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Social Media as a Healthcare Provider: 4 Guidelines for Successful Outcomes

Increasingly, social marketing methods are essentialfor your business and clinical growth. Social media provides an unparalleled ability to connect with colleagues and the community of people interested in seeing, collaborating, or consulting with you. As student providers, we’re in a transitionary period where despite not knowing exactly what our future plans are, our promotion efforts can make huge differences in our successes later. Right now, what we understand is the basics of patient care, and the easiest way to get started in social media networking is to treat your following as a patient, and follow the “standard of care” for the social media treatment.

YOUR COMMUNITY IS YOUR PATIENT 

(or, be as invested in your community as they are in you.) 

Social media, despite easily being one of the most powerful tools in networking, has one flaw. The ease in which we post, filtered, in a “one-to-many” conversational style has made it easy for each of us to project an image as we want others to see. The filters on our snaps, edits on our photos, tweaked captions, and archives of “unsuccessful” content have created a situation where the focus can easily shift from human-to-human interactions but to developing a superficial image. Those who are unable to recognize this shift occurring are those who will struggle in the social media game. Your value exists only in your community engagement, the way in which your social circle interacts, and your posts, pictures, videos, and content is just a mechanism for that engagement to occur. Networking is most essentially a social transaction, for both you and your following to benefit – both must give and receive simultaneously. If you take only one thing from this article, the key to successful community building is in providing value to the audience you have cultivated in your content and your interactions with them.

KNOW YOUR (TREATMENT) PLAN

(or, know what your goal is)

There are countless reasons you want to start your networking game now… amongst the most common in the dental community include: 

  • Visibility and New Patient Exposures
  • Building Credibility and Reputation
  • Building Patient Relationships
  • Professional Networking / Job Hunting
  • Product Promotion

You need to know what your end goal is, even though you may not fully know your full career plan may be at this point. Each of these goals dictate your strategies for your community engagement and posting strategies. For those looking towards a more “relationship” focused goal, your content should be well-developed, and immersive. This kind of content is more conversational, more thorough, and provides multiple venues for your community to interact. Strong relationships with your social media community are reflected in the quality of your communications, and with social media, many of these interactions are taking place publicly. For those looking more towards a “sales” or “action” focused goal, conversely should aim to have a more frequent posting schedule, with focus applied more on building a funnel for your community to interact with.  This content provides a more singular, and direct point at which you want your community to interact with your content. 

BE A SPECIALIST

(or, know your niche)

The social media game is flooded with generalists – thousands of accounts leftovers from before our professional life, with photos of pumpkin spice lattes next to textbooks, outfits of the day, and memes, a road that has and will have many others taking it. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s like the 210 freeway at rush hour, a safe option for a slow path to your destination, but you are literally surrounded by those doing the exact same thing. For those who are more interested in a fast-paced, explosive rate of community growth, you need to be more like trailblazers. Do something that hasn’t been done before, or do something better. For people who haven’t seen my accounts, I started recording time lapses of my clinical procedures and setting it to music and titles with Adobe After Effects. After adding this content to my account, I was hit with several reposts from the California Dental Association and other larger accounts, which helped ignite my own community growth. Finding your own niche should leverage whatever your strengths are, and showcase them as a means to connect with your community.

USE EVIDENCE BASED SOCIAL MEDIA

(or, don’t fall into the traps your peers did)

Social media, like medicine in general, is flooded with countless articles, tools, and services, that exist solely to further a goal that doesn’t help yours or your patients. The single most advertised and questioned topic is the use of automation in social media.These tools do things like automatically liking posts, commenting on photos, or even replying with generic responses to messages. Remember, for you to build a connected and engaged audience, you need to be connected and engaged– these tools automate the connecting and engaging, and thusly cheapens your interactions with your following.It’s a simple equation, that I think many people forget this when the overall goal is increasing likes, comments and follows. Social media is unique in that for how close it can bring people together, the indirect nature of communicating via a website or app will inherently keep a barrier between people. Your job in managing your community is to minimize the barrier this limitation poses, and to do so, you need to interact as directly as possible with followers to allow them to better connect with you. The cheapening of your interactions reduces the value of your community, and at best, adds to the noise, and at worst, polarizes those who are actually engaged.

THE BOTTOM LINE 

Ultimately, your community has value solely because of your engagement with it. Both you and your patient have an end goal, and it’s your job to know what this is, and use the methods and tools you are empowered with to provide the best care you can to your community. As time moves forward, your evidence-based foundations will give you the best foundations to blaze your own path forward in uncharted territories. 

This post was previously published as an article in the Western University of Health Sciences ASDA Newsletter: On the Cusp. (Volume 3, Issue 1). It has been modified to reflect my current views, and to correct for changes to Instagram in 2019. (https://issuu.com/annetran8/docs/westernu_asda_spring_2018_newslette)