Managing Your Practice

Using the Internet in your practice. Part 2: Generating new patients using social media

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While no one denies the usefulness of social media, very few medical practices know exactly how to harness its power. Here, we focus on the top three social media heavyweights: Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

THE SERIES: USING THE INTERNET IN YOUR PRACTICE

Part 1: Why social media are important and how to get started (February 2014)

Part 3: Search engine optimization

Part 4: Online reputation management

(Look for Parts 3 and 4 in 2014)


 

With this article, we intend to illustrate the value of having a social media presence and how you can use social media to attract new patients. One of us (NHB) has been using social media to promote his medical practice for 3 years and can be found on the first page of Google search results for several of the medical conditions he treats. As a result of these high search rankings, he is able to generate two to four new patient visits every day.

You can achieve the same results using the techniques described in this article. You certainly can buy banner ads and buy traffic to your page, but we want to show you how to get on the first page of Google using the natural, organic method.

PUSH VS PULL
Social media can be used in different ways to build your practice. What you employ depends on what you want to accomplish and the time and energy you want to devote to each of these social media opportunities.

By its very definition, social media is social engagement—and what is known as a “pull” technology. There are two ways to share your information with people on the Internet:

  1. “Pull” Web site surfers to your information
  2. “Push” your information to them.

Push occurs when you initiate the process by placing your information in front of the Web site surfer. They get it or see it because of the actions you have taken. Sending e-mails is one way to push information to your target audience, or potential patients, to your practice. Another way to push your Web site and its contents is to get listed on the first page of search engine results. You want to “push” your Web site in plain view of the person who has typed in keywords or keyword phrases that relate to your practice (ie, “OBGYN” plus “<your city>,” “tubal ligation” plus “<your city>,” or “loss of urine” plus “<your zip code>.” Push techniques are the best way to market your services and offer the best return on your marketing investment.

Using social media, you are able to “pull” your audience of potential patients to you and your practice. In other words, your target market of potential patients has to take the time and make the effort to type in your Web site address in order to come to you. The information or message you have on your social media sites has to be strong enough and of sufficient compelling interest that patients want to come to read what you have to say. Web surfers are looking for online relationships for information sharing. It is this interaction with your potential patients that makes social media unique. Using this pull technology, you have the opportunity to interact and develop a relationship with a patient before she picks up the phone to make an appointment, before she comes to the office to see you eyeball to eyeball.

FACEBOOK AND HOW IT RELATES TO YOUR PRACTICE
Originally, Facebook was developed as a way for people to see what was going on in each other’s lives, a method to stay in contact with one another. In the beginning, it was friends, family members, or groups of like-minded individuals frequenting each other’s Facebook pages. Typically, they would keep tabs on who was having a party or post pictures of their kids for family members to see.

Facebook has evolved. Today, companies, businesses, and, yes, medical practices are trying to “pull” more Web site visitors to their Facebook pages. To do this, they hold contests with prizes; offer great content, coupons, and videos; and provide special offers to get Web surfers to their site. Large companies and large group practices like the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and MD Anderson Cancer Center, have whole social media departments that post regularly, respond to comments left on their pages, and answer questions posted by those who “like” their page or site.

Individual practicing clinicians, and most smaller ObGyn practices, do not have the budget for a social media team. They also don’t have the time or the training to write effective copy that is so compelling that Web surfers are drawn or “pulled” to their Facebook page. The reality is, your patients expect you to have a Facebook page, and they expect you to have quality information that is helpful and relevant to their well-being. But, the question remains…

Related article: Four pillars of a successful practice: 1. Keep your current patients happy Neal H. Baum, MD (Practice Management, March 2013)

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