Social media has reshaped the way physicians practice medicine as people increasingly turn to online resources for health-related information. And with 60% of people who use social media reporting they trust posts from their doctors – it’s more important than ever to develop an online presence that reflects your facility. Having a presence on social media can help your practice in several ways, including:
- Increasing awareness for your organization locally and in online search engines
- Driving traffic to your website
- Building connections with current and future patients, advocacy groups, caregivers and referring physicians
- Showcasing the cutting-edge technologies available at your facility
The key to success on social media is understanding who your audience is and what information they want to receive, then developing a strategy for building engagement for a long-term relationship based on providing a great experience.
That’s why we’ve put together these best practices for radiation oncologists who wish to engage with patients or colleagues through social media. In this blog, you will learn how to create and manage an online presence for your practice and share honest and responsible content.
Find the right social media channels for your organization
New social media platforms crop up all the time. But as you’re getting started, we recommend focusing your time on the few tried-and-true channels that many healthcare organizations use to communicate with their key audiences: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
With more than one billion people actively using Facebook every day, it is increasingly used as a channel for patient education and resources, while enhancing organizational visibility. Posting on Facebook provides more content to be indexed by Google on behalf of your center and, as a result, its name appears higher in search engines. In addition to basic information, you can post treatment success stories, share information about treatment milestones, highlight events the center is hosting and/or participating in, discuss technology your center uses, and answer questions in real time.
With more than 300 million active users, Twitter enables you to build connections with the people in your community by sharing brief updates about your organization and participating in trending hashtag conversations, such as #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth and #ProstateCancerAwarenessMonth. Hashtags become very popular and often lead to trending topics. Twitter also provides you with an easy way to remain current on and participate in industry trends and community discussions. Search Twitter to identify conversations of relevance to your center and tweet when you can add value.
This professional networking site with nearly 400 million users provides you with the opportunity to use your physicians’ and medical center’s credentials to build an online presence. While it doesn’t have the user base of Facebook and Twitter, some physicians consider it “the place to be” for building relationships and learning about the latest trends.
Identify your point person(s) and set up your channels
First, determine the right name for your social media properties. Make sure your social media usernames are consistent with your business name. Consider what words people will use when they search for your center by name – and avoid abbreviations.
Second, determine who from your team will be responsible for managing the login credentials for all social media accounts and be on point for managing the content posting and engagement process. This can be one person or several people; however, even if it will be predominantly one person’s role to post content across the channels, we recommend providing access to more than one person on your team as a backup.
Develop a content calendar to schedule your posts
When getting started on social media, one of the first reactions is, “I don’t have enough to say.” A content calendar will take the pressure off developing creative content at the last minute.
The calendar should include all the social media messages you plan to post during the month, the social accounts you plan to use, and the date and time the messages will be distributed. A good first step in building out your calendar is to add information about the awareness months and days your center wants to support. Build on this with the addition of news specific to your center, including new services and technologies, or events you plan to host. There is really no limit to the type of content you can post if the information is of interest to your potential audience.
Believe it or not, as a healthcare organization, you have numerous assets and expertise you can immediately leverage as you develop your content strategy. Ideas include:
- Review existing marketing materials for images, disease and treatment descriptions, patient profiles, physician bios and more. Think about what’s on your website and in patient brochures.
- Ask subject matter experts within your organization to provide information on a topic area and attribute the content to them.
- Share patient profiles and testimonials. Just be sure to obtain the patient’s approval to share their story!
- Leverage seasonality and ‘awareness’ days and months. Examples of awareness days and months include Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (March), National Cancer Survivors Day (June 6), Prostate Cancer Awareness Month (September), Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) and Lung Cancer Awareness Month (November).
Make sure to tailor the voice in your social media posts to be more personal. This is a more casual means of communication than many, and it’s a great place to showcase the personalities that make your practice special. But keep in mind that everything you say on social media is “on the record,” and you shouldn’t post any content that would be considered privileged information.
Determine your posting frequency
Many companies have found that a successful social media campaign includes the following number of posts per day/week:
2 times per day
3 times per week
3 times per day
3-4 times per week
At least once a day
2-3 times per week
The fast-paced nature of Twitter enables multiple posts a day, while Facebook is much slower paced. Don’t hesitate to retweet and reuse content, as most tweets leave a follower’s feed within seconds; conversely it is frowned upon to re-use Facebook content.
As you move forward with your social media program, you’ll obtain valuable information on the engagement levels of your posts. You’ll also uncover insights about the times of day and days of the week when your audience is the most active. These analytics and others can be used to help you refine when and how often you post.
Develop social media campaigns to enhance your content
Creating social media campaigns is a great way to put a spotlight on a focus area of your organization. Campaign ideas that can be used year-round include:
- Survivor Stories: Highlight successfully treated cancer patients featured on your website.
- Physician Spotlight: Emphasize the great work that your physicians are doing to help cancer patients.
- Technology Highlights: Educate followers on the state-of-the-art technology your center offers. Link to more information on your website.
- Fact or Fiction: To interact with the community and encourage responses, host a weekly “Fact or Fiction” trivia session featuring different cancer facts.
- Fact of the Day: Use the popular hashtag #FactOfTheDay to extend the potential audience of your posts.
- Celebrity Spotlight: Highlight celebrities who are (or have loved ones who are) proud and outspoken cancer survivors. This is a great way to add some fun into a campaign in a meaningful and relevant way.
- Highlight Your Community Involvement: Participating in a local walk or other cancer awareness month event is a great way to draw positive attention to your office. You can build excitement for the event and even gain more participants by promoting it via social media.
Secure more social media followers
Posting great content is the number-one way to motivate people to follow you and share your content, which helps other people find your channels. Other tips to secure more followers include:
- Research hashtags in use. Type in topics, diseases, etc. to determine if others are using this hashtag. Often local events will have their own hashtags, so be on the lookout.
- Make sure you’re following the social media properties for technologies and products you have in your center, including @Accuray on Twitter and Facebook for content you can retweet and share.
- Follow other like-minded healthcare organizations – referring hospitals, local and national advocacy groups that support your patient populations, etc.
- Share other healthcare organizations’ content: If you share and/or re-tweet posts from other hospitals and advocacy organizations, they will be more likely to share yours.
Advance your social media measurement and reporting
You can gain additional insights about the success of your social media program by harnessing the following options:
- Create a bit.ly account. Bit.ly breaks down your link clicks by source, e.g. Twitter or Facebook, and enables you to track each click that your link receives, providing a measurement tool to see how many individuals clicked on your links.
- Check out analytics.twitter.com for additional metrics, such as engagement rates and tweet performance over time.
- Facebook’s analytics tab will help you determine your reach, new followers, shares, engagement, etc. from each of your posts.
We hope this guide provided you with inspiration to kick start your social media efforts. Driving awareness for your practice, practitioners and patient success stories is vital to any healthcare organization and participating in social media is a valuable tool on that journey.