Many Practice Managers are unsure about whether or not they should promote their Practices through Social Media. With the NHS, CCGs and CQC now expanding into the social media sphere it seems like a logical step for GP Practices too.
The power of social media marketing can be very appealing to some with all the followers, shares and likes etc. But, it can be time-consuming too. Done properly and for full effectiveness it can be a full-time job for more than one person. But what it really drills down to is “How will my practice benefit from it?”.
So, which of the big social media networks are best for a GP Practice?
With so many different social media platforms out there it’s not always easy to choose which one is best for your practice. Here’s a quick run through of the top four that we think you could benefit from using:
Twitter is probably the easiest social media network to set up. You don’t have to have an existing account to set yourself up on Twitter and it only takes a few minutes to signed up and start tweeting away. Posts on Twitter (tweets) are limited to 140 characters so you need to keep it short and sweet. Others can re-tweet your tweets to their followers and you can re-tweet updates from people / organisations you follow. You make friends by following people and organisations and they can follow you back. Twitter is a fantastic source for the latest news. You can easily use Twitter to search locally and talk with local people and local businesses.
Still the most popular social media channel, it’s easy to set up a Facebook page for your practice as long as you have a personal Facebook account of your own. Instead of friends and followers you are chasing the allusive “page likes”. You can’t like others and get them to like you back but you can invite friends to like your page as well as promote it in local groups. It’s quite likely that a good proportion of your patient list is on Facebook so it’s could be your best bet for rapid growth, plus you can easily get likes by promoting it within your surgery.
Google’s very own social media platform, Google+, revolves around circles of friends, acquaintances, and interests. Google+ adopts the same follow principle as Twitter. You can customise your circles to whatever you want them to be. Google+’s display and profile layout is very similar to Facebook. Google+ has lots of potential and is great for SEO but for some reason it’s never taken off like some of it’s bigger rivals and not many people seem to actively use it.
LinkedIn is the largest professional social media platform in the world. LinkedIn is essentially a networking tool and a good way to keep in touch with other professionals. You’re unlikely to gain any new patients from LinkedIn or engage with many current patients but it’s worth considering if you want to network with like-minded professionals within the health sector.
What Can My GP Practice Get From Using Social Media?
Social media gives you the ability to engage with your patients. You can easily share health advice, communicate practice information and events and share any blog articles from your website. Some may choose to engage with patients to give self-care advice.
You can also improve your website’s SEO. You can see big improvements to your SEO by being active on social media and by sharing well written relevant content from your website on a regular basis.
You can also use your social media accounts to raise awareness of and share information about certain medical conditions. Facebook allows you to create groups and to keep them private and only available to those you allow to join. So if your practice has a high number of diabetics, obese patients or one of the GP’s has special interest you can create groups, add your patients and engage privately. Your can set up sub groups for your Practice to provide patients with access to a virtual support group where they can get access to knowledge and advice easily from home and from a reliable source. This can be save patients from following dangerous information and advice found in poorly written articles from unqualified authors.
Another key positive to come from Social Media is Feedback. As part of your patient participation group you can set up a private group and invite patients who are already on Facebook to join and leave feedback on the practices performance.
What are the negatives of social media for a GP Practice?
As with anything there are cons. Two of the biggest negatives to consider for a GP Practice publishing themselves on social networks are;
1. How are you going to deal with abusive patients and complaints? Dealing with complaints via social media platforms can be time-consuming and demanding. Complainers are often more difficult and very insistent and are quick to resolve the issue on their terms or they will report you to an authority. It’s best to be prepared for this and make sure you deal with all incidents appropriately. You could also try to deal with the complaint away from the view of your followers by responding and asking to communicate by direct message, email or over the phone if possible.
2. How are you going to deal with staff and vulnerable patient confidentiality? Many people respect their privacy and chose not to use social media because they don’t want people to know that their personal lives in-depth.
When setting up your Practice on a social network, for this example let’s say Facebook, it could be advisable to ask your staff to increase the privacy levels of their own profiles so that their personal information is restricted to patients who may stumble across them. What you don’t want is patients gossiping in the waiting room on a Monday morning about the drunken state of your receptionist on Saturday night or that your locum GP is dating the Practice Nurse (All hypothetical of course).
Privacy in the 21st Century is now as important as ever. In the UK alone over 30 million of us post on social media every day, and as a nation we truly are washing our laundry in public. Many GP Practices are key elements to the local community and everyone will know someone who knows someone works at the Practice.
Don’t let the negative points put you off. They can be easily managed and the odd complaint can be easily resolved and removed. Social media networks are a great platform to stay in contact with your patients, invite feedback and become a stronger member of the local community.
Top tips for social media in a GP Practice:
• Have a social networking policy in place.
• Have a complaints / Customer service procedure in place.
• Make it clear that patients cannot make / cancel appointments via social media.
• Teach staff about privacy settings available on their social network.
• Pick a social media platform/s that suits your practice best.
• Clearly outline a code of conduct on your surgery website.
• Only be active during practice hours. (and make people aware of this)
• Commit to it. Doing it half heartedly is as worse as not doing it all.
• Finally don’t post anything that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Remember common sense prevails.
Would you prefer to let someone else take care of running social media on behalf of your surgery? Get a quote now. We can take care of your social media from as little as £150 per month. OR you can do it yourself with our easy to use social media scheduling tool for only £14.99 monthly with no lengthy contract to tie you down.