Social Has Gone Global
A fascinating report from DataReportal found that as of April 2022, a stunning 5 billion people are now using the internet—that’s 63% of the global population! The top use for the internet in April 2022 was chat and messaging, followed closely by “social networks.” That’s right—4.65 billion people (or nearly 59% of the global population) are active social media users.
Numbers like that can be hard to wrap one’s head around, so we’ll let Search Engine Journal narrow it down for us a bit: 84% of Americans use at least one social media platform. The most popular platform in America is YouTube, followed immediately by Facebook and Instagram. LinkedIn comes in fifth place and Twitter seventh.
But it’s not as easy as choosing the most popular platform in the country and running with it. While social media platforms often differ only slightly from one another, those differences can make or break the time and money you’re putting into your medical practice’s marketing strategy. We’ve examined and identified these disparities so you can more easily optimize your social media strategy, build your brand and online presence, and target the right audience to attract more patients.
Dissecting the Differences
YouTube: Reaching More Millennials Than Cable TV
While Facebook is the king of social media on a global scale, YouTube reigns supreme in the U.S. Of the 81% of U.S. adults who use YouTube, 62% of them visit the site on a daily basis (Global Media Insight).
If that didn’t blow your mind, consider this: Google, the largest search engine in the world, owns YouTube, the second-largest search engine in the world. This means that relevant, informative YouTube results get high priority in both the Google and YouTube search engines. Additionally, 6% of Google’s ad revenue comes from YouTube (Healthcare Success).
Taken together, it’s something of a head-scratcher that very few medical practices include YouTube as part of their marketing strategy. So, what is about YouTube that sets it apart from the other major players, and why aren’t physicians taking advantage of it?
Aside from not being part of the Metaverse (we’ll get there), video is what makes YouTube unique. While Instagram’s mysterious algorithm is suddenly pushing tons of video content to a feed near you, YouTube has been the video go-to since 2005.
As for why medical practices aren’t taking full advantage, it’s likely because video marketing can be a major timesuck. In particular, building and maintaining a YouTube channel is a big commitment. While it can help get your name out there, creating a channel to promote brand awareness isn’t for everyone. Additionally, very few people use YouTube as a primary search engine to find a provider. You cannot rely on YouTube traffic alone to advertise your practice.
So, forget about building a channel for a moment. Instead, seriously consider a different video vessel: advertising. YouTube not only allows you to specify the locations to target, but you can also handpick channels or types of content that pair well with your ads.
Prospective patients may use YouTube to search for information about their symptoms, condition, or treatment options. YouTube users know to expect an ad to play before a video begins. This can be an excellent way to get your logo and message out to the right audience.
No matter what platforms you choose, video is gaining major traction in marketing, and medical practices shouldn’t be pressing pause. If you select YouTube as one of your primary marketing channels, ensure you’re using it to its fullest potential.
Facebook: Best All-Around Platform
Enter the Metaverse. Facebook offers a wide variety of methods for drawing attention, traffic, and ultimately new patients. The sky is the limit when it comes to Facebook posts. You can share medical articles, patient testimonials, physician bios, and even events you’re planning to attend. You can also create and advertise events that are taking place at your practice, such as conferences or free clinics.
Be sure to take advantage of Facebook Stories, one of the platform’s newest features. When Meta purchased Instagram, they introduced Instagram’s popular Stories feature to Facebook. Photos and short videos posted to your Stories remain available to your audience for 24 hours after you post them. They’re a great way to connect with your followers and avoid flooding their feeds with too many posts.
While most social media platforms have a direct messaging (DM) feature, Facebook has an entirely separate app: Facebook Messenger. A fantastic tool for medical practices, Messenger allows you to set up an automated response to any messages received through the app. This response can contain the answers to frequently asked questions like business hours, locations, and how to schedule an appointment. It can also let users know when they can expect to hear back from someone at the practice.
In addition to being a great platform for increasing brand awareness and engagement, it’s also an easy way to target and track your ideal patient demographic. It’s no secret that Facebook is incredibly popular among folks aged 65+, so it may come as a surprise that older millennials love it, too. In fact, Facebook is the most popular social media platform for adults aged 35-44 (Hootsuite Facebook Demographics). With its vast range of users, Facebook can stand up as just about any medical practice’s ideal platform.
Creating a Facebook page for your practice also allows you to take full advantage of everything rater8 has to offer. In addition to our online review builder, patient satisfaction surveys, and Verified Reviews pages, we also offer rater8 Social.
You see, at rater8, we have a wealth of quality, patient-generated content right at our fingertips. Why let it collect dust when you could be using it to augment your presence on Facebook? Once you’ve scheduled your practice’s posting frequency, rater8 automatically prioritizes the best 5-star reviews for publication. Coming up with new content can quickly become exhausting, especially across multiple social platforms. rater8 Social ensures your Facebook feed sees regular new content, no effort required.
Instagram: Not Just for Squares Anymore
Yep, we’re still in the Metaverse. But Instagram is a whole new world compared to Facebook. The once square-photos-only platform has evolved drastically in the past decade.
If there was ever the perfect online platform for crafting a top-notch aesthetic, Instagram is the place. Instagram is the ultimate platform for everything visual: before and afters, behind the scenes, inside looks at locations, headshots of physicians, and other branded content. On Facebook and LinkedIn, practices generally find the greatest success with posts that feature social proof like testimonials and reviews. The same is often true of Instagram, especially when those posts are consistently well-branded and visually appealing. However, keep in mind that because all content on Instagram is doing its best to be eye-catching, certain specialties will have more success than others. For example, dermatologists rake in an exceptional amount of traffic with before and after comparisons to showcase stellar patient outcomes—just be sure to comply with HIPAA if you decide to go this route.
But don’t limit yourself to photo content. You may be shocked at how the traditionally photo-oriented platform’s algorithm has changed to prefer and promote videos. Fortunately, the possibilities for video content are abundant: doctor interviews, location tours, procedure explanations, video testimonials, the check-in process, and so much more. Essentially, video carries all the messages you can get across in a photo—just without the long caption very few users will read. It’s a win-win! If you want to ensure you’re showing up on your patients’ feeds, make time to learn about shooting and editing video. Don’t forget about that movie-star lighting! Better yet, hire someone who has the skills you don’t have time to curate—you’ll thank yourself later.
You can link your Facebook and Instagram accounts so that whatever you post on Instagram is also conveniently posted to Facebook. You can also run Facebook ads on both platforms; after all, this is the Metaverse.
Seeing as older generations are most attracted to Facebook, it’s not surprising that young millennials and older members of Gen Z prefer Instagram; in fact, users between the ages of 18 and 34 make up about 62% of Instagram’s user demographic (Hootsuite Instagram Demographics). If your practice specializes in pediatrics, for example, Instagram, with its massive young-parent age group, could be the ideal platform for you. Whereas if your medical practice specializes in retina care, then Facebook is likely the better option.
LinkedIn: Time to Suit Up
LinkedIn stands out as less of a “social” platform, and more of a “business” one. While it may not be the most ideal platform for interacting with potential patients, LinkedIn is certainly one of the best for networking with colleagues and recruiting new hires.
Because LinkedIn’s messaging is a paid feature, it’s unlikely patients will interact with you there in that manner. But don’t write LinkedIn off just yet: it’s still a vital facet of your online reputation! Google is a big fan of LinkedIn, meaning that LinkedIn profiles tend to rank quite well in search. You’ll rank even better if you have a complete profile and use the proper keywords. Your LinkedIn profile can and should include your practice’s basic information and act as a gateway to your website. This will allow your patients to more easily get in touch with you.
Most notably, LinkedIn is yours to control. With so many online doctor review sites out there, it can be difficult to curate an accurate, consistent online reputation. While healthcare reputation management companies like rater8 can help with this, social media platforms like LinkedIn don’t require such intervention. Because you control the content on your LinkedIn profile, you have the opportunity to build your brand and showcase your practice in its best professional light.
Whether or not they should, millions of people turn to social media for medical advice. LinkedIn’s reputation as a business platform allows it to serve as a trusted source for medical information. Capitalize on this by providing your audience with accurate information! While you shouldn’t offer medical advice over social media, you should certainly post scientific articles and show off your subject-matter expertise. When your providers share compelling content, re-share it to your practice’s LinkedIn feed. Your practice and doctors will quickly become reliable sources of information for your audience and colleagues.
Twitter: Chirp, Squawk, and Tweet
If you prefer being succinct and getting right to the point, or if you enjoy making healthcare puns and witty quips, Twitter may be the perfect platform for you. With a limit of 280 characters per tweet, there’s no room for fluff.
With tweets being as short as they are, Twitter is not ideal for sharing long-winded, in-app think pieces or status updates like one might on Facebook or LinkedIn. Sure, creating strings of tweets called “threads” is common, but only users most devoted to the topic will get past the first two or three tweets. When you have a large chunk of medical information you’re eager to share, don’t exhaust your thumbs in an attempt to create a thread. Instead, simply tweet a link directly to the article, blog post, or paper alongside a short blurb or compelling quote from the source. If the information is in your own blog, this is a fantastic way to drive traffic to your website. Plus, it’s much easier for your followers to share a single tweet via retweet than multiple tweets from a thread.
As a medical practice, you can opt for a professional Twitter account. This will allow you to add a wealth of information to your profile, including your practice’s phone number, email address, hours of operation, and a direct link to your location via Google Maps. All of this is in addition to the standard profile offerings of a profile photo, header image, general location, website, and bio. Your Twitter bio is limited to 160 characters. Rather than listing services and qualifications, use your bio to create intrigue and build interest.
If you run out of space in your Twitter bio, remember that Twitter has a “pinned tweet” feature that can act as a backup bio. Simply create a tweet with the pertinent information, publish it, and then select the option to pin it. The tweet will stick to the top of your profile’s feed until you remove it or replace it with a different pinned tweet.
One of the best things about Twitter is that it’s very easy to respond to users who have questions or feedback. When a user tags you in their tweet, that “mention” automatically appears in your notifications, allowing you to navigate directly to their tweet to compose a reply. Whether it’s a prospective patient with a question about your practice, a patient with a glowing testimonial (worth a retweet!), or a patient with less-than-stellar feedback, replying to users and ensuring they feel seen and heard is vital. Like Instagram, Twitter also has a DM feature for users who may want to send queries more privately.
But how to generate all those followers who will make amazing tweets about your practice? The best way to build a Twitter following is to follow others. Not only are users more likely to follow you if you follow them, but you can go about your following strategically. If you aren’t already following your patients and local communities, follow them! They’re already showing their support, so hitting that follow button is like extending your appreciation. Additionally, follow groups and organizations that are relevant to your practice. Think big: Once you’ve followed local pharmacies and labs, follow the major healthcare brands from which you regularly purchase supplies.
It takes a lot of hard work to build a Twitter following. Keep in mind, it’s best to either fully commit to Twitter or not have an account at all. If you do decide to give up on Twitter, be sure to go through the steps of fully deleting your account. Abandoned accounts are an eyesore, and your inactive account may confuse potential patients and drive them away.
So Many Platforms, So Little Time
Now that we’ve explored differences between the biggest players in the social networking game and discussed how physicians can use each platform to its maximum potential, let’s make one thing clear: we are not encouraging you to use every single social media platform available to you. In fact, you shouldn’t!
6 Important Guidelines
Briefly, here are six guidelines to follow when embarking on your medical practice’s social media journey, or when reconsidering your marketing strategy:
- Pick the right channels. Start with just one or two platforms; consider your audience, your goals, and the differences between each that we discussed above. If your practice is already traversing the social media realm, select as many as you can realistically handle.
- Identify your goals: grow followers, create brand recognition, hire staff, attract more patients.
- Be consistent. Commit to your brand and manage it regularly. Remember that your social media platforms often act as a potential patient’s first impression, so make sure it’s a good one.
- Set realistic expectations—not just for yourself, but for your patients as well. When are you available to respond to patient messages and comments? How often can you post? Additionally, consider hiring a social media manager or equivalent.
- Maintain professionalism. While it’s good practice to make it evident you’re an expert in your field, don’t give medical advice over social media.
- Be aware of HIPAA violations. Never share patient information, and always obtain permission before posting before/after photos and other sensitive content.