Social Media 101
Use Social Media to Engage with Your Patients and Your Community
A recent Google Think survey found over 76% of patients were getting their healthcare information online. Make sure your practice website is up-to-date and engaging, and then leverage other social media platforms to engage with your patients and your community.
• Facebook: Establish a Facebook page for your practice and post information regularly (weekly, at a minimum, is best). Ask patients to “like” your practice page. Keep your personal Facebook page separate and don’t accept “friend” requests from patients.
• Instagram: Thisn social media platform has become very popular but mainly focuses on pictues and copy. There is a story feature that lets you use rotating graphics for promotion.
• Twitter: Why Tweet? It’s a real time network with more than 328 million monthly active users. Use Twitter to communicate simple messages like pollen counts, shot hours and office hour changes. Build up a network of followers and connect with other allergists on Twitter.
• YouTube: This video sharing site can help you market your practice. Post short videos on key allergy topics, procedures (patch testing, etc.), or to answer common patient questions. You don’t need expensive equipment. You can use your smartphone to record and upload the video.
Take a look at the slides from the Practice Management Workshop session on new practice marketing techniques.
Practices need to consider a social media presence to promote their practice and interaction with their website. Such sites allow instant access to thousands of patients and potential patients, as well as the ability to be able to communicate with colleagues. Visiting other practice and healthcare organization websites or social media pages can inform you with new ideas and keep you abreast of changes in the field.
However, increasing the practice’s or your personal presence online can pose several challenges. To address these challenges before you get started, review the AMA’s "Professionalism in the Use of Social Media" policy. Also consider establishing an employee social media policy that clearly outlines expectations and guidelines.
Social Media Resources
Targeted Resources for Social Media and Health Care
The Centers for Disease Control offers a Social Media Toolkit geared toward health communicators.
Nationwide Children's Hospital has a Healthcare Communications & Social Media Curriculum that will help you learn the basics of identifying a target audience and writing effective evidence-based messages. The topics cover best practices for Facebook and Twitter, along with professional networks such as LinkedIN and Doximity.
If this isn’t enough, Google “social media for health care organizations” and you will get about 40 pages of resources.
Important issues to address when looking at social media include:
• What social media outlets do your patients use?
• What strategies have worked for other allergists around you?
• How much time do you have to devote to networking? Should you pick one/two/more media outlets?
• How frequently do you plan on updating these pages?
• Who is your target audience?
Social media tools to consider include Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Researchgate, You Tube, Tumblr, Foursquare and more. There are programs available to link Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You-Tube, etc., so that you can automatically update each of these outlets at the same time. Efforts should be made to do this in order to maximize efficiency of the physician’s time. Such programs include HootSuite, TweetDeck and more.
Patient Focused Social Media Sites
The 800 lb gorilla of social media, Facebook has more users than the population of the United States. Using it for practice promotion, however, is different than using it to communicate with family and friends. Many of the sites listed earlier contain information applicable to Facebook, but some websites/articles that can help guide you in using Facebook include: Facebook Fundamentals: A Guide to Social Media in Healthcare Marketing.
Facebook can also be used as a method of advertising your practice.
Twitter is a real time short messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices, and is meant to build up a network of followers. Practices can use Twitter for things like pollen counts, shot hour and office hour changes, and other simple messages that you want to get out to patients. HIPAA and patient privacy considerations should always be paramount.
If you already use Twitter on a personal basis, strongly consider separating your personal Twitter account from your practice’s Twitter account. Be aware that in 2010, Twitter donated its entire Tweet Archive to the Library of Congress and tweets can be tracked on search engines. Start with a small biography and a short, descriptive user name. Get familiar with tweet terminology prior to launching your account.
Twitter Terminology Sites
Twitter Terminology and Lingo
Good source for tips in using Twitter can be found at:
Twitter Tips: Social Media & Healthcare Marketing
YouTube is a video-sharing website. There are a wide variety of uses that could be helpful for practice marketing including: patient testimonials, health education videos, videos on office procedures (skin testing, rhinolaryngoscopy, spirometry), videos of your practice setting, and even answers for common questions from patients. Visit the official YouTube help guide.
Other business promoting sites
There are many, many sites that can help your patients find you. Here are a few of the big ones:
Professional Networking Social Media Sites
LinkedIn began as a networking site for professionals to connect and network with colleagues for purposes like recruitment, sharing ideas and projects, job search, and so forth. LinkedIn has added groups now, so that people with similar interests can communicate with each other, asks questions and share answers. There are dedicated groups for the AAAAI and the Food Allergy Network, for example, where you can answer questions posed by other group members as a way to promote yourself and your practice.
Known by many as LinkedIn for physicians with messaging capabilities to colleagues that comply with HIPAA regulations, it has the capacity to send and receive messages and faxes. It also allows you to link with referring physicians and make your practice visible in a “safe” area that is restricted to patients.
This site is like LinkedIn for scientists. It is a social networking site for researchers to connect with one another, to share research, pose research questions, seek collaborators, and join special interest groups to receive emails on topics of interest to you.
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