Social media is an undeniable force in modern life, and that extends to healthcare. Forty percent of consumers use social media to find reviews of treatments or physicians.
This adds a new dimension to the patient-doctor relationship. Kay Stout, MD, of Virginia Women’s Center notes: “Back in the days before the internet, smartphones, and social media, there was an information asymmetry. Educated doctors knew and patients just listened. That’s no longer the case. Today, whether patients are accurately or inaccurately informed, it drives the patient-provider conversation and any misconceptions can be corrected.”
Massive amounts of information mean massive amounts of misinformation, too. Unfortunately, there are relatively few doctors actively involved in social media when compared to amateur “health experts.” Many physicians are deterred by what seems like a major time commitment. However, actively sharing relevant information on social media can be simpler than imagined.
Following these steps, you can establish yourself as a thought leader, one who leverages their expertise, perspective, and passion to engage their audience — in this case, your patient population and community. Below are some tips on how your practice can quickly and easily curate an informative digital presence that can improve health outcomes for your patients — and followers!
Understand your audience
The audience and the content you produce or share are inextricably bound. Patients’ needs — and thereby, patients’ interests — will vary depending on your specialty, location, and other factors. Take time to articulate the tone and topics you’d like to feature on your accounts. Aim for a mix of subjects to appeal to the diversity of your patients. For instance, you could share more academic (though readable) discussions of trending topics such as healthcare consumerism, social determinants of health, and telemedicine as well as fun, usable, health-related content. Here are some examples:
- What vegetables are in season, and what are their health benefits?
- Daily reminders to drink water
- Healthful New Year’s Resolutions
- Risks of not wearing a seatbelt
Convene with front-office staff and account managers to align and solidify your practice’s perspective on these subjects, then allow for them to create content for your patient-followers. Once you have your first pieces of content, post them at optimal times (9 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. on weekdays) and note your patient-followers’ engagement.
Develop your content
Aim for content that informs, engages, and leads the viewer to take action, like scheduling an appointment, clicking on an educational resource, or watching a short video.
- Original Content: This content is in your voice and you decide the subject matter. You can synthesize concepts, tell a personal story, and speak directly to your intended audience. However, creating original content is time-intensive and requires writing, photo editing, and other skills. Therefore, while this is a great goal, you may want to begin with the other methods.
- Commentary: Another idea is to find an article of interest and share it with your perspective as an introduction. You can find new articles through daily briefings from Healthcare Dive, MedScape, HealthLeaders, or our own weekly digest, The Rundown. Draw connections to other stories, tell a relevant and resonant story of your own, share your interpretation of statistics, or simply share the story with your following. To echo a point made earlier: healthcare is local. With that in mind, think about how to translate national news or scientific research into bite-sized content that your local audience can digest.
- Public Service Announcement: This is a powerful method to engage your audience in ways that have a huge impact on them. For instance, share breaking news like the recent Valsartan recall. In addition, spread more general and “evergreen” content such as a reminder to get a flu shot in the winter, tips for managing allergies in the spring, what sunscreens to use in the summer, and ways to avoid the seasonal blues associated with autumn.
Share posts from your peers
Social media can serve as a digital referral network. There are tons of doctors and medical professionals whose insight and presentations have elevated them to the position of “social media influencer.” Thought leaders such as Atul Gawande, MD, and Eric Topol, MD, are big names, but there are lower-profile personalities in or around your community as well. You can directly repost what they have shared (with attribution), or also add your own commentary.
In this day and age credibility has measurable benefits into patients determining who to visit and fellow physicians making referral choices. Including social media into your practice operations is a time investment that will help your practice thrive. A robust social media presence can even help outrank a negative online review.