Using Social Media to Attract New Patients and Build Loyalty

Shelly Reese

Disclosures

December 27, 2017

In This Article

You Need to Earn Those "Thumbs-Up" Icons

So while social media may constitute a brave new world in marketing terms, earning those sought-after likes and favorable reviews means that the basics—delivering excellent customer service and patient care—are more important than ever.

"If patients are coming to you just because the practice is close to their house, they probably won't share about you on social media," says Christian Zamora, business development manager for the Hernried Center for Medical Weight Loss in Sacramento, California. "But if you have a great front desk staff, and the doctor is super engaging and really makes you feel special, they'll want to share that."

Tara Hudson, office manager for Genecov Orthodontics, an orthodontics practice in Dallas and Plano, Texas, agrees. The Genecov team uses Instagram to connect with young patients and Facebook to reach their parents with daily posts about contests, staff accomplishments, community events the practice is sponsoring, and lots of smiling patients.

"Social media is a soft form of marketing," says Hudson. "It is how we let our patients and the general public know who we are as a culture. The average person thinks a doctor is a doctor is a doctor. They assume the doctor has a certain skill level. They want to know who you are as a person, what makes you different. Social media helps you get that across."

Where Do You Go for Social Media?

The social media universe is huge, expanding, and becoming increasingly embedded in people's lives, all of which can make it pretty intimidating for newbies.

"Most people feel most comfortable in one place or another and will find that over time that is the one they gravitate to," says Neporent. She advises physicians to invest their resources in the channel where they feel the most natural propensity but not to lose sight of what they want to accomplish. "If you are a general practitioner in a midsized town, you don't need 300,000 Twitter followers. You need 600 people in a particular zip code."

Because various social media outlets skew toward different demographic groups and require a different way of sharing information, the channel you select will likely depend on the nature of your practice, the type of information you want to share, and your ultimate objective.

Interested in sharing articles on heart disease with your patients? Facebook, by far the largest platform and the most popular among middle-aged and older users, is an easy way to do it. Want to recruit new patients with a targeted campaign? Facebook again, but be prepared to spend some money for advertising. Is your patient base on the young side and is the nature of your work conducive to photography? Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is likely the place to be. Are you a specialist seeking to generate physician referrals by underscoring your expertise or establishing yourself as a thought leader? Try LinkedIn and Twitter. Are your patients likely to turn to online communities for support or ideas? You may want to consider Pinterest.

A lot of doctors are drawn to Instagram, a photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, says Neporent. "They like it because a strong image can attract a lot of goodwill, and they can use a lot of hashtags without being rude. It also works as a nice little mini-blog. They can write a hundred words, post an image, and they're done."

While image-driven channels like Instagram and Pinterest may work for specialties where bright smiles and bouncing babies are a practice focus, they'll be tougher to navigate for others, says Grant.

"If you're a GI, be cautious. Taking a picture of a colon isn't so great, but incorporating photos of food with an article on probiotics is another story. Then you become Pinterest quality. You really have to study each forum to know which you want to engage and make sure it aligns with your audience and message."

Above all, she says, practices need to remember that social media is "social." It's not about pushing information out at people, it's about creating information that people want to tap and share with others. "When physicians shift their focus away from promotion and think in terms of education, it gets their attention, and their outreach becomes much more effective," Grant says.

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