It’s exciting to see more and more healthcare organizations buzzing about healthcare social media marketing over the past year. Social media marketing is such a wonderful way to connect with members of your target market (including your customers, referral sources, patients, and their families and caregivers) I’m happy to see healthcare organizations are beginning to adapt their marketing plans to include a social strategy that extends beyond the traditional ‘face to face’ and old school collateral brochures.
Having experience working with many healthcare clients, the trend that we have seen when speaking with these various organizations is that many are struggling to get things off of the ground. Whether it be red-tape such as writing social media policy and procedure clauses, dealing with HIPAA guidelines or just superiors who are reluctant to invest time and money in this ‘new med’ – push back has been a common problem.
While time will force these healthcare social media marketing problems to vanish, there are quite a lot of advantages to being an early adopter as a healthcare organization. After extensive research, we have found many healthcare companies fall flat when it comes to their use (or misuse) of social media.
Healthcare Social Media Marketing – Don’t Wait Any Longer
Here are a few of the reasons why healthcare organizations shouldn’t wait any longer when it comes to executing a social media marketing campaign:
1. Facebook is not just for Starbucks. With its millions of active users (and I stress the word “active”), Facebook has a sea of people that you can engage with from your healthcare organization. These people are consuming information in every category, not just the mega-brands. Everyone has their space on Facebook.
Even better, with Facebook Pages you can categorize your organization fully, and configure locations and other valuable information for your target audience. Whether your business is local, national or international, Facebook has the ability to create real connections, support customer/patient communications and will help you let your audience know about any events, or exclusive information with just a few clicks, which will improve your healthcare social media marketing.
2. Your audience (and competition) is on Twitter. The healthcare and medical community is not only on Twitter…they are active! Doctors, medical companies, hospitals and many more are offering updates, event news, guidelines and much more on a daily basis. Yet another massive and active community, Twitter is a hot spot for sharing information and you need to be in the mix!
3. There is a LinkedIn Group to fit your needs….or 50! Just adding your hospital or company to LinkedIn is wonderful and important step…but what if you could also add an additional audience of 50,000 to 1 million+? With LinkedIn Groups you can engage with potential customers/patients based on subject and location and get in front of them on a daily basis. Now that is coverage!
4. YouTube is the portal for promotion. Using video as a promotional tool is a must in the healthcare industry. Having the ability to illustrate what your company is capable of in addition to the skill of your team or products is imperative. Now imagine having the ability to place this video on the second largest search engine out there: YouTube. Fully branded and packed with information, this vehicle does nothing but build your profile, credibility and positive sentiment.
5. Act now or be left behind. As there are many organizations that are understaffed or unable to give the appropriate time to either do the social media or even pitch the idea of a campaign to the CEO….the organizations are simply trickling in. But this speed will begin to increase at a faster and faster rate.
By being an early adopter, you can gain more market advantage and make a splash as one of the first organizations in your area to have a wonderful Facebook Page, an active Twitter account, a linked in LinkedIn account and a sharp and slick YouTube page.
I like ending with number 5 as there are many healthcare marketers out there that have received a lot of push back on social media from their organizations. But for every one, there are numerous others who are getting their campaigns approved and are launching effective social media marketing campaigns and claiming their social real estate. My advice is to get your plan together quickly so you don’t miss the boat!
Challenges Of Social Media In Healthcare
Healthcare Social Media: The Do’s and Dont’s
What Are The Challenges Of Social Media In Healthcare?
Being an internet marketing company you can come across a lot of social media. Sometimes it can stand out or it can lack substance. Recently, we saw a social media video on how healthcare related businesses maintain professionalism while participating on social networks. It featured a recent interview by Paul Moniz, the Managing Director of Communications and Marketing at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
He speaks with Katherine Chretien about the challenges of healthcare social media and unprofessional online conduct. They mention a study where she partnered with the Federation of State Medical Boards in which she found that 71% of state boards reported instances of unprofessional online conduct. Although social networks could be a forum for empathy, it must be done while respecting patient privacy. Here are the Do’s and Don’ts of social media for healthcare.
Things to Do with Healthcare Social Media Marketing
- Provide simple healthcare tips
- Suggest new healthcare products
- Interact with your community
By providing simple healthcare tips you can stay active on social networks while avoiding unprofessional conduct. Suggesting new healthcare products allows you to be social and keep your social network followers and your healthcare social media marketing, healthy.
Interaction with the community will keep people around and encourage more participation from online followers. If a patient leaves feedback, you should always acknowledge it by responding or sharing the feedback. These online activities will let others know you are active online and will overcome the challenges of healthcare social media marketing.
Things to Avoid on Social Media
- Avoid providing medical advice
- Never speak about recent patient’s issues
- Do not let it go stagnant
Remaining professional online does not mean you must go silent. Instead, all you have to do is avoid a few honest mistakes. Remember that the information you post on social networks is often seen by many people, so avoid providing medical advice. Someone may take your advice out of context and act without professional assistance.
Also, confidentiality between doctor and patient could prohibit this form of interaction. It may be best to never mention anything about a patient’s recent issues and instead focus on your practice. Although it may seem like a headache to stay active on social networks, especially with all the rules and regulations, it does pay off.
Keeping your social media updated with information that can help your social network followers and patients will ultimately create a better web presence.
With regulations like HIPAA and other healthcare security for computers, many physicians opt out of this type of media altogether. This is because they fear breaches from social networks and media which could allow criminals to access confidential information. However, by having social media, your practice can stand out from the crowd.
The great thing about social media is that it can be accessed from anywhere so you are not confined to use company computers. By focusing on social media from home or your phone, you can create your following online while remaining safe from medical data breaches.
Don’t be part of the 71% of instances reporting unprofessional online conduct and healthcare social media marketing abuse. By following the Do’s and Don’ts of healthcare social media, you can avoid becoming a negative statistic while remaining socially active online.
What Are The Benefits Of Healthcare Social Media Marketing?
Entrepreneurs are using the newest internet trend, professional social networks. Services like LinkedIn, Konnects, Ecademy, Plaxo and even Facebook provide professionals the opportunity to meet and collaborate with colleagues worldwide. These professionals fall into two distinct groups who utilize social networks:
- Those for whom the emphasis is on the word “network”
- Those for whom the emphasis is on the word “social”
The 5 Steps of Social Media Marketing
Those who emphasize the word “network” seek to promote and expand their business. Those who emphasize the word “social” seek to promote and expand their Christmas card list. Social Media Marketing is the systematic approach to using social networks and other “Web 2.0” and “Web 3.0” technologies as a part of an all inclusive marketing plan.
“Begin with the End in Mind”
Steven Covey’s 5th, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is one of the truisms of planning regardless of the purpose of the plan. The rapidity with which the field of Social Media Marketing is changing, new sites debuting, new functions and innovations make any treatise listing specific services obsolete before it can even be printed. However, when the social networks are viewed as tools the emphasis shifts from recommending specific sites to defining goals.
Step One: Define the goals then matching the tool to the purpose.
Goals vary from business to business and professional to professional, but the identification of healthcare social media marketing goals is key to determining what characteristics are needed in a social network. Further, once a social media marketing program begins to meet with success, a deluge of invitations to other networks will begin to arrive.
A prioritized list of goals will ensure that the social media marketing plan does not suffer “mission creep” by pursuing unrelated social networking opportunities.
Boundaries, Budgets & Bull’s-Eyes
The rule of cellular operations is that leadership sets the boundaries and budgets and allows the team charged with achieving the goal to “hit the Bull’s-Eye” on their own by any means that respects the boundaries and budgets sets.
This form of leadership is used in all manner of situations that require high achievement in a rapidly changing environment. Special Forces teams, SWAT teams, corporate crisis teams, even medical resuscitation teams and Emergency Medical Services operate in this micromanagement-free manner.
Step Two: Set boundaries and budgets that govern the efforts expended in social networking while allowing the social networker “hit the Bull’s-Eye.”
Most professional social networks offer a free and one or more “premium” memberships. In most or all of those with “premium” memberships, it is possible to “earn” free premium upgrades by recruiting new members to the network platform. With all these incentives, it is only necessary to spend money on professional social network membership if a specific paid premium membership function or service is needed to achieve the goals set in step 1.
This does not however mean that social networking is free. Most successful business social networkers agree that success requires a minimum of 40 hours per month spent building the network and communicating with network members and online contacts. The biggest area of budget bloat is time spent networking online.
Be very critical of the time spent on healthcare social media marketing. Time has a definite value in real dollars and time spent on social media marketing must provide a real and measurable return on investment. It is all too easy to spend endless hours enjoying the many “features” of social networking sites. Whether answering posted questions and earning the tag “Expert” or racking up endorsements and testimonials, every minute spent online must have a purpose, must contribute to achieving the goals and must provide a return.
Create a Cult of Personality
Once the goals, budgets and boundaries are set, it is time to begin networking. Whether online or in person, the most important tool of the social networker is dialogue. Online networking must include direct and individual communications with every member of the network. This is the process that separates those using social networks to expand their business and those seeking only to expand their Christmas list.
Every time a new member joins the network, that new contact must receive a personalized email welcoming them to the network. This mandates that the new contact’s network profile be read and the contact’s interests made the focus of the email. The process of customizing the welcome to the new contact has a side benefit to the business because it forces the business to define its relevance to an ever expanding and ever deepening market demographic described by the social network developed online.
Step Three: Communicate and connect, don’t just collect.
The object of the entire social media marketing effort is to build a network with a personal bond and the ability to refer paying customers or become paying customers themselves. This means the network members must become raving fans even before they make a buy or refer decision.
Those who have been networking in real life for years know this is much harder than turning a satisfied customer into a raving fan. Unlike in person networking, online networking limits the level of interpersonal exchange and thus “likability.” A social network makes the transition to raving fans because of the personality of the network leader. Use the regular communication with network members as a “personality conduit.”
It’s Called the “Web” for a Reason
The highest accolade for a business person using social networks as a professional tool is to become a “meta-leader.” Based on concepts taken from disaster healthcare and emergency management, the “meta-leader” is a bridge for communications across industries and a role modeling leader within their own business. In social networks, whether professional or personal, this is a truly pivotal role because as a “network node” the meta-leader is the point at which multiple individual networks begin to overlap. The meta-leader is the connection and the conduit for all these networks and even across social networking websites.
Step Four: Attract Like Minded People, Then Lead Them
The key to becoming a meta-leader in a market niche is to become a gathering point for other online professionals and their respective networks. All the professional social networking websites have the ability to create clubs, or groups, or collectives. By volunteering to create and manage such a group the meta-leader becomes the point of convergence for everyone interested in the topic.
Time to Get Real
Once the goals are set, the network built and the like minds have gathered, it is time to expand into the non-virtual world. The popular term for a social networking group meeting outside of cyberspace is “In Real Life” or simply “Live.” Virtually all local chapters of online professional social networks have a “Live” meeting. This is where meta-leadership changes a list of network members into life long business relationships.
Step Five: Make it Real in Real Life
Depending on the local culture and networking traditions as well as the subculture of the online network, a traditional “dinner and drinks” networking event may be in order, but a “picnic in the park” or a “burgers and baseball” format may be more appropriate. The key is not the surroundings, but the opportunity for people who have built an online, but nonetheless real relationship to put a handshake, or a hug, to the profile and prose.
Online professional social networks and social media marketing are the newest tool in the entrepreneur’s business success kit. Properly used, healthcare social media marketing promises business expansion and profit growth.
Dr. Maurice A. Ramirez is the founder and president of the consulting firm High Alert, LLC.. He serves on expert panels for pandemic preparedness and healthcare surge planning with Congressional and Cabinet Members. Board certified in multiple specialities, Dr. Ramirez is Founding Chairperson of the American Board of Disaster Medicine and serves the nation as a Senior Physician-Federal Medical Officer in the National Disaster Medical System. Dr. Ramirez has a new book: You Can Survive Anything, Anywhere, Every Time.