Social Media Guidelines for Physicians

by A.J. Howard 10 months ago

Physician Practice Social Marketing Strategies

According to a study highlighted by the American Academy of Family Physicians' (AAFP) social media guide, more than 70 percent of primary-care physicians and oncologists use social media at least once a month to explore or contribute health information.
Whether you're trying to unveil important health messages or promote your practice's cutting-edge services, taking a strategic approach to social media means going beyond posting a holiday greeting on your practice's Facebook page.

Just as with the website, determine your audience and the scope of the social media account’s purpose.

Choose the social media outlets based on where your patients are likely to be. Older patients are more likely to be on Facebook (or maybe even Twitter). Younger patients are likely to be on Instagram or Snapchat. It’s possible to start with one or two and then add accounts as necessary/time permits/as your clientele drives you.

Plan and execute consistent, timely, and relevant content.

Content can range from updates to your office hours, new staff or staff birthdays, holiday schedules, etc. to relevant articles on advancements in your field/scope of practice and healthy tips or recipes. Some networks and software allow you to schedule posts and tweets in advance, so take advantage of known “news” and prepare well in advance for things like holiday greetings and pre-planned office closures.

Establish and remember your limits.

There’s this beastly little body of regulations in the medical industry that you may know as HIPAA, and the best way to make sure the world knows that you’ve broken one of its rules is to do it on social media. Don’t let this scare you! Just be conscious with every post or tweet to ensure you’re not divulging any information (for instance, no “happy birthday” wishes from your page to existing patients or “patients of the week”). Other things to check for are office images that may include some glimpse of patient information— or even the patients, themselves (without their written consent)!

Beyond HIPAA, remember that your business social media profile(s) should have a personality and presence separate from you or those to whom you grant permission to maintain it. If you have a very public social media presence in your name and are a named social media account administrator or a primary name in your practice or business, be aware that some people will creep from your page to your personal account. If you think something you post publicly to your personal profile it’s going to drive away or misdirect patients/clients, then it’s probably wise to keep your personal posts limited to friends or an otherwise restricted audience.

Provide a timely response to inquiries or comments that involve your social media profile.

So, Fudd McStinkbutt decided he was displeased with the way your automated phone system routed him to voicemail and figured the world should know about it. So, he decided to post a review on your Facebook profile indicating that your non-human staff is among the rudest of all humans to walk the planet. It may feel wise to ignore it and hope it goes away, but the reality is that that one-star review is bringing down your five-star average in a way that some people are going to notice much more than all the “I love this organization” reviews stacked in your favor. Offering an apologetic-tinged response in which you inquire about the time and circumstances of the call, even if you never change a thing, at best may prompt him to edit or delete his review. At worst, it will show future visitors that you consider your patients/clients more important than their opinion of you. (??)

It’s also important to respond to positive reviews with so much as a like or a “I’m glad you’re pleased!” Answer questions (though be sure to divert medical-related questions). Just try to remember that this is whole social-media thing is a relationship building endeavor.

(Clients of mine who need help with crafting a response, feel free to bring it to me. We can work through what to say.)

Use images to increase engagement. But, know where to get those images.

Even the most beautiful thought or intelligent quip is virtually invisible when buried in a wall of posts/tweets or a newsfeed. Hence, the popularity of memes… A well chosen image paired with a smart statement or headline is like a magnet for the eyes and crack for your curser.

But, where do you FIND these pictures? Perhaps your son is a great photographer and could use some credited exposure, or maybe you know your way around the web to find “free stock photos.”  Whatever you do, STAY AWAY from image sites that don’t offer a clear explanation of the image licensing. If you don’t know 100% that you have the right to use an image, don’t use it. It may seem impossible that they’ll ever find you, but be aware that some image-shills have bots trolling the internet to look for images being used outside of their usually expensive and time-limited license.

Get creative with content to post/share/tweet, but make sure you continue to own your creations.

The terms of service for most social media sites continually change, and nobody knows when or how one of these wonderful services is going to decide that your video on suicide prevention is actually their property. To this, I suggest the following rule of thumb:

  • If you write an article or blog post, post it to your website (where you know what’s yours is yours) and share it on social media. (How to add videos and images to website?
  • If you find it on social media or the web, share it from there.