A Social Prescription: The Importance of Social Media for Health Care Organizations

by | Nov 3, 2020 | JFG News

Social media today is so much more than a place to see photos of your nephew or reconnect with old colleagues and classmates. It’s an engagement and search platform all its own, with millions of users interacting daily to seek out recommendations, research businesses or products and discover new ideas and opportunities. It also means it’s an integral channel for all types of organizations, including health care practices and hospitals.

But what does it take to be successful on social media for health care organizations? As with care itself, the right choices aren’t the same for every patient. Let’s review some key stats and best practices that can help you maximize your impact on social platforms.

Health Care on Social – At a Glance

41 Percent Social Media Affect Medical Decisions - Medical Stat InfographicWith social media’s growth in popularity and continued ubiquity in our lives, it’s no surprise that the ways people use it has dramatically increased. For example, Search Engine Watch reports that one in three U.S. social media users have used a social network to search for health-related information. And even more people – 41 percent of users surveyed by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group – say that social media impacts their decision-making process when it comes to choosing a health provider or care facility.

While most hospitals, private practices and other types of health care entities today have some kind of presence on platforms like Facebook or Twitter, many are not utilizing it to the fullest extent. In today’s social media marketplace, simply having a page alone is not enough – you need to be posting, responding and creating content that gives audiences something to engage with, providing information, insight and a reason to choose you over the competition.

The Power of Posting

Post Trust on Social Media - Medical Stat InfographicPosting is the primary way you have to reach your audience on social media, but what should your posts be about? Social media users are looking for content that informs, so posting about new research, added services or staff can be one great option. Users also look for content that engages, meaning that asking questions or holding a poll or survey in the form of a question can spark replies and conversations on your posts. Giveaways are another great option – after all, everyone likes an opportunity to win something – and we found great success for UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine last year with Facebook giveaway campaigns for Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres jerseys.

As a provider of care, prospective patients are also evaluating your outcomes as part of looking at your social media. That means content like blog posts or image updates with patient success stories or video interviews with physicians or surgeons discussing a positive procedure can really attract attention. In fact, HubSpot says video is the second-most used type of content on social media and perhaps the strongest medium for engagement, with users twice as likely to share video content than other content. Videos don’t have to be intensive either – even quick interviews or brief moments with a doctor can really spark some great results.

It’s important to remember, though, that posting alone often isn’t enough. Social media platforms have updated their algorithms to push down the visibility of brand posts that aren’t boosted or served as ads, making it necessary to have a paid budget to increase the reach of your postings. As we’ve discussed before, organic social posts for brands – those without any budget behind them – are dead, or at least on life support. If you really want new and existing audiences to see your content, it requires investing into paid social media, as well.

Growing Your Reputation and Reviews

94 Percent of Patients Consider Online Reviews - Medical Stat InfographicAnother way that social media impacts health care organizations is the growth of reviews. Seventy-one percent of those seeking health care information online say they look at reviews as their first step in evaluating providers, says Software Advice. Trust in online reviews has also grown significantly, with PatientPop reporting that 84 percent of people surveyed by BrightLocal said they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Reviews on social media give users an opportunity to see what others say about you and their experience with your practice or facility. Curated reviews on your website are viewed with skepticism – naturally you will only put the best comments on your website – but reviews posted on social networks and other third-party platforms are unfiltered, giving an unmoderated perspective on how you’re perceived.

Providing a high-quality, friendly and positive experience at every interaction is the foundation for driving good reviews, but making it a part of your practice’s routine helps to drive more feedback. There are review generation platforms that can be integrated with your checkout process, or you can even just make sure to ask for a review as part of your discharge procedure. It’s also important that you monitor reviews and respond to comments – both good and bad. This shows prospective patients that you are engaged and involved, and can help you turn negative experiences around or take sensitive conversations to a less public forum.

Keeping Patients Informed

40 Percent of Consumers Say Social Media Info Affects Health Decisions - Medical Stat InfographicYour social media can also serve as a vital outlet to get important information and updates out to patients quickly and easily. Timely and relevant communication is critical, as we’ve seen so often throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Providing details to your followers on changes to procedures for appointments, visitor restrictions or other steps you’re taking to protect patient health on your social channels can keep everyone in the know and offer a way to rapidly communicate updates or revisions to your policies.

Social platforms can also serve as a place to share other timely or vital information that is relevant to the community you serve. For example, if you were a health care practice here in Western New York and one of our all-too-common blizzards began blanketing the region with whiteout conditions, your social media could inform audiences of office closures and share helpful insights and information on how to stay safe in inclement conditions. This shows that you are always keeping the best interests of your patients and followers in mind, and helps position your social page as an authority not only in your area of medical expertise, but in the community.

Pair Social Efforts with Other Channels

57 Percent of Consumers Say a Hospital Social Media Affects Care Decisions - Medical Stat InfographicAs useful a platform as social media can be, however, it is only one of the many ways to communicate and connect with your audience. Social media allows you to connect more directly and personally with users, and 57 percent of consumers say a hospital’s presence on social media would influence their decision on where to seek care. But where do they go after clicking to your site from your posts – or how do they get there in the first place?

For social media to be effective, you need to have a strategy to drive users to ultimately take action. Even with the growth in the popularity of social media, a majority of patients – 88 percent, according to CNBC – will still ultimately schedule a visit or request an appointment by phone. That means social media should pair with other efforts, but fortunately the various platforms offer many options to consider, such as:

  • Using posts that lead to a blog or other content on your website
  • Placing boosted posts or ads on social networks that take users to a dedicated landing page
  • Adding a contact form on your social media page that users can complete to contact you
  • Creating click-to-call ads that allow mobile visitors to tap and connect with your appointment number

Social media can also serve as reinforcement for other efforts, including traditional television and radio ads or print media. These offline placements can steer users to your page on social media, where you can provide more information as part of a campaign or share related content, articles or updates that build on your core messaging theme. Keep your brand consistent and cohesive by maintaining and growing a campaign across all your marketing and communication channels.

Stay Mindful of Privacy

One final note to keep in mind in medical marketing is the importance of maintaining patient privacy. Social media is a particularly tricky spot for doctors and medical facilities as users may comment about individual concerns or cases, but this communication is still subject to HIPAA regulations and rules. That has two main implications for you on social channels.

First, if a patient (or prospective patient), posts about their care or a specific case, mentions their situation in a review or communicates with you in another type of publicly viewable message, you should work to steer that conversation offline. Have stock phrasing to ask them to call your patient care line or ask them through a direct message for a number where you can reach them offline can help you stay compliant with patient privacy rules.

In addition, for great patient stories or positive outcomes that you want to highlight, you’ll also need to make sure you have a release from a patient before using them on social posts. That means any case studies or patient stories should be fully signed off on by patients through a HIPAA disclosure form before you share anything on social media – even if they originally post about it on their own page. While these may seem like obvious points, it’s not always followed correctly and can lead to serious liabilities and risks for your practice or facility, so it’s important to make sure that you’re always taking care to protect patient privacy and sensitive medical information in all cases.

Get Help with Health Care Social Media & Medical Marketing

At J. Fitzgerald Group, we’ve worked with many medical clients across Western New York and throughout the United States, giving us a depth of knowledge on the best practices for managing your brand on social media – and on other platforms. Our experts can handle everything from your website and digital advertising to creating and placing traditional ads, TV commercials and radio spots. If you need help with your medical practice or health care facility, our prescription is a conversation with our team. Contact us today and set up a time to chat with our experts to get started.