Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d be aware of the prevalence of social media usage in daily life. We live in an era when Internet connectivity is essential for getting information and even entertainment. Wherever people are, there is also an opportunity to promote a product or service. That is why businesses take advantage of social media.
In this article, we’ll be discussing some of the considerations that must be made when working in the social media space.
It is firstly important to acknowledge that healthcare professionals and clinic owners are not exempt from this social media bandwagon. You can choose to put your head in the sand, but as the old saying goes, when you do that, your butt becomes an easy target. The thing is, the rules of the game become a bit grey when you are managing a social media account for a medical practice in Australia or New Zealand. There are pitfalls, and nobody likes falling into a pit, so below we have outlined a summary of what to consider when engaging in social media for your healthcare practice.
Understand your audience’s understanding of your content
Double Dutch? Not really. Social media management is not just posting and sharing content as much as possible with the simple intention of making the account as active as it can be. While that will likely have some benefit for your website’s ranking on Google, you need to ask the question, “what is the goal?” Surely, for a healthcare practice, that would be to attract patients or would-be patients?
So, for your social media efforts to help deliver your goal, you need to identify what they want to know about your medical practice – what conditions you treat, what techniques you can offer and, most importantly, how you can help them achieve more in their daily lives. You may even want to consider sharing some tidbits and tips just about general health, or healthy activities, which may get them interested to dig in and look for more information about your practice and clinic.
Knowing your audience and understanding how they will digest your content will prompt you to create a plan that will allow you to work towards your goals.
Practice what you preach
Many practitioners maintain social media accounts for their personal use, which is separate from the social media pages that promote their health care clinics. This is, indeed, a good practice. Yet, unless you have very tight privacy controls on your private social media presences, your behaviour and activity in those accounts can have direct effects on the reputation of your clinic or medical practice, especially if you’re seen to be in any way hypocritical when it comes to the content you offer on your website or your practice social media account.
Say, for example, your website or social media page shares a meme or a blog post that discourages smoking. However, on your personal Facebook timeline is a photo of you holding a lit cigarette. Such an image could have a bearing on the credibility of what your clinic’s social media page is trying to present.
Consistency is the key. The message you want to convey to your audience and patients should be consistent with any private behaviour that your patients might see.
Play by the rules
Medical advertising is heavily regulated in Australia and New Zealand, and that includes social media. You’re likely aware that one of the things that AHPRA (or Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) prohibits in medical marketing, is the use of testimonials from “satisfied” patients to promote your services. Their reasoning is that any medical treatment can deliver different results for different patients, so one patient’s experience may not be relevant to another. While to a degree, we all know this is very subjective and “common-sense”, AHPRA make the rules.
Unfortunately, social media in itself is a platform designed to be interactive. It is an avenue where users can interact, comment, and exchange opinions. There is, therefore, a real possibility that your clients could make comments or give feedback about your services which could be construed as testimonials.
There are two ways of handling this. You can either be very diligent with managing comments either via moderating them before they’re approved or deleting those that might cause issues with AHPRA, or disable them altogether. While this is, to a degree, counterintuitive to good social media activity, it is necessary in a heavily regulated industry such as healthcare.
Social media pages are set-up to promote your medical practice and clinic. Your objective here does not stop when you gain likes and receive reactions – the end goal is for you to encourage people to contact your clinic and set an appointment.
However, there is a temptation within your community of likers and followers to consult with you and ask health-related questions online – either through a comment or via direct message. It is a bad idea to respond directly with an answer. The professional way to deal with such is to go back to your main goal – get them to contact your clinic and set a schedule for a consultation.
It is also a professional protocol to maintain patient confidentiality. That is why it is important to avoid identifying your patients on your social media pages.
Do you need assistance in managing your social media accounts for your healthcare practice and clinic? Do you feel like your online marketing efforts need enhancing? Allow us to help you. Contact us now so we can listen to you, and we will attend to your needs.