As businesses and organizations in all industries flock to social media for marketing and community outreach, an increasing number of health care professionals and practices are also embracing the trend. Used correctly, social media marketing can attract new patients, provide valuable information about innovations and news in your specialty, and even help you to give back to the community. With the benefits social media can provide, it is no wonder that many health care providers are eager to get on board. Knowing the right things to do to get started—before even creating your first social media account—can determine whether or not your efforts are successful. Below are steps that every physician and practice should take to ensure success with a social media campaign.
Determine Your Goals
The first item is to understand what you want to get out of social media marketing. Maybe your main goal is to recruit new patients or to engage current patients more strongly. Perhaps you want to connect with and educate the community, or maybe you wish to share information and network with peers and colleagues. No matter what your goal—or goals—may be, clearly defining it will establish a strong foundation on which to build the rest of your social media plan.
Create a Plan of Action
Jumping into a social media marketing campaign without a plan is setting yourself up for disorganization and inconsistency, two major factors in the ultimate failure of many such efforts. Before taking any action, outline the tasks you will accomplish to work toward meeting your goals and establish a strategy for implementing those items.
Decide which social media networks you will use by considering your goals. LinkedIn is ideal for networking with business professionals such as vendors and other health care professionals; Facebook is geared toward the general public; and Twitter falls somewhere in between. When you know where your social media presence will be, establish a schedule of when and what you will be posting.
Keep Privacy in Mind
Although selecting appropriate content is a concern for any business using social media, health care professionals have the added responsibility of respecting patients' privacy. These concerns should be at the forefront of every stage of planning a social media campaign, from the initial concept to determining your first content schedule to staff training. Remember that not only do violations of privacy risk Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act sanctions, but they may also cost you the trust of your patients and the community.
Set Access Rules
Depending on the size of your practice, you may be the sole social media manager, or you may have one or more staff members who will be contributing to the maintenance of your social media accounts. In your planning, clearly designate who in your practice has access rights and what their roles and responsibilities include. You may want give some staff members limited administrative access. It is highly recommended that guidelines be set and implemented at the outset for anyone with the ability to post online. The parameters should stipulate when office staff members are allowed to access the sites, what approval level is needed, and what content is appropriate for posting. Remember that ensuring the staff's understanding of their responsibility regarding patients' privacy is essential.
Shama Kabani is a best-selling author, speaker, and president of The Marketing Zen Group in Dallas. Ms. Kabani may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Shama.
Cary M. Silverman, MD, MBA, a LASIK and refractive cataract eye surgeon, is the medical director of EyeCare 20/20 in East Hanover, New Jersey. Dr. Silverman may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @TheLASIKdoc.