Happy New Year to all my readers! May 2014 be one of your most productive, energized and rewarding years.
In the spirit of keeping active with blogging, I have decided to accept an occasional outside guest post on topics that might be useful to or interesting for you --- here is the first one. Please let me know if this is NOT a good plan!
In 2012, the average age of physicians in the U.S. was 51. That same year, the average age of a social media user was between 25-44 years old, some sites skewing younger than others. These statistics means there’s a disconnect between physicians with active licenses and their patients or younger clients, at least when it comes to social media.
Social media is a great way to provide better, more engaging patient or client care. Even if you’re not all that proficient in technology and don’t know how to send a tweet, it only takes a few minutes to learn the basics of any one social media platform (or hire a high school student for an afternoon to teach you!).
Here’s a step-by-step guide to using social media in a way that helps you provide lasting, effective service to all your patients or clients.
1. Decide which site is best for you.
Most likely, the vast majority of your patients or clients are going to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest. These are among the most popular social sites in the world and their communities are active on a daily basis. You should invest some time learning one (or more) of these sites and in the basic functionalities that will allow you to communicate. Set up a branded profile, either in the name of your practice or as an individual (think: “The Optometry Gal”, etc.).
2. Have a social media plan.
What are you going to use the site for? Do you need a better way to communicate with patients? Do you intend to build an active, engaged "tribe" around you and your service or product? Perhaps you just need a more effective outlet for disseminating information on pertinent issues, and practice or business updates. Go ahead and carve out time every day (or appoint someone on your staff) to interact on and monitor your social site.
3. Do research on HIPAA regulations in your state.
Social media is a great way to communicate with people but be mindful of all state and federal regulations that may affect you. Never give out confidential medical information on a social site and be cautious about what kind of “advice” you give to patients. When in doubt, have your default social site statement be that you encourage your social contacts seek care in their physician's office.
4. Make your patients or clients aware of your social presence.
Some of your patients will be happy to know they can schedule appointments via your Facebook page, or even ask you general medical questions (the kind that have broad educational answers) over Twitter. Make sure your patients know where to find you and encourage them to reach out – but be sure you answer! Nothing kills effective social networking faster than the "radio silence" of one party.
5. Promote content that’s useful for sustained results.
Social media is a terrific way to share educational information with patients and clients --- if only you had the time during each visit or contact! For example, you can remind your female patients to get a mammogram every year, or talk about the importance of scheduling a flu shot appointment when winter hits. You can even share studies and articles you’ve found informative. When your social contacts see these kinds of communications coming directly from your medical office or business (that they’ve learned to trust), they’ll be far more likely to read (and heed) it.
How you use social to interact with your patients and clients specifically will greatly depend on your business, the needs of your "followers", and the time you’re willing to put into it. Consider social media one more way to maintain a healthy dialogue with your patients or clients, rather than a time-suck, and you’re well on your way to providing an engaging, active social program within your field.
Guest post by Ryan Currie who is a product manager at BizShark.com, with 5 years experience in online marketing and product development. In addition to web related businesses, he also enjoys the latest news and information on emerging technologies and open source projects.