Savvy social media strategies attract, engage patients

March 18, 2013

Successful social networking requires consistent messaging and a working grasp of how these media interconnect, says an expert who spoke at the Cosmetic Surgery Forum.

 

Las Vegas - Successful social networking requires consistent messaging and a working grasp of how these media interconnect, says an expert who spoke at the Cosmetic Surgery Forum.

“For my website,” says Emily Altman, M.D., “the blog is the real workhorse. It brings more hits to my website than any other social media.” She is a dermatologist in private practice in Berkley Heights, N.J.

According to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Report (www.socialmediaexaminer.com/SocialMediaMarketingIndustryReport2012.pdf), the top five social media networks used by marketers - in order of importance - are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and YouTube. “But for me,” she says, “it’s blogs, Facebook and Twitter.”

Regarding blogging, she says, “It’s very important to host your blog on your website. It must be embedded there - that’s the only way it’s going to feed into your website” when users click on a blog item.

To compose the blog, Dr. Altman uses WordPress open-source software (www.wordpress.org). Additionally, she says, plug-ins available from WordPress and similar programs can optimize content for search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps to ensure that web users can easily locate your material, she explains.

Tag, you’re it

In all social media, she says, “You always must think about how things are linked and how they’re going to be found. It’s crucial that social media marketers know how SEO works. It’s very complicated, but it doesn’t take long to understand” what drives Internet traffic.

The first time WordPress asked her to provide tag words, Dr. Altman says, “Those tag words brought my blog up to the first page on Google. I was shocked, but it really works.”

Her most popular blog entry ever was a response to a question about how to treat jellyfish stings. Although it’s a couple years old, she says, this posting still delivers 200 hits to her website monthly. Google and other services can track such information.

On Facebook, Dr. Altman says, “The fastest growing population is women over age 55,” a prime demographic for aesthetic physicians. “And 85 percent of the people who have a Facebook account log into it daily. So this is a serious business network.”

With Facebook’s EdgeRank feature, “The more your content is interacted with, the more it will show up in other people’s feeds. So it’s very important to engage your Facebook audience.”

Facebook also includes a powerful application called NetworkedBlogs, which essentially delivers your blog to Facebook and Twitter, Dr. Altman says. “If you put your blog onto NetworkedBlogs, it spreads it to a whole different audience than you have.”

The eyes have it

Attracting people to your social media requires engaging their interest, she says. As for what type of content delivers the most bang per byte, Dr. Altman says that based on the 2012 Social Media Marketing Report and her own experience, “The more video content you can put up, the better.

“According to PR Daily, on average, people share video content 12 times more often than text. And every minute, 700 YouTube videos are being shared. These are huge numbers” that dermatologists should heed, she says.

Other traffic drivers for medical practices include not only blog posts, but also case studies and patient testimonials, Dr. Altman says. Likewise, “E-books are a great attractant, but they take time to write.” Additionally, she says that some of the most engaging content ties your product or service into a current trend, popular product or movie release.

Likewise, “People love educational materials - sharing important information from other sources.” Conversely, she says that relentless self-promotion drives people away.

By the same token, “It’s important to have patient reviews on RealSelf.com, because those are searchable, and people really like that.” After you answer a certain number of questions and achieve high patient satisfaction on the site, she adds, RealSelf.com may designate you a “Top Doctor,” which helps to attract patients from your geographic location.

Similarly, she considers Flipboard (Flipboard) “an excellent iPhone and iPad (Apple) application. You can gather all your news sources on this app, and in the morning just flip through and see what’s new in the journals or social media that you like. This provides a great source of information for posting on your blog, or your Twitter or Facebook accounts.” Flipboard also is available for Android (Google) tablets.

Conversely, “Pinterest is like a toy for me.” Dr. Altman uses it mainly to collect information about art and music she personally likes, for example. Nevertheless, she says, Pinterest does drive some people to her website. In this regard, “It gives you great SEO bonus points, because it’s a growing social network. And the more people who participate there, the better.”

As for other social media, Dr. Altman uses Twitter primarily to monitor what key opinion leaders in dermatology are saying and thinking. At press time, she also was developing her presence on YouTube and LinkedIn. Dr. Altman uses the latter mainly for professional networking. Although she uses Google+, she adds, “The world hasn’t decided yet whether it’s a very important social network.”

Whichever social media one chooses, she says, “You need to have a social media strategy. You can’t have just anybody posting anything on your social networks. If you have a social media person, be very specific regarding what you want them to say and how you want them to say it.” Having a consistent social-media message ensures that your image and information contribute to the goal of drawing patients to your website, Dr. Altman adds.

Finally, “Always remember the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act.” If you violate its provisions, “You’re going to be taken down very quickly.” Also helpful in this regard is the Federation of State Medical Boards Model Policy Guidelines for Appropriate Use of Social Media (www.fsmb.org/pdf/pub-social-media-guidelines.pdf), Dr. Altman says.

These guidelines emphasize the importance of protecting patient confidentiality, and not giving specific medical advice online. “You can talk in generalities,” she says, “but if you answer specific questions, that’s a liability.” DT

 

Disclosure: Dr. Altman reports no relevant financial interests.