Like us on Facebook! If you’ve visited any company or organization’s website or blog in the past couple of years, you’ve seen that plea.
Every business wants to be liked on Facebook – for now, at least – because adults have overtaken teens and college students as the social giant’s biggest audience. There’s a lot of potential revenue tied to getting your social pages seen, liked and shared.
But therein lies the rub: You can have tons of Facebook fans or Twitter followers, and never see a penny of profit from them. They may frequent your page, but unless you have the inbound marketing structure to support your social activity, your visitors will stay just that – visitors. They’ll never get any farther in the life cycle toward becoming a patient or customer.
Step carefully into the social sphere
Healthcare marketing poses a particular challenge in the social media universe. You want your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other channel to engage, educate, reassure and inspire … yet your content must adhere to strict standards regarding patient privacy and liability.
Posting any information or anecdote about a patient, for instance, could run you afoul of HIPAA, even if you don’t use the patient’s name. Did you know there are 18 patient identifiers that must be protected? “Particularly in small communities, any innocent comment about a patient may help others identify the subject of the post,” notes Health Care Communication News.
Then there’s the issue of giving out free advice. “Even things that seem like common-sense practices can be potentially risky,” Health Sciences Chair Carmen Carpenter told South University. “What if I say as a physician or nurse to ‘take an aspirin’ on a website and someone does and has a negative reaction to it? It could be a potential liability.”
Social media pages invite comment and response, and that can include negative feedback from patients or their families. An unsatisfied customer must be addressed or appeased in any circumstance, and handling it in public only makes the process more complicated.
But for every risk associated with social media in healthcare marketing, you’ll find opportunities to build your brand, enhance your credibility and connect with the people most likely to want your services.
It all takes time, of course – but the days of “quick fix” healthcare advertising are largely ended, anyway. Current and potential patients no longer respond to direct mail, coupon books, radio or Yellow Pages like they used to. Instead, they’re looking for information online.
Step by step toward new patients
At the heart of all healthcare marketing online is content – high-value, well-produced, spam-free websites, blogs, testimonials, articles, videos and, yes, social media pages.
This content, designed with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind, draws the attention of Google searches and places your pages high on the search result pages.
Sharing your content on social media gets it seen and shared more effectively, but that’s just part of the process. Your social sites must also help your visitors take the next step. Within those pages and that content is a call to action – an invitation for visitors to continue to your website’s landing page.
Here is where they can exchange contact and other information for more valuable or exclusive content or offers; their information becomes the basis of your lead-generating efforts.
The credibility built through your social media content and the information your visitors offer on your landing page set the stage for a continued relationship. Personalized emails and other efforts take your leads to the end of the sales funnel – the point where yesterday’s casual visitor becomes today’s new patient.