The first thing ophthalmologists need to know about social media is that it’s not just social. The fact is that the majority of users on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter go to those sites to find information about businesses and the products and services they offer. For example, 73% of the 1.13 billion active daily users of Facebook go there “for professional purposes,” and 63% of Twitter users say they use that platform to find news and events outside of the social arena.
Marketers for businesses as diverse as manufacturing, software as a service (SaaS), consulting — and medical — are increasingly embracing social media to grow their companies. For example, 66% of marketers in a recent survey from Hubspot saw a substantial increase in leads for their businesses by spending as little as 6 hours a week on social media, and 90% say using social media has increased exposure and visibility for their businesses.
The question, then, is not whether using social media can grow a business, but rather how best to do it.
How One Pediatrician Found New Patients on Social Media
When pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert launched a Facebook page and Twitter account, her intention was simply to share relevant health information to help the existing patients in her Kansas City, MO practice. She quickly learned that her social media posts provided an ancillary benefit: new patients.
Today, posting blogs on subjects like HPV prevention and the role of vaccinations, Dr. Burgert has garnered some 8,000 Twitter followers and more than 1,400 “likes” for her practice’s Facebook page. As she explains:
How Ophthalmologists Can Attract New Patients with Social Media
Although every practice is different, there are some common sense rules of engagement which will help all medical practices attract new patients. Here are 4 strategies to attract new patients for your ophthalmology practice:
1. Have clearly articulated goals
You have to begin by deciding what you want to achieve with social media. Do you want to attract new patients, or is your goal strictly educational? If you do want to target patients, who are you going after? Is your sweet spot the LASIK market, or are cataract and refractive surgeries your bread and butter?
Your goals will dictate the kinds of content you post and the nature of any calls to action within those posts.
2. Keep your content current and relevant
You need to assume a patient-centric point of view in the content you post. What are your current patients’ major concerns and questions? If you don’t know, you should take the time to ask them, and post blogs on those topics on social media.
You can also use social media tools, like Facebook’s Audience Insights to identify the most frequently asked questions by any target audience. You can answer those questions to establish authority, and provide links to your website.
Finally, it’s a good idea to stay on top of the latest developments in ophthalmology by scanning press releases of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and other industry publications if you don't already.
3. Keep your posts positive and professional
Don’t make the mistake of being overly colloquial or chummy – prospective patients want to have confidence in your abilities. There’s nothing wrong with being occasionally lighthearted, but in general, you should maintain a professional tone and a relentlessly positive attitude.
Seeking to educate patients and provide tremendous value is the name of the game. It’s ok if you do so in an informal manner (nobody likes a boring person), but remember, you have your professional reputation to think about, and patients are placing extreme trust in you as their surgeon…so make sure your practice’s social media stays positive and professional, just like you.
4. Be responsive
Visitors to social media sites use those platforms to initiate conversations. That means the content you post will generate questions and, at times, complaints. In fact, nearly 72% of patients who complain on Twitter expect a response from the company within an hour!
Be sure to visit your social media pages daily. When patients or prospective patients ask questions, answer them, quickly, succinctly and authoritatively. When they complain, take their concerns seriously and address them professionally.
Identifying and attracting new patients are critical to the success of your ophthalmic practice.
Social media offer the opportunity to find and influence those new patients as you demonstrate your competence and authority. By articulating your key goals, educating with relevant content and being responsive to questions and concerns, you can build trust in your abilities and gain immeasurably in new and loyal patients.