By Nicole Ervast, Business Development Associate
If you are a physician, you’ve probably thought about getting active on social media. You may have heard horror stories about negative online reviews and accidental HIPAA violations. This can make joining the online community seem intimidating and not worth the effort. But the fact is, your patients are online, and they are searching for you, tweeting about you, and writing reviews about you. You can choose to put yourself above it all and stay out of it completely, but if you want to gain a modicum of control over your presence online… what’s the phrase? “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”
For steps on how to get your hospital or healthcare facility started on social media, read my previous post.
Step 1: Do Your Research
The first thing to do is scope out the field. Try Googling yourself and see what comes up. You might find that you’ve been reviewed on a doctor review site like healthgrades.com. Sometimes these reviews seem really unfair–people are more likely to review a negative experience than a positive one. But knowing what has been said about you online gives you a chance to respond and either publicly apologize, or offer to contact the reviewer privately to resolve his/her issue.
Next, search your competitors. Observe which social networks they are on and what they are posting about. A great tool to use is Rival IQ, which allows you to input up to 5 competitors and gives you valuable insight on what social networks they are on, how many followers they have, what keywords they are using and how much engagement they receive. They offer a free 7-day trial, which is sufficient time for you to get a good picture of your industry landscape. If any of your competitors seem to have a lot of engagement (likes, shares, comments), you may want to mimic their strategy.
It’s important to always be thinking about who your audience is. Who do you want following your social profiles? Is it potential patients? Current patients? Business partners? Chances are it’s a combination of those, and maybe more. To determine who you want your audience to be, know your purpose. This may be bringing in more patients to your practice, or being able to communicate seamlessly with your current patients for things like appointments and feedback.
Step 2: Create Your Social Media Profiles
Once you’ve done your research and decided which social networks you will join, it’s time to sign up. For each social network, you will need to create a profile. Some items will be uniform: every network allows you to display your name, an “about” or “bio” section, a profile photo, a phone number, and a website address. You should utilize all of these items, or as many as possible. Here are some tips:
- The “About” section should be one paragraph that describes you or your practice concisely. You may already have an “About” page on your website–just use the same text (Twitter is the exception–you can only write one to two sentences here, as there is a 140-character limit)
- Your display name should be your name or the name of your practice
- Your profile picture should be a professional photo of you (this is the image that will appear next to your display name each time you post or comment)
Here are some tips for creating profiles on each of the most popular social networks:
On Facebook you can create a personal profile as well as a business page. If you have a practice, I recommend creating both. If you just want to represent yourself, stick with a personal profile. Your cover photo is displayed on your profile and should be an image that represents your brand. Make sure you use a high quality image of the appropriate size–having a blurry cover photo makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, or are too lazy to resize/choose another photo.
A cool feature of Facebook is the customize-able Call-to-Action button that you can link to a page on your website. You can edit this button to display different phrases, such as “Contact Us,” “Learn More,” and “Call Now.” You can also customize your tabs. There are the classic Timeline, About and Photos tabs, but you can also add Services, Reviews and Videos tabs. I encourage you to experiment with these and see which ones resonate.
On Twitter, you need a display name and a username. The display name may be used by multiple users, but each user has a unique username. For example, if you search “Keystone Healthcare” on Twitter, there will be several accounts that populate with that display name or a very similar display name. However, if you search @keystonehcmgmt, you will only find our account, since the username is unique. Depending on how common your name is, you may have to play around with adding abbreviations or numbers to your username. This shouldn’t be difficult for physicians, as you can add your title or letters to your name.
Twitter also allows you to upload a cover photo, to which the same rules as Facebook apply.
LinkedIn is similar to Facebook in its profile layout. Keep in mind though, LinkedIn is the only social network on this list that is designed for professionals. Use this network mostly for recruiting (if your practice is hiring) or business relationships. Bear in mind that everything you post here should have relevance in the professional world.
LinkedIn will allow you to enter in some extra details, like industry and company size. Input as much of this information as you can.
Instagram is a different sort of animal. Since it is mainly a visual media network, it remains very casual. I haven’t seen a lot of doctors using Instagram for professional purposes, but you can always get creative! Think about how the emphasis on images can help you reach your audience. For example, a lot of hospitals use this network to offer daily health tips with an eye-catching photo. If you don’t think you have a professional use for Instagram, there is nothing wrong with creating a personal profile and uploading images of your daily life, which is what most people do. This is a great way to show your patients that you are a human being and not just an MD!
Step 3: Start Posting!
Here are some topics that I find resonate for physicians and other providers online:
- Health education
- Announcements (events, office closures, etc.)
- Relevant news
- Blog posts or articles you’ve written
Take Kevin Pho, MD–I’m sure you’ve heard of him, and you’ve probably been to his website, KevinMD.com. This is a place where physicians (or anyone, really) can write guest articles on pretty much any topic relating to healthcare. Kevin Pho has 143,000 followers on Twitter! He is an example of a physician who embraced social media and used it to build a huge forum for both clinicians and patients to discuss, and yes, sometimes vent about healthcare issues. I’m not saying this is what you should work towards, as it’s probably a full time job in itself, but it is definitely an example of the power and breadth of social media in the medical world.
Finally, be sure to stay human when you’re online. While you should keep your professional face on, you shouldn’t seem like a robot. Use emojis when possible–they lighten the mood and bring some personality to the discussion. Also, don’t forget to like, share and comment. If you want other users to engage with your content, you have to do it first. Good luck!
I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can find me on Twitter @NicoleErvast.