely to opt in if you continue to give them the benefits of good content and valuable health information that engages them. Remember, too, that there are 150 million Americans who now search for health information and resources online. That number is growing rapidly and will continue for the foreseeable future. It presents an enormous opportunity for you to grow a social media network that will help sustain your practice.

If you would like to learn more about social media, plus more effective ways to attract and engage new patients and protect your online reputation, talk to the people who have supported and helped private healthcare practices with effective marketing strategies since 1979. Talk to the people at Practice Builders.

Call us at 800.679.1200 to talk to one of our program consultants.

Call us at 800.679.1200 or email us at info@PracticeBuilders.com to talk to one of our program consultants.

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