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How Doctors Are Utilizing Social Media To Expand Their Online Reputation

Social media is a driving force in brand perception. Neglecting to build a presence on these platforms means missing an opportunity to reach a new audience.

75 percent of consumers acknowledge being influenced by online ratings and reviews when selecting a healthcare provider. The number of respondents who research physicians on social media specifically when making this decision shot up from 7 percent in 2017 to 51 percent in 2019 — an increase of 621 percent.

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Social media can be a great tool for medical doctors to attract new patients, share helpful information, engage with their community, and build the credibility of their practice.

Due to their high position of authority in society, however, doctors should be aware of their unique responsibilities when posting on social media. 

Ethical And Legal Challenges

Doctors need to be careful not to commit medical malpractice online as well as off. For this reason, the title of a National Association of Community Health Centers’ article warns that Anything You Post Can, and May, Be Used Against You. It’s also important to avoid posting content that could impact a future malpractice suit. Anything that is shared on behalf of the practice, regardless of the title of the person who actually posted the information, becomes the responsibility of the practice.

To protect yourself and your practice, keep your professional account focused only on relevant information that you can confirm. Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), maintaining patient confidentiality is a must. Never discuss patients on social media, and be particularly careful when sharing any photos — always obtain consent from those who are in them before posting them to social media.

In addition, never give specific medical advice to individuals online. Instead, stay general and offer educational tips, and ensure that the medical qualifications of anyone in your practice are properly represented.

I recommend screening every potential post for these possible issues before clicking share and do not post those that could lead to problems.

Appropriate Content For Doctors

It’s important to avoid coming across as intimidating or overly stiff on social media. That’s why I advise balancing professionalism with a more relaxed tone.

For example, think of how you would interact with a patient. Your tone and word choice can convey important or serious information in a way that’s accessible and easy to understand. The same holds true on social media; your copy, tone, and visuals can all work together to create a narrative that is professional, yet relaxed.

At the same time, try to avoid a tone that is too casual. If you are working to establish yourself as a thought leader, mixing in personal content detracts from the credibility of the account and can leave followers confused.

This isn’t to say that no personal or behind-the-scenes content can be used at all — you may choose to incorporate more lighthearted content into your strategy — just ensure it ties back to the overall brand of the account, and don’t feel like you have to hop on every trend. As a medical professional, you don’t need to release videos of yourself doing all the latest viral dances, for instance.

To come up with ideas for posts, consider trending topics in your field, common questions your patients ask, and related local or national events. Keep in mind that all of the content you post should tie back to your overall goal, whether it’s attracting new patients or establishing yourself as a thought leader, for example. Following other accounts in your field — those of other leading doctors, medical associations, or news outlets focused on healthcare — can help you master the appropriate tone for your own account, as well as spark new ideas for content to cover.

If you are a physician using social media strictly on a personal basis, I advise not posting about medicine. In that case, however, feel free to share as many dance videos as you want!

Effective Account Management

Creating an effective presence on social media doesn’t have to take up all your time and energy. For one thing, it’s not necessary to release content on every platform. To determine where to invest your resources, track where you are having the most success engaging with your audience.

Say you find that your posts on Facebook get a ton of interaction, but your Tweets tend to flop. If you’ve tried new strategies on Twitter and switched up your content to no avail, then it’s okay to deactivate your account and refocus your efforts on a platform that’s working better for you.

Next, be honest with yourself about how much time and resources you can allocate to creating meaningful content. If you don’t have the energy, skills, or personnel to consistently create Instagram infographics or engaging TikToks, then I wouldn’t recommend taking on these platforms. LinkedIn and Facebook are excellent platforms for those who don’t have time to dedicate to making visuals or videos.

Similarly, if you want to expand into multiple platforms, first ensure you have the capacity to create and consistently release the specialized content each of those platforms requires.

Tools For Effective Social Media

These days, many consumers gain their first impression of healthcare providers on social media. Tools like Agorapulse, Creator Studio, Hootsuite, and Sprout Social are all great ways for doctors to manage their social media content, engagement, and analytics.

TIP: As we mentioned above, sharing any personal health information (PHI) is a violation of HIPAA regulations. Additionally, the majority of social media tools are not HIPAA-compliant.

When it comes to sharing posts, many platforms have the ability to schedule content in advance natively. For instance, Facebook and Instagram offer this functionality through Creator Studio; Twitter and Pinterest offer it within their sites’ user interfaces. Scheduling posts in advance is an effective way to maintain a steady stream of content and allows you to batch-create content instead of going post by post. This is a time-effective strategy for busy medical professionals.

For those looking to automate their socials even further, scheduling platforms like Agorapulse, HootSuite, and Sprout Social allow for cross-platform scheduling with the ability to tweak content for each account. 

Every platform offers analytics solutions for business or creator accounts. Weekly and monthly analysis of posts’ performance is essential to track your account’s growth. Monitoring views and engagement allows you to determine which type of content performs well and resonates with your audience, and which type of content doesn’t.

Sprout Social and HubSpot allow you to analyze performance across all accounts, instead of each individual account separately. By reviewing all your accounts together, you can get a better picture of overall growth.

With tools like these, you can take control of your social media and develop an effective professional presence online. Maintaining such an account is key to reaching the potential patients of today. Investing in building an account will help your practice grow long into tomorrow.

Disclosure: Martech Zone inserted some of their partners’ affiliate links in this article.

Alaina Chiappone

Alaina Chiappone is a publicist at Otter PR in St. Petersburg, FL. She has a Bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Florida. Previously, Chiappone worked in corporate communications, public affairs, and digital marketing. Her clients have included fashion, wellness, music, hospitality, fintech, and healthcare industries. In her spare time, Chiappone enjoys going to the beach, hosting friends, and is a former roller figure skating national champion.

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