Is social media marketing really necessary for healthcare providers? Many healthcare providers and practice managers struggle with this question. To help you answer this question, we’ve consulted with Social Media Strategist Rebecca Corvese. Rebecca is the founder of ScribeTree Social Media Marketing. Since establishing the company she has worked with a variety of businesses to help them establish their online presence and accelerate their brand recognition. Rebecca has more than 20 years experience in marketing, the last 5 years have focused on digital strategies for both U.S. and International clients. Rebecca has a B.S. in Marketing from the College of Notre Dame.
In this interview Rebecca shares her thoughts and recommendations on how to get started with social media, why you need to get on the social media bandwagon and what you can expect along the way. Our first question to Rebecca is one that we hear frequently.
How do I find time to spend on social media when my schedule is already packed?
It is true that social media marketing requires time, effort and resources. You need to look at the time investment within the context of what you want to accomplish for your practice. Identify your goals and tactics. Take the tactics you’ve identified and associate clear objectives and action items for each one.
Next, consider working with a social media manager (SMM) who will enable you to marry your traditional marketing campaigns with your digital marketing strategy.
A SMM will work with you to create and post content on a consistent basis on the social platforms you have chosen. They will give your business a consistent presence on digital media, help you to attract your target audience, as well as re-target them. Even better, SMMs will help you nurture your existing client relationships by crafting and delivering information about your practice. They will also identify and deliver industry news that may affect your patients and need-to-know information about their interactions with you.
Finally, SMMs will provide you analytics and statistical information, so that you can be sure that your digital marketing dollars are being spent wisely and providing return-on-investment (ROI). Most SMMs provide monthly metrics so that you can track your visitors, click-through rates, how many comments, shares, favorites and more. With close attention to metrics, a good SMM will be able to finely tune your marketing efforts so that your marketing will become increasingly effective.
How does social media/digital marketing differ from traditional marketing?
Traditional (outbound) marketing is no longer sufficient. “54% more leads are generated by inbound tactics rather than traditional paid marketing.”2 Some companies just try to improve their SEO (Search Engine Optimization), PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising and Email marketing campaigns, but social media is a large portion of the digital marketing interactions on the Internet. Failure to fully engage with patients and prospective patients via digital marketing strategies is an opportunity not taken.
Social media marketing can play a huge role for your entire practice. Creating a thought-leadership platform will help prospective patients identify which provider they would like to see. And, after they become patients they remain patients because you are their trusted source from one-on-one visits and through the retention efforts that you employ via social media.
These inbound marketing tactics will help you to build your practice and attract prospective patients:
- First, develop relationships with prospective clients through social media lead-generation techniques, such as email capture applications like MailChimp.
- Second, educate prospective clients by offering information about your practice, as well as the latest treatment techniques. Answer questions such as: What healthcare legislation has been approved? How does it affect the patient? What do patients need to know to protect their privacy and healthcare rights?
This is the type of proactive outreach that is one of the hallmarks of inbound marketing. It is also a driving force in attracting new business.
Which social media platform is best?
Worldwide, Facebook is still the clear leader in terms of members. “As of the first quarter of 2015, Facebook had 1.44 billion monthly active users.” 3 However, regular engagement is lower than in past years. Even so, more than half (56%) of Facebook users are logging in more than once a day. Facebook users are often the most frequent users of other social media platforms.
It’s important to note that ad-based revenues on Facebook are still very effective in reaching your target market, especially when combined with third-party apps. Even though Facebook has become a pay-to-play platform it is still a good idea to establish a presence on this platform.
Three platforms compete for second place – YouTube, Google+ (both 60%) and Twitter (53%). YouTube performs strong in mature markets, while Google+ is much more popular in fast-growth nations. When evaluating these platforms you should consider your patient and desired patient demographics to determine if these platforms are a good fit. In other words, do your ideal patients spend time on these platforms?
The top third tier platforms are – Instagram (26%), Pinterest (28%) and LinkedIn (28%).4 Each platform has its own benefits and drawbacks.
Which platform is best depends entirely on where your patients are and what your overall marketing and social media goals are.
If my practice doesn’t have any existing social media presence, what is the best place to start?
First define your goals. If you are not participating in social media/digital marketing, you are already behind the eight ball. Social media has become an integral part of business, yes that includes a medical practice. It will become more than just a small part of your practice’s marketing strategy.
A great way to learn what works is to research what other professionals in your specialty are doing. What social media platforms are they successful on? Follow them on these platforms and read their content daily. Following these professionals will help you to determine what tactics they are using to generate patient engagement. What kinds of posts have engagement? What posts are not getting engagement? Do they promote their practice with paid promotional ads? Learn from those that are already doing it right.
Next, research who the influencers are in your discipline. For example, you may want to follow the Surgeon General, the top legislators in your state that enact healthcare laws, the CEOs of your local hospitals, the board of director members of your healthcare organizations, etc. Follow their accounts (all of them – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) on social media. Read them daily. Do they only talk on topic, or do they discuss industry-wide topics? Do they occasionally tweet about other subjects? Do they use a lot of graphics? Do they respond to comments? Learn from the influencers. Remember, they are an influencer for a reason.
Make sure that you establish your social media presence using the best practices for each platform. In other words, are your profiles completely filled out? On LinkedIn, does the CEO of your practice have a full profile showcasing work experience, testimonials from others, volunteer causes and accomplishments? Does your practice’s page have complete contact information and daily status updates? Does your Facebook page allow comments from visitors? Do you have an email capture system on each of your platforms?
With any marketing campaign, it’s important to be flexible and try different social marketing platforms to see which one has the most impact on your practice and your marketing goals. If you work with a social media manager, s/he will be able to tell you which platforms should be your focus and which ones you don’t need to bother with.
Make sure there is consistency with your postings. When you are first getting started it can be overwhelming to continue daily postings not to mention responding to comments, tweets, retweets, shares, etc. However, it is important to stay consistent. If you post once a week, post every week. If you post once a day post every day. This is when you need to decide if hiring a social media manager makes sense for your practice or do you want to contract with an independent SMM. Do you have the budget to hire a SMM? In addition, do you have the budget for promotional ads on your social media platforms.
Most practices today are hiring consultants to do their social media marketing, rather than in-house staff. It is less expensive than hiring a full-time employee and a social media consultant will focus entirely on the digital marketing for your business.
The answer to the question we asked is a resounding yes. Digital marketing and social media are important components of an overall marketing strategy. Initially, it will take an investment in time and money to get started. After establishing your goals and objectives for your social media strategy it can be cost effective to engage a social media manager. Social media and digital marketing uses inbound-marketing techniques to engage existing and potential patients. This engagement helps build long-lasting relationships. There is no one size fits all platform, you should look at each social platform and decide which best fits your practice and your ideal patient. Most important, it’s time to get started. As Rebecca said, “If you are not participating in social media/digital marketing, you are already behind the eight ball.”