You may have just started your medical practice and could use some new patients. Or perhaps your practice is well established and in growth mode. Or maybe the competition is currently winning the never-ending battle for new customers.
No matter your current situation, in today's economy, your medical practice must leverage the power of social media. Here's why...
1. Your Patients Are Customers First
Have a customer who had to wait a bit too long in the lobby? They're talking about you on Facebook. A patient frustrated by a billing issue? They're asking their circle of friends and mentors how to handle the situation - and mentioning you by name. Worst-case scenario: A problem goes unresolved and they write a negative review on Yelp or Google Reviews.
Yes, we now live in the Testimonial Economy - and every review, post or tweet can have a dramatic effect on your practice. And if you aren't on social - and you don't actively listen to both the good and the bad - you're potentially losing customers to your competition.
2. You Must Be Your Own Brand Ambassador
Yes, social takes some work. Yes, it requires you to spend some more of your time away from patients. Yes, you probably already work 12-, 14- or 16-hour days.
But your practice needs you - the face of your business - to dedicate time to being a brand ambassador. You need to answer the tough questions, calm the upset parent, or say "thank you" when your practice receives a compliment or testimonial.
Invest the time. Listen closely. Engage freely. Be your own brand ambassador!
3. You Must Mine Testimonials and Reviews
How do you offset any negative comments that might appear on social media about your practice?
You intentionally seek out testimonials from patients.
And you ask them to post those kind words on your Twitter and Facebook pages, on Yelp, Google Reviews and more. How did you turn a bad situation around? Who in your office excelled at that moment? What impressed them about the front office team? What makes you different than other practitioners?
As discussed in A World Gone Social, these testimonials and reviews are not only instant credibility, they are social proof that you care about your patients and your practice.
[Also: 6 Social Media Guidelines for Physicians]
4. Community Building Is Critical
Want to increase referrals to your practice? Want to earn the respect of both customers, colleagues and even competitors? Build an online community!
Yes, this sounds complicated, but it doesn't have to be! Start a Facebook group or Google+ community. Or use a hashtag for your business on Twitter (e.g., your practice is "Carson Medical"...use #CarsonCares).
Encourage your patients to contribute questions, comments and suggestions via the platform you've chosen for your online community. Compel employees (after proper training around privacy issues, of course!) to engage in the group and provide well-considered advice.
Ask your champions to spark discussion around specific topics (a pediatric office, for example, may start a dialogue about youth sports concussions). Invite your colleagues - and yes, even your competition - to join in the conversation. Your practice can also post success stories of patients or before and after photos (especially great for dermatology or plastic surgery clinics). Primary care physicians could use social media to promote wellness or hold a fitness challenge for their community.
It will take some time. But once you've built a community, your loyal customers won't want to go anywhere else for care - and they won't recommend any other medical organization to their friends and relatives.
You may not think your medical practice needs to be online. You may find it difficult to make the time. But you must ... because in the Social Age any lack of an online presence may send the wrong message to your customers and community.
Think of social media as your digital bedside manner - and gain a competitive edge for your medical practice.
Mark Babbitt is CEO of the award-winning career site YouTern and President of Switch and Shift, a site that champions social leadership. He co-authored the Amazon Best Seller A World Gone Social: How Business Must Adapt to Survive.