The importance of social media can not be understated, and as a vehicle for communication, for many there is just no better option for cheaply and efficiently getting their message out.
However, just because something exists doesn’t mean you have to jump right in and use it without a plan (though your excitement in doing so is remarkable.)
And as you know, I spend quite a bit of time on this site encouraging physicians and practices to take the plunge into social media. But, as a small business, you might find some comfort in knowing you are not alone. There are countless other small business throughout the United States using (or trying to use) social media to engage prospective customers and bringing their message to the masses.
They’re efforts may not be entirely beneficial, but at least they’re trying.
Take a look at the following graphic, and let me know if anything resonates.
As far as social media use, 43 percent are using social media six or more hours a week. Remarkably, though, a third of CEOs and business leaders want to spend less time on social media, though, 63 percent of them spend just five hours or less on social media per week. The statement seems oxymoronic, but I shouldn’t be surprised; everyone is always trying to do more with less.
What’s not surprising, though, is that for the most part, small businesses are spending more time using social media to communicate their messages.
Where are they spending their time? Facebook has a 90 percent share; Twitter occupies 70 percent.
Finally, small business leaders are not overlooking the power of blogs (I haven’t). More than 55 percent of businesses just like yours are utilizing blogs to carry their message and to allow their thought leaders to share their, um, thoughts. Almost half of businesses with blogs spend between one and three hours to create each blog post, and finding and posting content is the most time-consuming part of the blog process (it is, by the way).
As you can imagine, I believe in social media and blogging (as is apparent from this publication’s existence) and it’s the future of communication and message development (take it from me, I’m a former reporter who watched the newspaper industry collapse because of web advancements like social media and blogs) and would like to see more prolific and active engagement from the healthcare community. Engagement on your befall means engagement on your patients and customers behalf.
Sure, some are doing it well, but not enough have gotten on the bandwagon. At least it’s encouraging to see that small businesses’ social media budget are on the rise.
As in all areas of life, social media also permeates healthcare. As practice leaders, hospitals and facilities, and providers wrestle with strategies for capitalizing on the communication forum, some have found success while others continue to struggle.
For each person that has made the attempt, though, valuable experiences have been gained, some worth sharing.
In the piece, Sevilla offers advice to physicians about the need to engage in regular and ongoing social media activities.
Physicians, he says, must begin to interact with patients and the public through a variety of social channels including blogs for no other reason than because patients are beginning to demand it. Without the outside the office interactions, patients begin to disengage from their physicians and seek alternative sources who are willing to meet them where the live.
Seville offers a few compelling reasons for physicians and their practices to engage socially, including:
Social media allows physicians the opportunity to tell their story – telling your story provides evidence of your experience and helps establish you as a leader in the space. Doing so also helps patient consumers have a reason to “buy in” to your system.
Social media allows you to find a community – by connecting with others, you are able to establish bonds, develop stronger collaboration with peers and bring people together for a unified cause.
Social media allows you to discover your passions outside the practice – social media helps you explore new ventures and avenues for creating relationships and bonds outside of the practice.
Social media leads to free marketing opportunities – social media helps you connect with others, Sevilla said. Those connections mean you are marketing yourself and your practice without having to spend anything but your time.
Social media allows physicians the opportunity to manage their online reputations – conversations are taking place about many of us, physicians or not. If we know what is being said, you can help protect ourselves and your practices.
There are a few things Sevilla fails to mention in the piece, though.
For example, social media is more than about building one’s own brand and developing recognition for one’s own efforts. Engaging in social media is about creating relationships with others; specifically, patients.
As such, when using social media tools in the healthcare setting, you must stay close to your customers. Social media can, and should, be used to generate conversations with the public and build relationships with those you are serving. In doing so, you gain ground in each of the areas Sevilla mentions above.
In addition, physicians and practice leaders may consider using social media as an educational tool for patients. With less than 10 minutes of face time with a physician on average, patients can turn to their social media tools to learn more about a certain procedure, to ask generalized questions or to learn how the practice’s online patient portal, appointment setting or how billing and payment processes work.
Also, consider using your Twitter feed to ask questions of your patients. Conduct informal surveys asking for feedback about visit times, practice hours or services offered. Set up a weekly or monthly lunch-hour Twitter chat where a physician takes generic questions from the public or set aside a week each month to provide health and wellness tips about certain conditions.
The results of these efforts may surprise you. And soon, you’ll discover that conversations on social media are two way rather than one sided. Perhaps you’ll even have your own strategies to share.