Social Media for Doctors: Is It Worth It for Your Practice?
As a practice owner, you’ve probably dabbled in promoting yourself via social media before, or, at the very least have thought about using social media to help promote and manage your practice.
If you haven’t taken the plunge and fully developed a social media strategy, you’re likely falling behind your colleagues. In fact, according to our recent Software Advice 2023 Social Media for Doctors Survey [*], 81% of doctors see social media as an effective marketing method for their practice.
Whether it’s patient acquisition, increasing patient engagement, or improving your reputation, social media is important to consider for any practice owner. After all, it’s frustrating for a new patient who goes to a doctor’s social media page and finds that it’s out of date. If it hasn’t been updated in a year or two, it might make them question whether you’re still in business or not.
It’s crucial to understand what platforms are most important as well as the benefits and drawbacks that come with using social media for your practice. Additionally, we’re going to provide you with insights into what software you might need to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to social media.
For a quick overview of the pros and cons of social media for doctors, check out the video below:
What types of social media are best for doctors?
Before we jump into the benefits and drawbacks of social media for your practice, let’s talk about the different types of social media that are most commonly used by doctors.
According to the Pew Research Center, roughly 70% of Americans say they use at least one social media site. Having a social media presence helps you attract new patients—particularly if you’re highlighting patient testimonials or have a patient referral plan set up. Social media is a vital part of your digital marketing strategy.
Facebook and Instagram are king when it comes to social media usage, which should come as no surprise considering they’re the two most popular social media platforms for marketers.
That said, don’t underestimate the power of marketing yourself via LinkedIn because it can be a great place to build professional relationships with other practice owners who can send patients your way—especially if you’re a specialist.
Ultimately, the social media platform you use depends on your bandwidth and comfort with said platform. If you’re already familiar with one or multiple platforms, start there and experiment with the other platforms using your personal accounts to gain some familiarity with how to post and promote yourself.
In order to determine which platforms to prioritize, you can poll your patients about which social media they engage with more frequently. If the majority of your patients only use Facebook, you will want to prioritize posting there.
Benefits of using social media to promote your practice
The bottom line is that you’re missing out on potential patients if you aren’t promoting yourself via social media in some form or fashion. Your patients are using these platforms, and it’s a low-cost, low-effort way to get your name out there and top of mind.
Social media advertising is also a great way to help you reach patients in your area who might not otherwise know your medical practice exists.
If a potential patient runs across your profile, you want it to seem like you’re active and engaging, which might be the difference between them choosing your practice and going with someone else.
The benefits are there too if you take the time to develop a social media marketing strategy. According to our 2023 Software Advice Social Media for Doctors Survey [*], attracting new patients was the top benefit for using social media to promote a medical practice.
It’s also no surprise to see that cost-effective marketing comes up second because, aside from email marketing, a more low-cost marketing approach doesn’t exist. Granted, you can certainly invest in social media marketing by purchasing social media management software or hiring a third-party service provider to run your social media platforms,
But if you or a staff member are the ones running it, the only cost is the time you put into it.
If you’re still not convinced of the benefits, that same survey found that nearly half of all new patients came from marketing efforts.
While not explicitly about social media marketing, that number should be a wakeup call if you aren’t devoting some amount of time and effort into marketing your practice.
Drawbacks of using social media to promote your practice
Social media marketing, while a cost-effective way to promote your practice, does come with some drawbacks as well, and it’s important to understand them so you can avoid making mistakes.
If you have a presence on social media, there’s a good chance you’re going to have a negative encounter. In fact, in that same survey, we found that 53% of providers have had a negative encounter with another user on a social media platform they manage.
It’s easy to approach negative encounters defensively, especially if you don’t recognize the person who is posting.
When dealing with difficult patients online, don’t react negatively. Instead, you’ll want to either not engage, or, if you do engage, do so by making calm, rational arguments. Remember, you’re responding to one person, but every new or existing patient is going to see your response, so if you’re logical, calm, and rational, your patients will recognize that..
The last thing you want is for the conversation to evolve into something nasty; that’s when damage to your reputation can happen.
The second largest drawback is also manageable. If you’re finding that it’s taking too much time to post and stay on top of engaging with patients via social media, you might want to consider having one of your staff take over the responsibilities, if they are interested.
Just be sure to allow them dedicated time to managing the social media pages. If you’re unable to keep up with it on your own, you recognize that it’s not as simple as spending a few minutes here or there: you have to devote dedicated time to it if you want it to be successful.
Lastly, whenever you use any sort of customer testimonial on your social media pages, you’ll want to be careful to not use any identifying information, or you risk violating HIPAA. To avoid this, you can have patients opt into being featured in your marketing efforts, or keep testimonials anonymous.
Ultimately, the drawbacks are manageable if you’re smart and thoughtful about how you approach social media marketing, and the benefits should ultimately outweigh them.
Resources you need to use social media effectively
While you might be able to manage your social media accounts manually, you’re likely losing out on efficiency and productivity if you aren’t investing in some sort of social media management software. You’re also falling behind your colleagues because 53% of surveyed doctors are using software to help manage their social media accounts.
There’s a few different types of social media software that can help make social media marketing easier and more effective:
Social media marketing software helps you create, track, and manage your social media accounts while also providing you with reports on performance metrics such as cost, revenue, and profits. This helps you more easily track ROI.
Social media management software is designed to help you engage with your patients and can help you publish content to all the platforms you use from one location, locate particular social media users or conversations, and measure the relative success of your social media posts.
Social media analytics tools help you gather and process the data from conversations on social media that involve your practice whether that’s on your page or somewhere else. Each of these tools will have advanced data analytics capabilities which can help you make better business decisions around your social media use.
Social media is important, but it’s just one branch of digital marketing
Social media is a great, low-cost way of attracting new patients as well as keeping your existing patients engaged with your practice so that they keep coming back and referring you to their friends and family. And as long as you’re smart and thoughtful, you can easily manage the potential drawbacks, so it should be a no-brainer for any successful practice.
However, to truly get the most out of your social media efforts, you need to include it in your overall marketing strategy. In a vacuum, social media might not be able to get you enough new patients to succeed, but when you couple it with a responsive, up-to-date website, email marketing, content blog posts, and YouTube, you’re going to get a much higher return on your time and investment by driving more patient sign-ups.
For a more complete guide to digital marketing for practice owners, check out Everything You Need To Know About Medical Practice Marketing.
[*] Software Advice's 2023 Social Media for Doctors Survey was conducted in April 2023 among 100 doctors working at practices in the U.S. The purpose of the survey was to determine how these respondents use social media in either their personal lives, their professional lives, or both. Respondents were screened for job title and limited to those who work at practices with no more than 20 licensed providers on staff.
1. Social Media Use in 2021, Pew Research Center