5 signs for health care social media success

I sense a movement in health care circles from, “no way we’re doing that social media,” to “ok, we get it social media is important, now what?”

This is good to see. But like all things new, we’re experiencing some growing pains. Some health care providers take to social media easily and find ways to leverage it to educate, inform and grow practices, while others make efforts but can’t seem to get the social switch to flip and feel frustrated with the whole process.

Often those to make it work are ready to fully use the features built into social media,while those who get frustrated aren’t ready to dive in. Let’s look at the 5 signs that will lead you to social media success and the 5 signs that you may not be ready to use these tools yet.

5 signs that you’re ready to use social media

1. You have a mission and goal. Social media makes sense when you use it for a purpose. And “marketing” can’t be the sole reason.  Originally, my purpose was to educate parents about raising children with ADHD. You’ll do great in social media if part of your participation is driven by a passion to educate be helpful.

2. You’re ready to talk to people. Yes, social media is “social.” You need to be ready and willing to engage, chat, “@ reply” to folks, retweet others information, thank people for connecting with you,  and send occasional direct messages or Facebook emails.  At the very least, plan to participate on a LinkedIn group related to your specialty.  Even better, start your own group.

3.  You’re not afraid. So many health care providers are afraid of being social. The fear is primitive and not based on any evidence that being social online is in anyway “dangerous” (no health care professional has ever been sued for social media participation). You know that you can  be social with your ethics in mind and you’ll  be fine.

4. You’re ready to listen. Social media is an excellent place to “put your ear to the ground” and listen to what the public wants and needs from a health care provider like you. Listen and learn and grow your practice.

5.  You welcome feedback. Social media is a place where people communicate. Sometimes they offer feedback – positive, negative, constructive. You don’t need to to accept any of it at face value. Or you can choose to selectively engage.  I learn a lot through engagement.

5 signs you’re not ready to use social media

1. You nod your head when someone says social media is worthwhile, but deep down, you don’t believe it’s useful. If you’re not ready to give social media a real chance, don’t bother. Setting up accounts and letting them sit empty is a bad business decision.

2. The idea of possibly getting a Tweet from a patient makes you feel near panic. Contact from our patients via social media is a new experience. All of us have to give thought to how to respond if and when this happens (and it doesn’t happen that often, to be honest). But if you feel that you will absolutely fall apart if your patients connect with you online, don’t be online.

3. You believe that “real relationships” can only happen in person. Emerging evidence tells us that online and virtual relationships are real. (I can personally attest that I have great friends that I have never met face-to-face, but can’t wait until the day we can get together.) But if you don’t believe that people can connect online, you’re best to watch and listen to see if your theory is correct.

4. You like the idea of marketing online, but don’t want to engage in give and take conversations. Facebook and Twitter are useless as broadcast advertising or marketing. “Broadcast” means you post your information, but don’t talk to anyone else. It’s a waste of time because after about 2 days of seeing your one way stream, people will ignore you. And you sort of look like a jerk.

5. You’re very invested in being “the expert.” Social media levels the playing field in health care. Yes, providers are the trained experts, but patient are more informed and empowered now that they can access medical information online. They will ask questions, vet you before coming to your office by Googling your name, checking your website. Some providers express annoyance with this more engaged patient. At this point the annoyance is silly because from here on out, patients are only going to get more engaged.  But if you have a psychological or emotional need to always be “expert” then social media will be a very uncomfortable place for you.

So there you have it. 5 signs you’re ready, 5 signs you’re not.  Take your time. Social media isn’t going anywhere.

Susan Giurleo is a psychologist who blogs at the BizSaavy Therapist.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/DocRate.net Angela N. Vance

    Love this!  Patients are looking for a better relationship with their healthcare providers.  By remaining rigid and refusing to roll with the flow, any profession is creating a riff between themselves and whom they service.  It is imperative that a patient feels comfortable with their doctor, considering that life is literally on the line.  Thanks for posting Kevin!

  • cervelo58

    I remember a great line from a doctor who changed medicine three weeks before I was born, 43 years ago! 

    He invented SOAP notes and anticipated Clinical Decision Support while Steve Jobs was still eating applesauce…   

    “Patients have a PhD in their own uniqueness” – Lawrence Weed, MD

    Not to oversell this but social media could be to chronic care what penicillin was to infectious disease.

    Tim Richardson, PT

  • Treat PTSD

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  • John Norris

    Sorry to pick on TurismoMedicoenMexico, but that post is a perfect example of how not to do social media. Too funny, hope it doesn’t get deleted for spam :-)

  • Joseph Lauletta

    Hmm, not sure if SOcial Media outlet would be a good idea.  I’m thinking if my Psychiatric Hospital had a FB group/page or Tweet for patients and/or staff this would be a big violation of pt privacy. Plus, tweets and such could most likely be full of gossip and self-disclosure.  Heh, has the potential of turning a well respected community hospital into an online reality show.  YA, I’d be worried that people would make healthcare a form of entertainment or another scheme for mas advertising.   I think healthcare should be separated from such areas.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonBoies Jason Boies

    A very informative post here, Dr. Giurleo.

    Another point I’d add to the discussion is that Health pros need to be aware of sites such as Sermo or the Ozmosis Community. These offer healthcare professionals the chance to connect with others in their
    profession for knowledge & information sharing as well as networking. Most importantly, those sites offer communities
    for physicians to share opinions and interact in a more secure, guarded online environment.  That might help both ease some of the anxiety of wading into social media as well as getting them past some of the roadblocks you’ve mentioned in the second half of your post.

    Thanks for this article.

    Jason Boies
    Radian6 Community Team

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