Think You Can Skip Facebook? Think Again…

A few days ago MediBeauty.biz editor, Tom Seery (who I love, by the way), put up a blog post entitled, “Doctors Don’t Need to Be on Facebook (and other good news)“. First let me way – that is a BRILLIANT title! Seriously, who wouldn’t click on this!?  But regardless of the genius title, I think there are a few flaws, so I sat down to give my thoughts…

Here is my response:

“Interesting points here Tom. I think the waters are being muddied in your article, however.  By saying “You don’t need to be on Facebook” I believe you are actually doing them a big disservice.  And I don’t say this because it’s what I do for a living – I say it as a former practice administrator who spent 20 years in plastic surgery management and marketing.  I know from firsthand experience how much of a difference it made in our practice’s patient retention, loyalty to our brand, repeat business, community awareness, and last but not least, referrals.

Now, should physicians THEMSELVES be on Facebook? The answer is yes, if they want to, but for their personal profile for friends and family *only*. These guidelines were set forth by the American Medical Association in late 2010 so this is not new news.  However, whether or not the physician wants a personal profile is less important than the PRACTICE having a page.

Implementing a practice Facebook page (and this goes for all social media platforms) opens an online channel for your practice/brand to engage with current patients, their friends (most likely to buy), and prospective clients on a daily basis. If you think about it, you cannot do this any other way.

I believe RealSelf offers surgeons a wonderful platform to show their expertise and let the patients “get to know them”.  Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and Foursquare, all provide additional touchpoint opportunities. With Facebook’s Graph Search implications (see this blog post for more) and the strong SEO benefits of social media in general, it’s more important than ever to be active in all channels so you are connecting with this new digitally-connected consumer.

We have become a culture of sharing. The connected consumer shares everything – how they feel about you, your brand, your products, and your service. It used to be a happy customer tell s one person and an unhappy customer tells ten. NOW – that same customer can tell hundreds or thousands the good and the bad with one touch of her finger – and 70% of consumers will believe her!  This is the shift from word of mouth being “one-to-one “ to “one-to-many” and is why social media is not a “nice to have”- it’s expected.

Remember, Facebook is not a marketing platform, but rather another communication platform, similar to the telephone, email, or RealSelf) but the beauty of it is that you engage with patients where they are spending time (and on their terms).  Your updates have to be relevant and engaging to be worthy of a like, share, re-tweet, re-pin, etc.

As for the results you found on whether or not social brings new patient activity, I would question how these practices conducted and measured their social media efforts (see: this blog post about Dark Social Media). All too often the practice sets up a page and leaves it to wither and die by not updating on a regular basis (and losing out on Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm for getting seen in the news feed), not engaging when patients comment, or flooding the stream with marketing posts. The saddest part is how many 3rd party providers don’t “get” social media either. So MD’s might be spending good money with so called experts who don’t understand the nuances of social and therefore implement the wrong strategy.

Social media is relationship marketing. Brian Solis, global new media thought leader called social, “The new cost of doing business. In an era of connected consumerism, to earn customer attention, trust, and loyalty is a cost and an investment in relevance and relationships.” (Click here for info about the new empowered customer)