by Shelley Moench-Kelly, MBA
It might seem overwhelming to establish and maintain a professional presence on social media while still running a practice. Do you, as a practice owner or manager, handle it yourself or delegate it to a staff member? Whatever you decide is best for your practice, the key decision is to engage in social media because it’s an affordable, immediate method of advertising and marketing-as long as you approach it correctly.
- You might think you can do it all, but you really won’t want to.
Select a staff member to set up and build your social media presence, one who understands your practice philosophy and the messages you’re trying to convey. Make sure there’s a HIPAA policy in your practice and that your entire staff (including even the most junior administrative assistant) is trained in it. It could save you legal problems. It’s not just about advertising – it’s about protecting you, your practice and your patients.
- Keep your professional and personal social media profiles separate.
As tempting as it may seem to blend two accounts to save time, it’s best to treat social media as you would your personal and professional bank accounts and keep them separate from one another. You wouldn’t want a patient physically following you home to ask medical questions, right?
- Use social media as a way to share neutral information.
You want to spread the news about your practice and your reputation and this is the new word-of-mouth. Simply convey information about your practice so patients can find you easily: Provide a map, directions, telephone and fax numbers, after-hour emergency contacts and office hours. You can also share factual information about your specialities and links to your practice website for patients to learn more about your menu of services.
- Do not offer medical advice on social media.
Unless you’re registered on RealSelf or a similar site that allows for patient/doctor exchanges, it’s the safest bet-both legally and professionally-to defer answers with a simple “Please feel free to book a consultation with Dr. Smith to address your issues”. It’s a safe legal strategy to treat everyone who posts to your account as you would a tourist asking for directions; this lessens the chances of posters claiming you gave them advice that resulted in injury or other damage.
- Post regularly and answer questions, comments and reviews as quickly as possible.
Try to post at least once a day on sites such as Facebook, and even more frequently on Twitter and other “live-stream” outlets. Social media is a fast-moving way to advertise and it’s easy to fall into a habit of posting infrequently. But maintaining your account doesn’t always have to be dry and repetitive. Pepper your updates with regular anecdotes or useful nuggets of information or links to informative case studies to keep your followers interested.
Shelley Moench-Kelly, MBA, is a New England-based writer. Her freelance clients include Google, MedEsthetics magazine, and The Week.