Friday, November 20, 2009

Using Social Media To Attract More Patients

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple years you’ve probably heard about social websites such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Originally developed as methods for people to stay in touch and share information with each other, these sites have now taken on a new identity in the business world. As the prevalence of social media continues to expand at an alarmingly rapid rate, many practices have identified ways to leverage these social media channels to effectively reach their target audience.

This is what we call social media marketing, and when used correctly, it can be tremendously effective.

If your practice is not currently engaged in any viral marketing efforts, chances are you probably fall into one of three categories:

a) You don’t know much about social media in general, nor care to.

b) You are interested in it, but unsure about where to start and skeptical of its value.

c) You thought you tried to participate in social media marketing by setting up a profile on a site such as MySpace or Facebook, but did nothing to try and drive traffic to the site and therefore did not see results.

Despite all these concerns, in reality social media marketing is a very inexpensive, easy and manageable strategy to effectively increase your patient base.

The biggest opportunity that social media provides is the ability to actually build a relationship with your potential patients. This is because social media marketing is not overt advertising. If you’re too intrusive and users start to experience you as pushing a product, they are very likely to shut you out. The goal of social media is to show yourself as an authority over the service that you provide, and then establish an area (which is the social online network) to communicate back and forth with your past and potential patients in an unobtrusive fashion.

A successful social media marketing strategy will lead to more talk about your practice online, because when your message relates to the users, they will spread it between their own networks virally.

So now the big question: How does social media help your practice make money?

The bad news is - it doesn’t. However, the main source of new business for an elective surgery practice is referrals from past patients. Every practice that wants to grow needs their supporters to be willing to make purchases and recommend your service to others. Your network needs to continue to expand within itself.

The more supporters you have, the faster word spreads about your service. Social media allows us to stay connected to infinitely larger networks of people. By having a presence in this communication line, you have now given your supporters a more efficient and rapid method for sharing of information and referrals about your practice.

Still not convinced? Let’s look at a few more benefits of social media:

Increased Visibility – Think of the Internet as the ocean, and your prospects fish. You want to cast the largest net possible in order to harvest the most fish. By creating alternative sources of information about your practice, and leveraging social media’s ability to spread information, you will effectively increase the size of your net.

Better Targeting – The very nature of social media is based upon having something in common. These sites exist for people who share friends and interests to stay connected. Therefore, the people exposed to your network will either have an interest in your service or an interest in those people who have experienced your service.

SEO Enhancement – Social media marketing can dramatically increase the amount of general search traffic directed to your website. Why? Because links to your website = better search engine rankings. Most of the backlinks from your social media efforts will be recognized as natural and trustworthy, therefore boosting your organic SEO ranking in the eyes of the Googles and Yahoos of the world.

Great Return on Investment –The effectiveness of traditional forms of advertising and PPC (pay per click) advertising are decreasing at an alarming rate. Minus the time it takes to initiate and maintain social media efforts (which is a consideration), social media marketing is essentially free. There is also little technical skill required, only good communication skill.

It’s Complimentary - Social media marketing is contained within your network. Therefore, it doesn’t interfere with any other advertising or marketing campaigns you might run. In fact, it only enhances these alternative methods because now you have a much larger net to try and catch residual traffic from your general tier 1 advertising efforts.

Bottom line: If social media marketing is not a part of your overall marketing strategy, then you’re missing the boat.

Now I know I’ve talked a lot about the generalities of social marketing, touting its benefits. Noting specifics on how to implement it in your practice. Well, the good news is that will start our next blog post. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will share with you some do’s and don’ts, and specific ways you can effectively introduce social media into your practice, along with case studies and results.

-Conor Dixon, Trinity Level Marketing

Check out the upcoming webinar:

How to use Social Media Marketing for your practice.

When: Dec. 15th at 4 pm EST

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