Curate your online presence

How to use social media to build your practice.

Social media has transformed the patient experience. Whether patients are researching a new doctor or sharing their health story on Facebook, social media occupies a central role in creating meaningful connections with patients at every stage of their health-care journey. As research from Software Advice shows, peer media — such as online review sites (Yelp and Healthgrades) as well as content shared by patients about their experience on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn — have a direct impact on the ability of health organizations to attract new patients.

In addition to helping you attract new patients, social media allows you to do four important things:

  1. Discover new ideas and trends.
  2. Connect with existing and new audiences in deeper ways.
  3. Bring attention and traffic to your practice.
  4. Build, craft, and enhance your brand.

Let’s look at how your practice can engage in social media and on which platforms.

Owned, earned, and paid media

The components of social media can be broken down into three categories: owned, earned, and paid media.

Owned media is any web property that you can control and is unique to your practice. One of the most common examples is a website, although blog sites and social media profiles are other examples of owned media properties. The more owned media you have, the more chances you have to extend your practice’s presence in the digital sphere. Studies have shown that 67% of consumers use social media for customer service, according to J.D. Power.

If owned media sites are the destination, then earned media is the vehicle that helps people get there. Earned media drives traffic to your website or social media site. It is essentially online word of mouth, usually seen in the form of “viral” tendencies, mentions, shares, reposts, reviews, recommendations, or content picked up by third-party sites. Earned media will produce 10 times more engagement than owned media, according to Social Media Today. In addition, messages shared by employee’s channels vs. owned channels will yield 24 times more re-shares. One of the most effective driving forces of earned media is usually the combined result of strong organic rankings on search engines and distributed content. Rankings on the first page of the search engines place your owned media sites and content links in a position to receive higher engagement and shares, which is why a good search engine optimization strategy is crucial.

Paid media is a good way to promote content to drive earned media, as well as direct traffic to owned media sites. Paying to promote content can help get the ball rolling and create more exposure. Social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, offer advertising that could potentially help boost your content and your website. Using retargeting, pay-per-click, and display ads is an effective and direct way to drive searchers to your owned media sites, like your website.


Retargeting: Advertising served to individuals who have already interacted with your brand, for example, your website.

Pay-per-click: An internet advertising model used to direct traffic to websites, in which an advertiser pays a publisher, typically a website owner or a network of websites, when the ad is clicked. Also known as cost-per-click.

Display ads: Promotions on websites, apps, or social media through banners or other formats made of text, images, video, and audio. The main purpose is to deliver general promotions and brand messages to site visitors.

Third-party sites: In this scenario, a website or social media platform that is not owned by you and that utilizes content you’ve created. For example, a blog that mentions your practice’s post on giving back in the community.

All three elements, owned, earned, and paid, are important to a digital media strategy. While each element has its own role, using all three together will make your digital media strategy that much more effective.

How social networks have evolved

Facebook, with its more than 2 billion users worldwide, is the most powerful and influential of all the social networks. It will remain the top network that health-care organizations use to drive conversions from social media, according to eMarketer. If you have limited resources, focus your campaigns and ad budget on Facebook. In 2016, 68% of all social advertising spend is done on a Facebook platform, according to eMarketer.

Instagram — owned by Facebook — has more than 800 million users. It is a photo and video-sharing social network. Instagram works best when used to build brand awareness, engage your community, and recruit new employees. Instagram can also fuel the discovery of new products and services, especially if you’re targeting millennials. As much as 70% of Instagram users act (i.e. visiting a website) after looking at an Instagram advertising post, according to Global Web Index.

Twitter has more than 328 million users, and it will continue to focus on being where consumers go to experience, create and report on moments in time. From cultural events to breaking news, Twitter’s focus will be on real-time moments. Your best use of Twitter is to respond to patient questions, create shareable moments, and quickly resolve issues with patients to protect your brand.

LinkedIn membership boasts more than 500 million. With Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016, LinkedIn will continue to invest in their content platform as they try to become the single place where professionals go to stay on top of things happening in their network, industry, and profession. LinkedIn isn’t where you go to blast corporate messages. It is where your content has to spread through your workforce, shared by your practices’ thought leaders and experts, amplified by your employees.

Maintain your online business card

Your online business card consists of your website, listings, reviews, social media, and organic search rankings. Aligning your marketing strategies is critical to attracting new patients, as well as growing the reputation of your health-care providers and to discover new ways of increasing your brand’s visibility.

Part of this alignment is an evaluation of where and how you use social media. It’s up to you to evaluate these platforms and decide where allocating your practice’s resources makes the most sense. OP