Calling Dr. Facebook… Your Patient Will See You Now

There are so many thought leaders in the social media world– Mari Smith, Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk (aka. Gary Vee), Clara Shih, Brian Solis, Michael Stelzner, to name a few.*  They have authored books on the subject, have active blogs, travel the world speaking and teaching about engaging through social media.

Most of us aren’t going to be the next “Gary Vee” of our industry, but we can take the ideas and passion that each of these thought leaders have and apply it to our own business or industry.

Social Media is about connecting with YOUR group or customer base. I doubt that Gary Vee could talk to patients the same way a physician can, and I KNOW most doctors can’t critique wine like he can (though I’m sure we’d all like to try!). What makes our connections special is that we know each other (sometimes even if only virtually)… there is a trust factor in play. We have given something freely (such as knowledge about a particular subject, help on how to solve a problem, kudos, a laugh…) and we don’t expect anything in return but camaraderie. And when we feel the time is right, we may decide to buy from one of these trusted connections.

I completely agree with those who say it’s not about the numbers.  For me, it’s a quality vs. quantity issue.  How can anyone really “connect” or “engage” on a deep level with 20,000 people?  Or even 5,000?  I’m not here to rain on the parade of people with thousands of followers… it’s OK to have lots of followers.  It just shouldn’t be the be-all-end-all goal.

Instead, your GOAL is to connect on a one-on-one level with:

  • Your current patient base (to encourage repeat business, brand loyalty, and referrals)
  • and with people who are potentially your patients in the future

Where?

If you don’t know where to start… ask your patients where they are online using a survey, such as Survey Monkey. Or add it as a question to your new client registration sheet. Once you know the answer, be it Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Mommy Blogs, LinkedIn, etc. GO THERE AND ENGAGE! It doesn’t matter if you aren’t on MySpace if your average patient is 55 and on Facebook.

Ignore the places that don’t serve your core group. Spend your time wisely and be where your patients are.  And once you are there, make sure they can find you. Use every tool available to promote where you are on social media.  If it’s Facebook, put the links in your email signatures, e-newsletters and e-blasts, on your website, on your blog, on your LinkedIn profile.  And make sure you assign someone to check in daily to keep engaging with your fan-base.

How? What Content? How do you engage these people?

Easy! Give them something of value. Information is still a very valuable commodity. Patients want insight into your world… to feel like a part of your family. For example, if you are a fertility doctor, write a blog or Facebook post about what the latest drug therapies are. Talk about the latest theories, help debunk myths… anything that can help a current or prospective patient get to know you and to learn something they didn’t know before.

Notice how I said, “get to know you”?  Whatever platforms you use in social media, be it Twitter, Facebook or a blog, your posts should be easy to understand, approachable, and friendly. This is not a college lecture paper… this is a cocktail party… and you are here to meet the patient of your dreams.

Are you looking to be the expert? There are so many ways to position yourself as one, but understand that it takes one precious commodity… time.  Social media is a very time-consuming activity.  If you aren’t as busy as you would like to be, then you may have the time to do it yourself.  However, if you already have a jam-packed schedule, then you should think about getting a helper who is familiar with your industry and can talk the language for you. They can be your Practice Ambassador… and you can rely on them to do most of the day-to-day management of your online communities. You might commit to a blog post a week, or whatever your schedule allows so you “keep it real”.  The key here is to find someone who is familiar with what you do so they can get right to work on your behalf. You don’t have time for a long learning curve.

Unless you are a world-renowned physician in your specialty, I suggest connecting locally for the biggest bang. Look at your current practice demographics to see where the bulk of your patients come from and connect accordingly.

If you want to be an expert among your peers, then a platform such as LinkedIn might be right for you. Follow other thought leaders in your field. Make a list of 50 key influencers in your field and connect with them on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.  You want to strategically position yourself as the expert so involve yourself in peer-to-peer networking groups. Check in often and comment on the questions people post. Learn from what they are doing online and see how you may be able to help them achieve more (and vice verse).

The biggest mistake? Getting set up in social media and never paying attention to it. It would be like attending a party and deliberately ignoring everyone there. Or coming to the party and leaving without saying a word to anyone. If your heart isn’t into it, your audience will know and they will gravitate to someone whose is.

*A great list of experts with descriptions and how to follow them is here: http://www.clickz.com/3639809