The Do’s & Don’ts of Social Media Marketing for Healthcare
Social media has fundamentally altered the way that patients perceive healthcare. According to a study conducted by Evariant, 57% of patients decide where to pursue medical treatment based on the provider’s social media. However, since only about 1 in 4 hospitals are using social media as part of their marketing mix, maintaining an active social media presence gives your organization an opportunity to stand out.
Healthcare social media marketing can further establish trust with patients, educate followers about health and wellness, and inspire individuals to pursue careers as medical professionals. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to make the most of your healthcare social media marketing strategy.
Don’t give personalized medical advice.
Healthcare providers may be in the business of helping others maintain good health, but social media is not the place for diagnosis and treatment. Some patients may post a medical question on one of your social media pages or send a direct message listing their symptoms. In these cases, ask them to follow up with an in-person appointment.
Your organization’s website and contact information should always be visible on your social media profiles. You may also wish to add a disclaimer on your social media sites that no medical diagnosis or treatment will be administered online.
Do share health-related news and articles.
Rather than giving individualized medical treatment, use social media to share industry news, medical breakthroughs, and relevant research. For example, Main Line Health, a healthcare network in the greater Philadelphia region, often uses Facebook to share health and wellness news that is relevant to patients and the community.
In a recent post for National Drug Take Back Day, Main Line Health’s Facebook page encouraged followers to go through their medicine cabinets to check for expired medications. Main Line Health’s post also offered a clear call to action by sharing different locations within their network where these medications can be safety disposed.
Don’t violate patient privacy laws.
Due to the sensitive nature of medical practice, it is important for healthcare companies to conform to all applicable privacy laws. HIPAA laws are in place to protect patient confidentiality, so any information that could possibly identify a patient without their consent (photos, names, etc.) cannot be shared on social media. If a patient wishes to be featured in a social media campaign, they will need to give explicit permission, in writing, to the healthcare provider.
Do communicate real-time updates that could affect patients.
Sometimes you may need a way to communicate with patients en masse. Real-time updates can be anything that would affect a patient’s ability to receive medical care at your facility. For example, is the parking garage closed for repairs? Has one of the offices temporarily moved to another wing of the building?
You can pin a post to the top of your social media feed so that it is the first thing followers see when they visit your Page. You may wish to combine social media updates with an automated phone call or email message to ensure patients are aware of any changes that could affect their visit.
Don’t operate in a vacuum.
It can be tempting to post updates and news on social media without listening to follower feedback. But this leads to missed opportunities to understand your patients’ questions and concerns. For example, if followers are asking questions about whether or not to get a flu shot, it might be worth writing a blog post for your organization’s website and sharing it on social media so you can provide general, but timely health advice. If patients leave reviews on your social media pages, you can also use this information to identify your organization’s strengths and improve weaknesses.
In addition, social media is part of a larger conversation, not a platform for just posting your own materials. Use industry-relevant hashtags, reshare other healthcare organizations’ content, and encourage patients and employees to interact with your Pages. Ask employees to reshare posts from your organization’s page to their personal page.
Do set clear expectations for your admins and your followers.
When used as a responsible communication tool, social media can deliver immense value to your organization. However, it only takes one person violating HIPAA to get you in a lot of trouble. Give employees a training session and a handbook with social networking policies and branding guidelines, whether they are managing your social media or just using their personal profiles. Restrict admin permissions for Company Pages and stay abreast of best practices.
Employees aren’t the only ones who should have a clear understanding of how to interact with your social media. It also helps for medical providers to establish expectations for social media followers at the outset. For example, the Canada-based Sunnybrook Hospital has published a social media commenting policy to ensure respectful discourse and protect individuals’ privacy. If you deem anything offensive or inappropriate, remove it from your Page immediately. Monitor your social media channels for comments, and respond quickly to violations.
Don’t only use one form of content.
Are all of your social media posts linking to your blog or your website? Or do you only share press releases and industry news rather than also highlighting patient success stories (when, of course, they give explicit permission)? Share images, infographics, blog posts, videos, and other forms of media to keep audiences engaged. The Mayo Clinic Facebook page is an excellent example of diversifying content types to appeal to a range of audiences. Here is a sampling of posts that include video stories, blog articles, and infographics.
Do use the power of social media to advance public health.
Some organizations use social media to communicate public service announcements and combat misinformation. For example, the World Health Organization uses social media to share infographics with research or health and safety advice. In an effort to encourage more people to use vaccines, the World Health Organization’s Twitter feed has included many infographics related to the positive results of immunizations, including the near-eradication of diseases and the benefits of herd immunity. WHO also uses the hashtag #VaccinesWork, taking part in a broader national conversation about the need for vaccination.
Ready to bring your healthcare social media marketing to the next level? Contact Pacific54 today for a consultation.