Welcome to part IV of the Complete Beginner’s Guide to Getting Online for Healthcare Professionals. In this installment, I will discuss the essentials of social media marketing and how you can use it to increase patient loyalty, increase brand awareness, and ultimately grow your practice.
The term social media is thrown around loosely; social media refers to any applications that allow you to interact with an audience on the internet. The advantages of using social media are tremendous. When done well, your patients will share your messages and videos, introducing you to potential new patients while increasing their awareness of your practice, services you offer, and their trust in you. You can also interact by asking questions or simply reminding your patients to come in for seasonal check-ups.
While social media has tremendous advantages, it does take a fair amount of time and effort. Be sure to take care in planning your messages and how many times you’ll be updating your accounts. The last thing you want to do is annoy your patients with too many updates.
Let’s get right to it. We’ll discuss in depth how to create an account for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google + Local. We’ll also unveil some tips on how to use these platforms effectively.
1. Facebook: With over 1 billion people using Facebook every month (yes, you read that right!), a lot of your patients are hanging out there as well. People use Facebook to connect with friends and family, near and far. Facebook Business pages are becoming an increasingly popular way to communicate with your audience.
So how do you create a Facebook page? Let me walk you through it.
To create a Facebook page for your practice or a professional page (Such as John Doe, DMD), login to Facebook at http://www.facebook.com with your personal Facebook login credentials. Once in, you’ll see a blue menu bar across the top of the screen, click on the down arrow on the right hand side, and from the drop down menu select, Create Page.
Next, select the “Local Business or Place” option and the rest of the fields are pretty straightforward. When creating your business page, it is extremely important to enter the correct address and phone number for the obvious reason of you want your information in there correctly so people can find you in searches and if somebody is trying to find your information to call or visit you, they have the right information.
But, the not so obvious reason is that this business page you create is an extremely powerful ‘citation’ (or business listing) which helps increase your local presence in searches online, and has been known to increase your search engine rankings.
The Facebook pages are awesome because not only do they allow you to put in a ton of text information if needed, but you can make a stunning visual impression on visitors to your page too! One of the best ways you can make a visual impact is by selecting professional and friendly photos for your cover and profile pictures. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to hire a professional photographer. Grab your smart phone or digital camera and take some nice pictures of yourself, your staff and your business. Select a photo that depicts your business as the cover photo (the big background picture); an image of your business or your whole staff will suffice. For my clients, I always like to create custom Facebook cover images like this:
The “About” page in Facebook can be extremely powerful! In addition to entering in hours of operation and contact info, it will allow you to share your story, to say why you are different than the other healthcare providers in the area. Every piece of information you provide shares details about your practice to prospective patients Like the About page on your website, this space isn’t for you. This space is for your audience. So think: what can you share that a potential or current patient would like to see or be comforted by? Even though this page is about you and your practice, it’s really about who you are serving!
Before you start promoting your Facebook page (we’ll get to this in a minute), you should write down some messages (or status updates) you’d like to share. Think creatively here. I say this because once you send the invite out, if people don’t like your content, most of them will NOT like your page. Share funny images (humor that relates to your industry is a start), interactive or thoughtful questions, perhaps helpful videos that include you answering common patient questions or featuring your friendly staff…. your imagination is the only limit. Usually we see that questions, links to interesting articles, and images get the most interaction on Facebook.
The next step is to promote your page. Of course, you can use Facebook Ads but you should start by promoting your page yourself. If you already have an email list, you can share your page through a newsletter. Additionally, you can speak to local business owners and ‘like’ each other’s pages. You can also invite your email contacts by clicking on “Invite Email Contacts”. Lastly, if you scroll down a little bit and find the down arrow, you will find this “Share” option:
The share option lets you create a status update under your own personal account and share your business page with your own network.
Keep in mind that every page starts off with zero likes. This is a process and can take time. However, Facebook makes it really fun to share your page. For instance, you can unlock “Insights” (fun statistics that you can learn about your audience) once you receive 30 ‘likes’:
Once you have gotten the hang of regular status updates, engaging with your audience, and are regularly getting followers, you may want to invest in Facebook Ads which can help you really increase the size of your following.
If you want to connect with me on Facebook, simply go to Facebook.com/TitanWebAgency.
2. Twitter: Twitter is another social media application that allows you to connect with your audience but with a very important twist—you can only post status updates up to 140 characters. While this may seem like a challenge, with time, you will realize that this requires you to keep your messages short, sweet, and to the point. Also, Twitter doesn’t have a lot of other distractions like Facebook pages do; you will simply open up an account, set your background and profile images (similar to what you did for your Facebook page) and start sharing updates!
Registering for Twitter is just as easy as it is registering for Facebook (even easier):
When you post a “tweet” (update) on Twitter, the app will show you how many characters you have left as you type:
Also, you can make design changes easily. You can select a provided design by Twitter (under “Design”) or customize it with your own image:
I like to put together cool designs for Twitter for my clients like this to help my clients account really stand out:
Both Twitter and Facebook can by synced with each other (under ‘settings’), meaning if you post on one, it will update your status on the other as well. However, if you want to do longer updates, you should post to Facebook separately. On Twitter, you can use the character limit to your advantage—cut out any jargon. Also, you can share images and videos just like you can on your Facebook page.
A few interesting ways to use Twitter is to use the hashtag and retweet functions, as well as addressing other people personally. The hashtag is used along with a keyword or topic in a tweet to categorize messages. For instance, if you made a tweet along with this term (without the quotes) “#winterolympics2014 Ready to watch snowboarding, anyone?”, anyone who clicks on that hashtag will be able to see your tweet and other people’s tweets with that hashtag.
A retweet is simple: if you like someone’s tweet, you can “retweet” it, meaning you can share their tweet on your page for all of your followers to see. It will be prefaced by “RT @” followed by the person’s Twitter handle and their original message.
Lastly, if you want to respond to someone directly, you can use the “@” symbol (without the quotes) plus their Twitter handle. For instance, if you’d like to reach out to me on Twitter, you’d preface the tweet with @TitanWebAgency and then your message like this: “@TitanWebAgency Hey! How’s it going, Tyson?”
Master the use of the hashtag (#), retweet and @ symbol and you’re halfway there! Twitter is really simple but just as important as Facebook: with over 243 million monthly active users, it would be a mistake not to create a business account on Twitter.
If you want to follow me on Twitter, check out my page at Twitter.com/TitanWebAgency
3. LinkedIn: While LinkedIn is an important contender in the social media arena, it’s more of a “professional” network. What I mean by this is, it allows you to create a digital, professional resume (your profile) to connect with other professionals. Yes, it is much more formal than Facebook and Twitter. Currently, LinkedIn boasts an audience of 277 million. You bet you will find some of your patients on here as well.
Joining LinkedIn is easy. Just fill out a few essential details (or use your Facebook credentials) and you are ready to go:
There are a few more sections to fill out and LinkedIn is great in helping you fill out your profile. For instance, you can fill out the “Experience” section by providing a few details (and LinkedIn will also provide an example):
LinkedIn allows you to also create a company or organization page. To create your company/business page, hover the mouse over your image in the top right corner (once signed in); you will see a few options pop up. Select the “Company Page” option:
Just like Twitter and Facebook, here you will fill out details such as a summary of your business, number of people in your business, type of business, your business website and more.
LinkedIn will also allow you to check out page insights and share status updates which you can share on your Twitter account as well. To manage both accounts easily, update your LinkedIn account and select the option to share on LI and Twitter both.
Of course, this social platform allows you to add a few more interesting details about yourself and your work history. To be specific, you can list your education, skills, endorsements, as well as your portfolio. You can easily add before and after images or documents regarding patient work. There is also a section where you can add a “summary” of what you do and an invaluable part of LinkedIn is giving and receiving recommendations.
Lastly, to properly utilize your LinkedIn account, consider joining industry specific groups. There are plenty of local and national specific industry groups to join. Once you are a part of the group, you can network with these people, post new discussions, and reply to other people’s discussions.
The best way to fill out your LinkedIn profile is to take it section by section and make your way through. After you have set up your account, it’s time to network with folks you personally know. Start there and make your way up!
That’s it! Once you learn the idiosyncrasies of each social media application, you will feel more at ease using them. If you are overwhelmed, feel free to start with one social media application until you get the hang of it. Remember to share non-offensive, related and funny status updates! Build on it and keep moving. However, most healthcare professionals often don’t have enough time to create, manage and post updates to their social media accounts (in between running a business and working with their patients) and run effective and targeted campaigns. You may want to consider assigning this to an office manager if she or she is experienced in social media, or you could hire a company to manage it for you.
If you have any questions or are interested in setting up these social media accounts, feel free to reach out to me, it is one of the many services that Titan Web Agency offers.
In the next and last article of this series, I will discuss Google + Local (previously called Google Places), which if leveraged properly is one of the most powerful tools that a healthcare provider has at his disposal. If you’d like to catch up on the last three parts, you can find them here:
Article 1: Getting Started Online
Article 2: Web Design & Website Optimization
Article 3: Getting Traffic to Your Site
Tyson Downs it the owner of a Salt Lake-Based Online Marketing Company, Titan Web Agency, formerly SEOBulldog. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and father of five children. He specializes in working with healthcare professionals to set up their websites and get them to the top of the search engines, utilizing the latest and most effective SEO strategies.