If you haven’t already, it’s time to join the realm of social media marketing practices to better your business and increase revenue. In the business world, word of mouth marketing is key to success. So when it comes to social media, taking steps to maximize the potential benefits for your practice (and your patients) means being in control of who’s talking about you and what they’re talking about. And there’s no better marketing power than that!

 

In this post we dip our feet in the pool of social media marketing for doctors and pick the brain of Dr. Kevin Pho, the leading physician voice for social media.

 

 

1. Be Friendly and Consistent, but Stay Professional

 

One of the best aspects of social media is that it puts providers and consumers on a level playing field. It makes you more human and approachable in a sense. However, there’s a fine line between professional physician/patient relationships and “friending” them on Facebook.

 

“The most important step is for physicians to act as professional on social media platforms as they do in the exam room. Doctors need to realize that, like it or not, they are held to a higher behavioral standard than the public. What may be casually appropriate on Twitter or Facebook may seem unprofessional coming from a physician,” says Kevin Pho, MD, an internal medicine physician and co-author of Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. “Whenever participating on social media, doctors should imagine they’re in a crowded hospital elevator. Whatever they write on a social network should be appropriate to say aloud in the elevator.”

 

It’s important to keep your content up-to-date and ever-changing. Find a formula that works best for you. But don’t bite off more than you can chew.

 

“Dip into social media at your own pace. Don’t feel you have to create profiles on several networks at once. Doctors are busy, most won’t have time for that.”

 

Dr. Pho suggests starting with LinkedIn. “A LinkedIn profile is akin to an online resume. That profile generally gets ranked high on a results page when doctors’ names are Googled, and can give some control over how they’re defined online.”

 

Others will want to try their hand and pursue the benefits of Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. “There is no ‘right’ way of engaging with social media,” says Dr. Pho. “But there is a wrong way, and that’s not participating at all.”

 

 

1. Make Patients Aware and Provide Useful Information

 

Putting a Facebook or Twitter button on your website is not enough. When it comes to getting people to “follow” you for the long haul, you have to give them a reason to do so. Provide them with information they would find valuable. Help them solve a problem.

 

“Social media gives doctors a platform to be heard online, and guide patients to reputable health sites,” says Dr. Pho. “In order for physicians to stay relevant in today’s increasingly transparent era of health data, they can no longer see themselves as gatekeepers of health information. Going forward, they need to redefine themselves to be curators instead, and help filter health-related information for patients.”

 

Patients often find themselves reaching to the web for health information. And who knows if it’s accurate. “For instance, parents who used Google to research sleep advice for their infants found that fewer than half of websites contained accurate information,” reports Dr. Pho. “Whether it’s through a blog, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, social media platforms give physicians tools to educate patients just as they would in the exam room.” As a physician, you have the knowledge and education that make you so valuable. Use social media to inform the reader and debunk false claims around the web.

 

“More patients than ever are researching their doctor online, and social media profiles invariably come up on a Google search. If doctors act professionally on those sites, patients may feel more comfortable seeing them in person after learning something about them on social media first.”

 

 

1. Offer Specials and Incentives

 

Think of it like this: you’re at a concert and they’re throwing free t-shirts off the stage. First thing you do is reach out to grab one. The same holds true on the web. Contests, discounts and free products and services create excitement and draw eyes to you and your practice beyond the scope of your healthcare profession.

 

Put together some discounts, deals or contests and post them on your page(s). Get your followers actively involved in whatever is going on and get them to “share” with their network. This is how you will reach more potential patients and keep your loyal ones coming back for more. Providing incentive is an age-old business tactic that works in almost every setting – including social media.

 

If you don’t have any goods or services to discount or giveaway, think of other ways to get people involved. Get your staff together to form a team for the local charity 5K and use social media to raise money and recruit participants.

 

 

A good rule of thumb is to entertain first and educate second without crossing the barriers of professionalism. Social media can be a positive influence on your career and practice, and you can simultaneously inform patients while building a community at the same time. To learn more about ways to use social media for your practice check out Dr. Pho’s new book “Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices” on Amazon.com.

 

 

Kevin Pho, MD is an internal medicine physician and co-author of “Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices”

 

 

He is founder and editor of KevinMD.com.