Talk to anyone you know and you’ll likely find they are on some form of social media. From baby boomers to millennials to your local 13-year-old paper boy, social media is a big part of everyday life. Currently, there are approximately 2.46 billion social network users around the globe, and this number increases from month to month.
Facebook is still the social media giant, holding 18% of the market share and boasting around 1.87 million users who are active at any given time. The closest competitors don’t even touch Facebook’s numbers, with WhatsApp only having around 1 million active users and Twitter at a mere 317 million active monthly users. If you only do one thing to reach out to patients online, get on Facebook. However, there are advantages to other forms of social media as well.
There are a number of ways doctors specifically can use social media to expand business, stay in touch with current patients, and inform the public. Once you see the benefits available to your practice, you’ll see the need for a social media presence.
1. Educating patients
Social media offers the opportunity to educate patients and the general public. There are a number of ways to educate via social media. One way is to upload a link to new research about your area of specialty. For example, if you are a cardiologist, you might share a study that was just completed about the impact of high cholesterol on overall cardiovascular health.
Another idea is to record Facebook Live or YouTube videos and share them with your followers and the public at large. Do you have a suggestion that you think would improve the overall health of your patients? This is a great way to share that info.
You can also share short snippets on platforms such as Twitter to put a thought in the follower’s head. You will be limited to 140 characters on Twitter, so you might want to write something like: “For better heart #health, eat less carbs.” Twitter is the place to utilize hashtags so people who are most interested can find your information easily.
2. Better customer service
Customers expect you to be on social media, with approximately 67% heading there for customer service needs. If your competition offers online customer service options and you do not, you risk losing customers. Even though the doctor likely doesn’t have time to answer questions and deal with customer complaints, assigning the office manager or another employee to handle these issues on social media can put you a step ahead.
Imagine, instead of spending so much on an answering service that you have, a registered nurse or nurse practitioners who takes live chat online. They can let patients know if they need to go to the emergency room or if the issue is minor and can wait until the next day. Ideally, this person would be able to schedule an appointment on the spot, too.
3. Reducing face-to-face appointments
Technology is growing by leaps and bounds, and apps that allow the consumer to have instant access via live video to a mental health professional or physician are becoming more common. Some insurance companies will even cover these appointment costs. This is also beneficial for doctors, who can save time and money traveling to and from the office.
This sort of setup works particularly well in mental health, where the counselor can meet with the client via live chat. Research has even shown that using such apps can reduce depression and anxiety in people struggling with those issues.
There are few things more infuriating for a patient than a busy signal at the doctor’s office. You wake up feeling extremely ill or with a high fever, and you pick up the phone to call and make an appointment—only to be met with either a busy signal or nonstop ringing. You might even lose patients over this type of thing.
The issue at many doctors’ offices is that the receptionist taking the calls for the appointments also has to greet patients as they arrive, pull files, and do various other tasks. It’s a lot for one or two people to handle.
Offering the ability for patients to schedule their own appointments online is a viable solution to this problem that will put your practice a few steps ahead of everyone else. There are a number of software options on the market that you can customize to meet your needs, such as Practice Fusion and Appointment Quest. You’ll need to find the one that works best for you and your patients.
Even better? This type of software will send automated email or text appointment reminders to your patients. This saves your staff time and allows them to focus more on the customer service experience when the patient is in the office.
5. Increase loyalty
Having an online social media presence can help increase loyalty and engagement with your brand, a.k.a. your doctor. One university study showed that brands engaging regularly on social media have higher customer loyalty rates.
During a regular office visit, a doctor might be a bit rushed and not have the opportunity to engage with his patients the way he’d like. Social media allows him to reach out to them en masse and share his thoughts about their overall health.
It is also a good way to keep up with birthdays and big life events. Creating that ongoing dialogue that social media allows is something patients will appreciate. They aren’t likely to go to another doctor in the area if you are offering them everything they need both online and off.
These are just a few of the ways social media can improve your business. There are many other ways to utilize social media, including targeted advertising to a local audience. With time and consistent efforts, your social media presence will grow and you’ll have tapped into an inexpensive marketing platform that will reduce your overall costs.