Why Medical Professionals Can’t Ignore Social Media Marketing



Social media is a powerful means for giving your practice a voice and connecting with your audience on the issues they care most about.


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Did you know that nine out of ten people aged 18-24-year-old trust medical information shared via social media? Given the amount of misinformation, hoaxes and urban legends that go viral on social media, those stats are enough to give any doctor pause. The advent of the digital age means faster access to information.

That’s all well and good, but it comes with a big problem: not all information is created equal. Getting access to accurate, complete and up-to-date healthcare information, and then knowing how to interpret this information, is the real challenge. Take WebMD, for example. While WebMD can be a useful tool for learning about medical conditions, it’s also given rise to an epidemic of inaccurate self-diagnosis.

Increasingly, medical practices are adopting an attitude of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” That’s good news for a practice’s bottom line, too: Four out of 10 people say social media influences their choice of a doctor or hospital, according to ReferralMD.

Getting active on social media is as important for reaching new patients as it is for connecting with existing ones. Social media is also a vital part of effective multi-channel marketing, says marketing expert Dan Goldstein, who advises medical professionals on marketing best practices.

Is your medical practice guilty of ignoring social media? From patient education to building your personal brand, social media marketing is a must-do for health care professionals. That said, just because you tweet a few times doesn’t mean your patients will take notice. Follow these tips to jumpstart your social media marketing:

1. Know your audience

Your audience includes patients, caregivers, and your fellow medical providers. Audience roles are fluid: patients can become caregivers and doctors can become patients. Your social media posts will need to engage with all these different audience members.

As a result, the messages you develop will differ based on which social media channel you’re using and which audience subset you’re targeting. Before launching a social media campaign, take the time to understand the different needs and motivators of your audience members, and shape your content accordingly.

2. Be relevant

Use seasonal trends as a “hook” for your content. In January, New Year’s Resolution themed content such as preventative health care, weight loss/nutrition tips, and mindfulness is popular. Come summer, use the warmer months to promote sun safety and skin cancer awareness. Don’t ignore current events, either. From the latest on the Zika virus to last year’s Disneyland measles outbreak, keep on top of current health news as it breaks.

Set up Google alerts to monitor news closest to your practice’s services and your audience’s interests. Be prepared to move fast; with the half-life of a tweet averaging 18 minutes, timeliness and relevancy is everything. However, in the rush to get on top of a story, watch out for click-bait headlines. It’s a practice Facebook is now penalizing, and one social media users in general detest.

3. Engage your audience

To be an authentic voice in the healthcare conversation, you need to take time out and listen to what your audience is talking about before you start adding your two cents to the conversation. Audience engagement means allowing space for others to share their stories. It also means being responsive.

While you should not give personal medical advice over social media, you can answer medical questions with a professional and compassionate tone. Even if the response is a recommendation to set up an appointment with a medical provider, a prompt response lets your audience know you value what they have to say and care enough to connect.

4. Maintain industry compliance

As a heavily regulated industry, medical providers face a host of rules and regulations governing healthcare communications, including HIPPA, ACA, and ERISA. A good rule of thumb: never provide specific medical advice to a patient via social media.

Instead, share general information in response to a social media medical question and encourage the patient to contact your practice directly for a personal (and private) consultation. Remember, anything you say on social media can last forever, so watch what you post. Tweets may fade away into the Twittersphere after 18 minutes, but the record is always there. Even if you delete social media content, someone may have captured a screenshot. Think before you tweet!

Bottom line:

Social media is a powerful means for giving your practice a voice and connecting with your audience on the issues they care most about.

As you refine your social media strategy, note which types of content perform best (infographics or short videos?), which times your audience is most responsive (Saturday afternoon or Wednesday evening?), and which channels they prefer for communications (Facebook or Twitter?).

By connecting with the right people at the right time about the right healthcare issues, you’ll grow your social media audience and strengthen your practice’s brand, too.

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