Many Physicians and many healthcare administrative professionals still believe that social media has no place in a medical practice. Many of them are right. If your practice has not implemented social media or has done nothing more than erect a web site from 1997 that acted as an online business card that nobody found, social media certainly has no place in your practice. What prompted today’s post was a statement I came across on the web site of a company that markets healthcare web sites. They state that “If  you don’t have a website, social platforms will not be necessary nor worthwhile.  If you do have a website, these sites can help you and is simple to employ.” I’m a bit of a grammar nut so this statement annoys me on several levels. Let’s break it down a bit.

If you don’t have a web site, the correct statement would be that social platforms may have less effectiveness than if you do have a web site. Five or ten years ago, web sites were shiny and new to medical practices. Facebook was being born and Twitter was becoming a placenta. To be clear, I believe a proper web site is essential for a medical practice or any business that wants to portray a professional image. This is exactly why I’m in the process of designing a new site. It was not up to par and it is important to always demonstrate integrity by admitting ones own faults first. 

Today, Facebook offers many resources and tools to the medical community. You can communicate with patients (keeping HIPPA in mind), enable sign-up to your newsletter, capture leads, enable other physicians to refer patients, link to relevant information that is timely, and engage patients or other physicians where they are. The truth is that you probably haven’t ever had a patient (that you don’t fear) who checks your web site every single day. They do read Facebook every day. In the next few weeks, I will be adding to this when I build a web site that runs within a Facebook page giving you the majority of functionality that you have on your regular web site but your patient (or physician) will never have to leave Facebook! 

What about Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and Pinterest? These platforms have unique purposes and can be used in many ways. Twitter offers an opportunity to tweet your latest research, news about your practice, community events, and more. Other physicians on Twitter may search for specific hash-tags that relate to your specialty and offer them another avenue to find you. Patients may search to see that you offer valuable content that adds to your credibility and then may end up sharing what they’ve learned with others which further positions you as a thought leader in your field. LinkedIn is great if you want to recruit talent to your practice. Google+ local has now replaced Google Places so it would be useful to have a presence there for search rank. Cosmetic Physicians could use Pinterest to post before and after photos. An orthopedic surgeon may post interesting pictures of fractures and their repairs. The possibilities are endless and could easily take over the little time you have. How to address that will have to be covered separately. 

Lastly, lets cover the issue of whether or not social platforms are simple to employ. Can anybody create a Facebook page, Twitter account, and utilize other social sites. Absolutely! If they weren’t easy to get on and to gain some value from, they wouldn’t have demonstrated such tremendous success. Is it easy to engage your target audience, use analytics to track results, or to consistently provide useful content that builds your audience, your referrals, and your relationships in the time you actually have? Typically that answer is no. 

Medical practices will survive without social media (most of them), but those who use it effectively will prosper. I’m not in the habit of merely surviving. Are you?

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Michael Allen is passionate about guiding physicians through the social media landscape. Follow  Captive Medical Solutions on Facebook  and on Twitter @CaptiveMedical