Social media can take your career to the next level, but these commonly seen mistakes will hold you down. Make sure you know how to avoid them.
Managing social media for doctors can be challenging. In the digitally-driven world we live in today, businesses across all industries--including the healthcare and medical industries--are constantly seeking more modern techniques to market their services to an evolving community. For doctors, one of the most powerful tools to help do so has been social media. These popular, highly social platforms give doctors a digital resource that allows them to communicate, build relationships, and acquire patients.
Although social media has been around for several years now, many doctors are still not trained well enough to adequately utilize its capabilities. “Social Media for Doctors 101” is rarely taught in medical school and, despite their tremendous wealth of knowledge in other subjects, many doctors quickly find that developing effective social media management strategies is more difficult than they assumed.
Social media can be a tremendously influential tool that allows you to connect with your patients both organically and non-organically, but it can also be detrimental to your career if you do not use it the right way. For doctors, social media is both a blessing and a curse. But since Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Instagram and Twitter aren’t going away any time soon, learning the best social media strategies for medical professionals will be crucial.
Because most blunders you make on social media will be visible to the public, they can potentially cost you money, patients, and your reputation. Deteriorating your reputation has never been a good thing, but with more people using the Internet to find a doctor than ever before, the importance of building a positive online reputation has never been greater. Currently, roughly 2 billion people use some form of social media at least once per week.
There are many common mistakes you’ll see doctors make on social media. Whether you’re just beginning to build your online profile or have been doing so for years, it’s important to learn from the mistakes of others so that you can avoid them yourself.
Table of Contents
Here are some of the more common mistakes doctors we’ve observed on social media, made by doctors:
Not having a strategy in place
The #1 reason people don’t get the results they wanted from their social media account is the fact that they never had a clear plan on how to use it. Many doctors will spend an hour or so making a Facebook page, call it a day, and then never visit this widely-used platform again.
For social media to play a beneficial role for you or your practice, it’s crucial to have a strategy in place that aligns why you’re using it with what you hope to get out of it. Creating an account on a social media website and blindly posting without any specific intentions is unlikely to generate positive results. Make sure you are familiar with the etiquette and customs of the specific platform you are using. Know your target audience and produce content that they will be interested in, thus increasing the likelihood they will engage in conversation with you. A doctor whose average patient is 25 years old will very likely need a different social media strategy than a doctor whose average patient is 65 years old. Take the time to set clear goals and objectives that can be measured to determine how successful they are. There is nothing wrong with adjusting your plan as you go, but it’s essential to establish some sort of strategy to steer your social media efforts in a direction that will lead to positive results.
Shying away from a conversation
The whole point of social media is to provide a platform where you can interact with others. Social media is not a blog nor an advertisement--it is something unique. Certain aspects of it share similar functions like these, but more than anything social media is about creating an online community where you can connect with others. It’s not a one-way relationship where you push out information but remain unwilling to engage in conversation and listen to feedback – even if that feedback is negative.
Responding to positive feedback is easy, but one of the hardest things to do on social media is responding to negative reviews. If you do not respond to these complaints, people viewing your social media pages will jump to their own conclusions. Even if you cannot mend the relationship with the patient who left a bad review, responding to their concerns in a public forum shows prospective patients that you take your craft seriously and care about their health. The biggest component in creating a community is engaging with the community that you are creating. If the overarching goal of your social media strategy is to create more patients, then you simply cannot be a social media robot. You need to emit a more personal touch that allows them to build a better relationship and become comfortable with you. It’s human nature for people to be more drawn to someone who listens to them and shows an interest in what they have to say. Show them that you are a real person – show them that you care.
This goes back to the point that social media channels are geared to promote conversations, not advertisements. Creating a social media profile strictly for self-promotional purposes won’t do you any good. A general rule of thumb is to go with an 80/20 split – meaning no more than 20% of your posts should be directly promotional. In medical school, you likely learned about the dangers of words like “guarantee” and “promise”--this means, when promoting, you should also be very careful with the words you are choosing.
When people are scrolling through their news feed, they want to see things that are interesting and valuable to their life, not yours. They don’t want to incessantly hear about the benefits of your practice and what you can supposedly offer them. You cannot force yourself or your practice upon them – it won’t work. Instead, acquire new patients by focusing on developing relationships and earning their trust over the long run.
Focusing on quantity over quality
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and sacrifice quality in favor of quantity when building your social media pages. Yes, there’s value in having a lot of friends or followers, but not when it jeopardizes the validity of your online reputation. There are some programs out there that allow you to pay for friends, followers, likes, etc., but buying your way into forming a perception that you’re more popular than you actually are is not a good idea. Not because it’s immoral or inaccurate (which it is), but because it’s a waste of money. There is no value in your posts when the people seeing them are not even real people. On top of that, when real patients can see that the majority of people following you are actually bots, your credibility is diminished.
Another area where focusing on quantity over quality can come back to harm you is the frequency in which you post. One good post is better than five mediocre or even bad posts. You need to post often enough that you're able to build a following, but you don’t want to bombard your audience by posting so often that it gets to the point where they deliberately ignore your posts. When you make the number of your posts a top priority, you unknowingly create less creative and engaging content, consequently reducing the effectiveness of your posts. How often you should post depends on the social network you are using, your target market, and your social media strategy. The general rule though is to post as often as possible to the point where you are not sacrificing the quality of your content.
Not managing time and resources
Managing your time wisely is vital when it comes to a career as time-consuming as being a doctor. Doctors are typically quite busy and, as a result, a doctor’s social media page is something that is often neglected. You want to be as efficient as possible when conducting your social media endeavors, thus freeing up more time throughout the day to be spent on other matters. There are many ways to do so, but most doctors make the mistake of either not knowing about or not taking advantage of these resources available to them.
There are several comprehensive social media management tools, Sprout and Hootsuite being two of the favorites, which allow you to control almost all aspects of your social profile from one easy-to-use location. These tools allow you to schedule posts ahead of time, which saves you a lot of time spent sharing posts throughout the day. This also allows you to schedule posts during the ideal hours of the day. However, do make sure that you are not relying solely on these automated posts and forget the whole meaning of social media in the first place – interaction! Another mistake many doctors make is constantly running to join the latest and greatest social network and abandoning platforms that they had previously been using.
Furthermore, there are dozens of social networks for doctors should be on, and more sprout up every week. Doctors that are on many different networks will be much more likely to attract the interest their practice needs. But while there’s nothing wrong with joining additional social networks, it shouldn’t be at the detriment of the platforms that you have already established a community with. You cannot join too many social networks that it gets to the point where you don’t have the time and manpower to manage each one of them. Use your time and resources wisely.
While social media for doctors is important, it is just one component of a long-term marketing project. If you begin your journey into social media with the expectation that you’ll see immediate results, you’ll surely be disappointed. You’ll often hear the old adage, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” in regards to dealing with social media for your practice. While it may be corny, it’s entirely accurate. Remember, you’re trying to build relationships with these people. Naturally, doing this takes time, even more so when you’re doing it online. You can’t get discouraged when you aren’t seeing much of a return on your investment overnight. When you design your social media strategy, understand that you need to be in it for the long haul if you hope to benefit from your efforts.
Not setting up bio and profile picture correctly
In social media, your profile is your first impression. You can build relationships by the way you communicate with people, but your profile sets the tone that allows that relationship to build in the first place. It all starts with your profile picture – don’t make the mistake of thinking this doesn’t matter. This is the first thing that others will see on your profile and is something they’ll associate with you from thereon. Having a lackadaisical or unprofessional picture isn’t exactly the initial image you want to represent you. Aside from the picture, also ensure that your bio is properly written. They need to know who you are and what you do, but don’t overload them with unnecessary information. Your bio will vary depending on the particular social media platform you are using. However, generally, your bio should be informative, yet concise.
Not knowing the line between personal and professional
If there’s one aspect of social media that is most responsible for a large number of doctors shying away from using it at all, it’s the fear of it leading to legal actions against them. This fear is certainly justifiable, there are certain components of your career – patient confidentiality for example – that absolutely cannot be discussed in a public forum environment created by social media channels. If you love using social media, consider making two accounts--one for your practice, and one for your personal life. Not knowing the boundary between what is ethically acceptable and unacceptable is a mistake that can indeed lead to dire consequences. However, that shouldn’t stop you from using social media, it should motivate you to understand where the line should be drawn in order to avoid negative ramifications.
Not using it
Plain and simple: the biggest mistake doctors make in regards to social media is neglecting to use it. There are a variety of opportunities at one’s disposal through social networks that otherwise would not be obtainable. The possibilities are endless – as long as you avoid a few common mistakes.
By committing to learning the best social media strategies for doctors, you will be one step closer to building your practice and achieving your long-term goals.
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