How to use social media for private healthcare clinics

Unless you’ve been on a space flight to Mars, you’ve no doubt heard of the internet craze around social networking services (aka social media). Perhaps you’ve created a Facebook Page for your clinic, or yourself. If not, are you wondering how to use social media for private healthcare clinics?

“A social network service focuses on the building and verifying of online social networks for communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others, and which necessitates the use of software”. (Wikipedia)

Social media for private healthcare companies started out slowly (we show some early day fan count numbers below), but has grown into a key part of a robust healthcare marketing program. According to research from MediaBistro, 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health.

There are hundreds of thousands of businesses using Facebook Pages including well-known healthcare brands like the Mayo Clinic (see image below). However, research suggests that only 31% of healthcare professionals use social media for professional networking.

What is a Facebook Page?

41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility.

Facebook is an excellent example of a popular and accessible social media site for private healthcare. Facebook pages can positively support clinic marketing by reaching out and connecting in a very human way with patients and potential patients. Back in the early days of pages, Facebook initially said that their pages feature was “a unique experience where users can become more deeply connected with your business or brand. Users can express their support by adding themselves as a fan, writing on your Wall, uploading photos, and joining other fans in discussion groups. You can send updates to your fans regularly — or just with special news or offers. Add applications to your Page and engage your users with videos, reviews, flash content, and more.”

Back in the early days of Pages, Facebook originally said that their pages feature was “a unique experience where users can become more deeply connected with your business or brand. Users can express their support by adding themselves as a fan, writing on your Wall, uploading photos, and joining other fans in discussion groups. You can send updates to your fans regularly — or just with special news or offers. Add applications to your Page and engage your users with videos, reviews, flash content, and more.”

The more casual approach to using Facebook Pages outlined above has evolved significantly. Now we implement a more coordinated strategy for our clients by integrating their Facebook page into an overall 5 step marketing program. Companies need to curate the content on their pages more (and not let just anyone post content on their pages). They need to designate “page administrators” whose job is to answer prospect enquiries or questions, stimulate conversation around topics of interest to their customers, share useful and brand-positive posts from other places, and create content specifically for sharing on Facebook.

How to use social media for private healthcare clinics - setting up a Facebook page

Facebook now reports that “more than 1.8 billion people use Facebook every month to connect with friends and family and discover things that matter. Using pages to market on Facebook helps you find new customers and build lasting relationships with them.”

Probably the most useful aspect of the Pages is that the “fans” show their support of your business in their profile. One of their “friends” who visits their profile will likely see that they are fans, and if they have an interest in the product/service, may click on the Page link to learn more.

Further, “when your fans interact with your Facebook Page, the actions they take are automatically generated into social stories. These stories are published to News Feed, which friends may see the next time they log into Facebook. The stories link back to your Facebook Page, inviting more people to interact with it, which generates more social stories and drives more traffic to your Page. Think of it as word-of-mouth marketing, only completely free and happening online.”

When we first profiled their Facebook page, the Mayo Clinic had 51 fans. At the time of writing this post, they have 955,046 fans! Their fan base continues to grow as more and more people see the page on their friend’s profiles, interact with the brand, or are helped by their content.

Steps to use social media for private healthcare clinics

If you’re interested in starting up your social networking community, keep the following tips in mind when launching:

  1. If you want to launch a Facebook page, you’ll need to join Facebook first. It’s easy, and free, and don’t worry about all that talk about identity theft (just leave personal details you don’t want public off of your profile unless you can master Facebook’s simple privacy settings.
  2. Consider your target audience. You may be surprised to find 60% of the UK population has a Facebook account. This chart breaks down their ages:Facebook User Statistics 2014
  3. Determine your mission or goal. Are you trying to generate interest in your service from people who know little about your product already? Or, are you trying to stimulate word-of-mouth from existing or past users? I’d aim for the latter, only because I think it’s a faster way of generating numbers, and I like the communication tools (i.e. discussion boards and reviews) that these pages offer.
  4. Decide what features are needed. You may want to enable people to upload photos or videos or connect with other members in discussion boards. Or you may want your Page to reference your latest blog entries. There are chat and message board applications from which you can also choose.
  5. Invite people to participate. Send invites to your existing mailing list. Generate excitement among members, and allow users to give feedback on the site.
  6. Keep the site active. Steady updates will keep the site fresh and free of out-of-date content.

A little experiment from the early days of social media

Before Facebook introduced of Pages (2007), we created a “group” on the Facebook site called “Friends of London Vision Clinic“. After inviting a few of our Facebook friends who were already connected with the business either as staff, patients or vendors, we realised that there were people who were joining the group unsolicited.

Even after those small early efforts, we noticed that when we typed in “laser eye surgery” into the Facebook search engine (available on every page on Facebook), the clinic was coming up in the first two results, and was one of the only businesses on there. Since those early days, the company now has well over 3000 fans.

Time has shown that social media for private healthcare is a useful tool for communicating with both prospects and patients. These early experiments bear out the overall marketing trend of providing high quality and personal content to prospects in media locations where they like to congregate and participate. Social media is not something to doubt or ignore. People were saying the same thing about a new computer system known as the “internet” for way too long…