Defibrillate Your Clinic’s Social Media Plan in Five Steps
March 3rd, 2015 by
Over the past decade, there have been steady increases in the acceptance, usage, and number of social networks. With membership in the hundreds of millions and even billions, social media networks like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have become excellent platforms for businesses that want to reach and engage their audiences. Because they form part of a more niche industry, it is crucial for hospitals, healthcare practitioners, pharmaceutical companies, and others in the healthcare industry to have a detailed online strategy in place across various social media platforms. Below are five steps to designing a comprehensive social media plan that take into consideration the challenges and specific needs of the healthcare industry.
Healthcare providers face a number of unique obstacles when entering the world of social media. Businesses in this industry typically have multiple stakeholders, from existing patients to future patients to other physicians. Each stakeholder has unique expectations regarding communication standards and topics, and a fully fleshed out plan that follows these steps should take these expectations into consideration.
The healthcare industry is strongly regulated by organizations like the FDA. However, in the recent surge of social media outlets and usage, the healthcare industry has faced a unique challenge: the reigning regulatory offices have not cited clear guidelines regarding the use and management of these social media platforms. Seeing as some information on the topic has been released, it is important that you review these sources before creating a social media plan for a business in the healthcare industry.
Creating Your Plan
1. Define Your Personality
As a business and as a brand, you will need to define your online social personality: how do you want your stakeholders and audience to perceive you? Thinking of your brand as an individual will allow you to adopt a more coherent voice across your chosen social media platforms. To help define your voice, ask yourself questions like the following:
- What color would you associate with your brand?
- If your brand was a person, what kind of clothes would they wear?
- What type of car would this person drive?
- How would his or her friends describe him?
- Does this person have likes or dislikes?
Although it may be difficult in the beginning to uncover the personality of your practice, carefully designing this aspect of your social media strategy will allow you to create a more concrete tone and voice.
Along with defining your voice, take the time to study and understand your stakeholders. Decide which groups you would like to reach: existing patients, future patients, other healthcare professionals, insurance companies, or any combination of these. This decision will impact the tone and purpose of your social media campaign, as each of your audiences will react best to content that is specifically designed for them. By keeping your target audience in mind, you will enhance your ability to focus your social media updates, allowing you to promote audience engagement and build a stronger, more trusting relationship.
After you have settled on the tone and audience of your social media strategy, pause to listen to the existing conversation. Determine how your audience and competitors interact within the social space, monitor conversations about your industry, and track the ways in which your brand is discussed online. Using tools like Google Alerts and hashtags, Sprout Social, monitoring forums and other online spaces to understand the existing conversations.
Listening to the discussions that are in place across the spectrum of social media platforms will allow you to gain a sense of which healthcare topics are currently trending. It will also help you to identify the concerns, questions, and interests of your target audience, allowing you to build a strategy to address these topics during your social media campaign.
Example using Google+ to review similar hashtags and industry competitors
Example of using Sprout Social to understand how consumers are talking about your brand.
3. Find Your Voice
Next, begin your own conversations! Look for areas in the industry that lack a strong voice. Use that space to make a name for your brand and to demonstrate your expertise. Also, provide topics and the secure space for conversations regarding the health industry and health issues. Help moderate conversations to keep the discussions moving and the connections building. Encourage your audience to converse with you and with each other to foster a sense of community.
To make use of your influence on social media, you can use a number of strategies:
- Add personal, authentic stories: Depending on your goal, these can consist of success stories, anecdotes of achievement, or triumphs over a disease or disability.
- Facilitate conversations and actions: Give healthy-eating challenges or build a place to help raise awareness for widespread health issues.
- Wow the crowd with numbers: Build credibility by showing your audience the bigger picture. Share statistics, infographics, and other information about your industry or practice.
Example from the American Medical Association using numbers to engage in a conversation. Only 2 hours after being tweeted this post received 39 retweets and 21 favorites.
Example of Twitter healthcare community discussing heart health online via #heartmonthchat and how the American Medical Association was able to find their voice in the conversation giving advice and statistics. Both tweets were retweeted and favorited several times.
Social media has become a frequent place of feedback for companies, and you can take advantage of this fact by using the social space to collaborate with your audience and with others in your industry. Do not be afraid to talk to your audience about their experiences and how to improve them in the future.
Use social media as a place to work with other practitioners and organizations to raise awareness regarding healthcare topics. By working with others, you can increase your audience reach and further your message.
Example of Gail Zahtz (expert in patient-doctor relationships, offers advice to healthcare industry) collaborating with others in the healthcare industry to make information more readily available.
5. Measure Your Success
Although the last step in this plan is to measure your success, it is important to review your achievements on a regular basis and throughout each step of the process. Measure growth and success in the online space by an increase in followers, consistent interaction, and rising mentions across social media platforms.
Example of growth of likes on Facebook using these steps. Prior to this campaign beginning, The Plastic Surgery Institute of Southeast Texas ~500 page likes.
Consider the steps above when designing your own social media strategy. For more inspiration, check out some of these healthcare companies that have successfully created an empowering online presence!