How to use social media in general practice

While many general and specialist practices continue to prove reluctant to use social media to engage with patients, in the near future they might have to or face being left behind.

In contrast to similar markets such as the UK where practices are streets ahead, few Australian medical and healthcare practices are using social media, according to Sam Mutimer, director of social media at Melbourne-based Thinktank Social.

Ms Mutimer, who is leading a workshop on the impact and opportunities for health and medical practices using social media at the Australian Association of Practice Managers (AAPM) staff development day in Melbourne on August 4, says some practices have websites and a few have set up their own Facebook page, but her research shows most are not using social media to its fullest extent.

“The clinic I go to has created a Facebook page and they've got their logo up but there's nothing happening on it,” Ms Mutimer said. “I think a lot of practitioners have set up pages just to maybe grab the name but they don't know what to do it once it's up.”

Practices in the UK, on the other hand, are far more open to embracing social media, she said. “There are a lot of forums out there and specifically designed websites that cater for doctors and the general public in answering and asking questions.

“There is a huge benefit in extending the story or educating the community of clients you have. Doctors and dentists – they'll have to be doing it soon because every other brand is doing it now. We spend so much time online now that if you haven't got an online presence then you are not open to engage or value add. A business that is, you are more likely to go to.”

Ms Mutimer advises that practices that do have a website need to work on their search terms. “Any small business or business in general will set up a website but not actually think of how it will rank in Google,” she said. “The way you can increase that is by creating your own blogs and making YouTube videos as well. That's the second biggest search engine in the world at the moment, so definitely have some video content there.

“It's at the discretion of the practice but perhaps have an open chat on there for people to ask questions.”

The workshop will investigate the statistics of how many people are online and what social networks are the most popular, she said, and then will cover quality and crisis management.

“A lot of businesses will set up a page but haven't trained up their employees about why they are using social media and what their own employees can and can't do in their own time on social networking sites. Our personal lives and our business lives are becoming blurred so the employer's job is to educate the employee about that.

“I'll be talking about crisis management – if you are going to start a social media plan, what you need to prepare for prior to getting your feet wet. Then resources – it's not just setting up a page, but it's all about planning your goals, objectives and concepts, how you are going to manage the account, who will be running this? As well as making sure your community knows when you are going to respond and having a solid engagement strategy. Then I'll drill down into Twitter and Facebook.”

Facebook is a perfect vehicle for communicating in near real-time with patients or potential customers, and Twitter is a terrific way of reaching new clients, she said. Even if you don't know people on Twitter, it becomes a “trusted community” that allows strangers to feel connected.

“You get instant leads,” she said. “I put out a tweet a couple of weeks ago asking what sort of health insurance I should join up with and had lots of people recommending Australian Unity so I went with them. Even if you don't know people on Twitter it's like a trusted community and you virtually feel connected to them as opposed to coming straight from the brand at times, or they can direct you to the brand on Twitter.”

She also encourages the use of online appointment booking for practices due to its ease of use for the consumer. “If I want to book an appointment for my sick son and I can't get through on the phone then I can just jump online. We're a lot more comfortable now doing that than we were even five years ago. I feel like the industry is still a bit stuck in the 2000s – it's 2012 and brands should be marketing like it is. Social media is now a very credible part of the marketing mix.

“Social media isn't for everyone but I think the innovative businesses that are doing social media successfully are the ones who have given it a go, have made a mistake and have become better from it.”

The AAPM staff development day is being held at the Sebel Citigate at Albert Park. See the AAPM's website for more details.

Posted in Australian eHealth

Comments   

# Erick Kinuthia 2012-07-31 20:07
Amazing post Kate.Use of social media will also see more doctors market their services online.
# Klaus @ eHWS 2012-12-31 14:56
"... created a Facebook page and they've got their logo up but there's nothing happening on it ... but they don't know what to do it once it's up" - we see this a lot! Setting up Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. social media accounts is useless if they are not 'alive' and actively being updated with practice news and info. But who is going to do these additional tasks and run a practice's social media presence?

The last thing that small businesses and SMEs need are more specilised tasks that require more investment, more training and more time.

Being a small business ourselves we have struggled with this and beelive we have come up with a solution that minimises the effort to maintain a broad internet & social media presence: http://www.eHWS.net.au

Klaus

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