— Social media success requires accentuating the positive, as well as recognizing the potential impact of every comment or click, according to experts at the Cosmetic Surgery Forum, held here.
“Social media, as opposed to all the M.D. rating sites, allow us to tell our own stories, connect with patients directly on the Web and to make a better relationship with our patients,” says Emily Altman, M.D. She is dermatologist in private practice in Berkeley Heights, N.J.
Social media use in healthcare continues to grow, she says. For starters, 72 percent of adults use the Internet to research health information, says Dr. Altman, who spoke recently at Cosmetic Surgery Forum. Furthermore, according to Insight Marketing Group, the majority of people look for specific brands online, “And they trust information from their friends or other consumers on the Web much more than they trust advertisements.”1
Accordingly, Dr. Altman says, “Patients who find you online are more apt to like and trust you from the start.”
Regarding patients’ online reviews, she says, “The numbers are staggering, and growing.”
On a somewhat ominous note, she adds, the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Physician Compare site (http://www.medicare.gov/physiciancompare/search.html
) is planning to use patient reviews as a means of measuring quality and, possibly in the future, setting reimbursement levels.
“Most people don’t log on to sing the praises of a product, service or person. Usually the Internet is crammed with people griping,” Dr. Altman says. “It serves as an outlet for people who might be frustrated and needing to vent. I’ve done that. If I can’t get a company to respond to my requests for a particular service, I post my complaint on their Facebook page. Within minutes, some vice president will email me back, trying to make me happy.”
Barry M. Lycka, M.D., says negative reviews should not be ignored.
“Social media are a double-edged sword. A disgruntled client is 10 to 20 times more likely to post a negative review than a satisfied customer is to post a positive review,” Dr. Lycka says. Because potential patients are influenced by negative reviews, don’t ignore them. He is a dermatologist in private practice in Edmonton, Alberta.
Dr. Altman says Googling one’s own name represents a crucial step in establishing and protecting one’s online reputation.
“You may not like what you find, but you have to know what’s out there.” To that end, she says, services such as Google’s “Me on the Web” can notify you whenever your name or other personal information appears online.
However, Dr. Altman says, challenging negative reviews is difficult. Judges dismiss the vast majority of such cases, so lawsuits are not worth the time and expense. Instead, “It’s much easier to put your stamp out there first” and take control of your online presence, she says.
Next: Short- and long-term benefits of social media
Tipping the scale
Dr. Lycka says that while the short-term benefits of social media remain unclear, “Over the long haul, it’s a weighting scale. Realize that it’s about weighing your reputation. So how do you get your reputation up? The key is to post, post and post. Keep the scale weighted in your favor.”
Providing frequent content boosts one’s status with search engines, he says. When people search for his name, he says that rather than doctor rating sites, “My website comes up first. Then my Twitter account comes up second,” followed by his Facebook page and LinkedIn account. “If you keep your website fresh, it keeps coming up (in search engines).”
Dr. Altman adds that the more frequently a page is posted to, “liked” or shared, the higher it ranks in search engines.
“And if one of your patients ‘likes’ your Facebook post, and that patient has 300 Facebook friends, those 300 friends will see that he or she liked your post,” she says.
Dr. Altman also suggests engaging satisfied patients to populate the Web with positive content about you and your practice.
Related: "There's a fine line between building your business and wasting your time," says Tracey Drumm, vice president, IF Marketing.
“You have many more happy patients than unhappy ones — they just don’t write about you,” she says. Enlisting their help in this regard can be difficult. To encourage patients, make it simple: send direct links to pages where you’d like them to post, so one click gets them there.
Furthermore, Dr. Altman strongly recommends filling out profiles completely on all local and other listings where one is featured.
“With a local listing, Google also gives you information about how many people saw your profile, what they were looking for when they found you and specifically what kind of information they’re interested in,” she says.
Applying this information throughout your social media can help draw additional patients, Dr. Altman says.
Next: What does a great online presence require?
Putting it all together
H.L. Greenberg, M.D.A great online presence also requires a great website, adds H.L. Greenberg, M.D., owner and founder of Las Vegas Dermatology. And a great Web address is easy to spell and remember. Using your last name as your practice name might satisfy your ego, he says, but it won’t help attract patients, at least initially.
When he started his practice, he says, “Somebody else had the website for the name Las Vegas Dermatology. I wanted that name so badly, I told a friend I would pay whatever amount is necessary for that website.” Because he was emotionally involved, Dr. Greenberg enlisted someone to bargain for the domain name — and got it for half of what he expected to pay.
Although he initially designed his own website, Dr. Greenberg says he recently used an organization that specializes in this area to revamp it. With so many companies providing website services to physicians, he cautions, beware the cookie-cutter approach. To avoid blending in with his competitors, Dr. Greenberg hired a company that works with celebrities and musicians.
Las Vegas Dermatology's YouTube channelAdditionally, Dr. Greenberg says, “I have my own YouTube channel (YouTube.com/lvderm
), but you don’t necessarily need to post your own content on your YouTube channel.”
In 2013, one of Dr. Greenberg’s videos earned American Society for Dermatologic Surgery recognition for promoting the specialty of dermatology. In total, his 80-plus videos have garnered more than 900,000 views. To make the most of each viewing, “In the descriptor of the YouTube video, you should use http:// before your website. If you don’t, you don’t get any credit points from Google for back-linking peripherally to your practice,” he says.
Next: Don't overlook twitter
Clinicians also shouldn’t overlook Twitter, Dr. Greenberg says.
“It’s important to have a Twitter account. You can put discounts there and link your Twitter to your Facebook so you don’t even have to think about posting from your Facebook page,” he says.
Dr. Greenberg also advises keeping business and personal Twitter accounts separate. In the latter area, he says, “I’m very expressive, and I’ll speak up about things that bother me, but that’s not necessarily the best thing for my business.”
Dr. Lycka considers Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn his most important social media outlets. To manage them, he hired a team of specialists. Additionally, “My YouTube videos go on a special page on my website called www.yourcosmeticdoctor.tv.”
The first week he posts a video, “I get 30 views,” Dr. Lycka says. “But by the end of the year, I’ll have 5,000. My most popular video has had more than 50,000 views.”
Posted more than four years ago, on the topic of liposuction, the video “keeps growing and growing, without my doing anything. If you’re looking for patients, you should be using social media,” he says.
Disclosures: Drs. Altman, Lycka and Greenberg report no relevant financial interests.
. Accessed March 6, 2014.
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