How to Use Social Media in Healthcare: Examples + Tips

We’re no longer living in a material world. We’re living in a digital world.

Social media can be a powerful tool for surgeons to connect with patients, build trust, and promote their practice. But you’re a surgeon, not a social media specialist.

So, why add “social media” to your daily to-do list? After all, you’re already scrolling the newsfeed and liking family pics and the occasional news article.

You’re busy with other responsibilities. Really busy. And tinkering with social media likely seems like a waste of time or distraction from what matters – caring for patients, running a successful surgical practice, and spending time with family.

But social media is just as common (and expected) for a business as a website these days. Maybe even more so. It’s where your patients and potential patients go to “get to know you.”

Yup. Take a breath and read that again.

Your patients, potential patients, and their friends and family wanna know who’s cutting them open, what they value, and what they represent.

If that sounds yuckier than being soaked in bodily fluid during surgery, keep reading. Sloan Medical founder and urologist, Stewart Sloan, has been in the same surgical booties as you when it comes to social media.

Here’s a quick guide any surgeon can use to boost your practice and simplify your approach to maintaining a quality social media presence.

(And if that “soaked” sentence hits close to home for you, have us mail you superior PPE samples for free.)

Social Media Goals & Objectives to Focus On

Success with most anything hinges on aligning goals with action steps to get there. Social media is no different, and it can be done one step at a time. Remember to keep your goals clear and achievable. We all love a good stretch goal, but if your medical practice is just starting on social media, it’s OK to start small and “keep it simple, silly.

Here are your top three things to focus on when it comes to your social media goals and objectives.

1. Set SMART goals around social

To make the most of your social media efforts, it’s essential to set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Here are two examples of SMART goals that you can set as you are just getting started with social media:

Increase social media followers:

Set a goal to increase your social media following by a certain percentage within a specific timeframe. For instance, you could aim to grow your Facebook page likes by 25% in the next three months. 

Generate positive reviews: 

Set a goal to increase the number of reviews you have on your social platform. For example, you could strive to receive a minimum of five reviews on your page one month after launch.   

These goals fill the script of being specific (increasing followers/generating reviews), measurable (by a certain percentage/number), achievable (depending on your current following/effort), relevant (to expand your reach/generate social proof), and time-bound (within X months).

Pro tips:

A smart way to influence both of these goals is to cross-promote your social presence in your office and via email to existing patients. A simple line in your email signature stating “Like us on Facebook and leave a review” can go a long way. 

Also, your staff can support these goals by engaging with the page.

And, of course, get those social media icons on your website in your header or footer so they are easy to find and access for site visitors. 

2. Identify and define your target audience

Identifying your target audience is essential when it comes to leveraging social media for your medical practice. Your target audience consists of the specific group of people who are existing patients and those most likely to become a patient.

Identifying your target audience with, say, 2-4 personas, will greatly help you when it comes to content creation (which we’ll get to in a little bit). For now, here are the most common ways to go about identifying and defining your target audience: 

  • Who are the people most likely to benefit from your product or service? What are their needs and wants? What are their pain points?
  • What are their demographics? This includes their age, gender, location, income level, and education level.
  • What are their psychographics? This includes their interests, values, and lifestyle.
  • Where are they online? What social media channels do they use? What websites do they visit?

Again, once you have a good understanding of your target audience, you can start to create content tailored to their specific needs and interests.

Pro tips:

Analyze your existing customers. Who are the people who are already buying from you? What are they like?

Look at your competitors. Who are your competitors targeting? What are they doing well? What could they be doing better?

Conduct market research. This could involve surveys, interviews, or focus groups with potential customers.

Use social media listening tools. These tools can help you to track what people are saying about your brand and your industry online.

3. Research your competition on social

Researching your competition on social media is a crucial step before setting up your social media page. By understanding what your competitors are doing on social media, you can gain valuable insights and leverage this information to your advantage.

Just as you will, your competition is likely to have links to their socials on their website for easy access. If they don’t, take some due diligence and quickly Google things like [competitor name] Facebook. Then do the same for other platforms. 

Once you’ve found their page(s), you’ll be looking for insights on things like:

  • How many social platforms are they leveraging?
  • Which platforms do they seem to post to the most?
  • How many followers do they have?
  • How engaged do those followers seem?
  • What type of content are they posting?

Then, use that info to your advantage as you determine which platform(s) to start out on and what kind of social content mix you want to focus on. Plus, you can put your own spin on what you see as successful and use it where it looks like they are falling short to your advantage.

Put all this together with your social media SMART goals and target audience profiles as you move forward to solidify the foundation of your social media strategy. 

Social Media Platform Selection 

Now that you’ve established basic goals and objectives, identified your target audience, and have a sense of what others in your surgical arena are doing on social, it’s time to select which platform or platforms to set up and start posting. 

Every social media channel has its unique purpose wrapped into the overarching goal of fostering brand awareness and connecting with fans/followers. A good rule of thumb is to start with one or two platforms that the majority of your audience prefers and align with your goals. Then, build your following and expand if/when needed to other platforms. 

Here’s a general rundown of popular social media sites and their purpose.

Facebook: Facebook is a social networking platform with a large and diverse user base. It is a good platform for healthcare businesses that want to reach a wide audience with informative and engaging content.

X (formerly Twitter): X is a microblogging platform that is ideal for sharing short updates, news, and articles. It is a good platform for healthcare businesses that want to share timely and relevant information with their followers.

Instagram: Instagram is a photo- and video-sharing platform that is great for showcasing healthcare businesses’ services and facilities. It is a good platform for healthcare businesses that want to create a visually appealing and engaging social media presence.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a professional networking site that is perfect for healthcare businesses that want to connect with other healthcare professionals and build their reputation. It is a good platform for healthcare businesses that want to share industry news and insights, as well as job postings and career opportunities.

TikTok: TikTok is a short-form video-sharing platform that is popular with younger audiences. It is a good platform for healthcare businesses that want to create engaging and educational videos about their services and products.

YouTube: YouTube is a video-sharing platform that is great for sharing longer-form videos, such as patient testimonials, surgery videos, and educational content. It is a good platform for healthcare businesses that want to create a comprehensive video library of their services and expertise.

Again, your goals do not have to be complicated. For example, Sloan Medical’s main social goals are to connect with hospitals and private practice surgical centers like yours to provide useful content related to the industry and offer free PPE samples.

Because we’re in a business-to-business space, we put most of our attention on LinkedIn. We also focus on Facebook as a secondary platform based on our target audience overlap. 

You might consider doing the same, only flipping the priorities as more of a business-to-consumer operation that will also benefit from engaging with other healthcare professionals. 

Social Media Content Suggestions

Now it’s time for the most difficult step: create content and post regularly! This can be kept simple by selecting a few types of social media posts to focus on. All have their advantages and disadvantages, so be sure to explore them all. Here are a few social media content buckets you might consider as you get started.  

1. Educational Content: Share valuable information about surgical procedures, pre-operative and post-operative care, and answer frequently asked questions. This helps establish your expertise and builds trust with your target audience.

2. Behind-the-Scenes: Give your audience a glimpse into your surgical center by sharing behind-the-scenes content. This can include showing your team in action, the state-of-the-art equipment you use, or even a tour of your facility. It humanizes your practice and makes it more relatable.

3. Health Tips: Share general health tips and advice related to your specialty. This not only helps position you as a trusted source of information but also shows that you care about your patients’ overall well-being.

4. Promotional Content: Occasionally, promote any special offers, perks, or events related to your surgical center. However, be mindful not to oversell as this can turn off your audience.

As for how often you should post, aim for consistency without overwhelming your audience. Start with two or three posts per week and monitor the engagement. Adjust the frequency based on the response and feedback you receive. Remember, quality is more important than quantity. Focus on delivering valuable content to your audience and sparking meaningful conversations.

To save time, you can schedule posts ahead of time using the platform post scheduler or a third-party social media tool like Sprout Social or Hootsuite. Just remember to monitor your pages to respond to comments and messages promptly. 

HIPAA Compliance and Social Media

Surgeons need to be mindful about what they post on social media, as they are bound by HIPAA regulations. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and it is a federal law that protects the privacy of patients’ health information.

This may be common sense to you, but it’s important to reiterate.

Here are some things surgeons need to consider regarding HIPAA when posting on social media:

  • Do not post any patient-identifiable information (PII). This includes the patient’s name, date of birth, address, phone number, medical record number, or any other information that could be used to identify the patient.
  • Be careful about posting photos or videos of patients. Even if the patient’s face is not visible, they could still be identified by their clothing, tattoos, or other unique features. If you do post a photo or video of a patient, make sure to get their written consent first.
  • Be mindful of your captions and comments. Even if you are not posting any PII, your captions and comments could still reveal sensitive information about your patients. Anything that might identify them is off-limits.

If you are unsure about whether or not something you are planning to post on social media would violate HIPAA, it is best to err on the side of caution and not post it.

Sprout Social put together a HIPAA Compliance on Social Cheat Sheet you might find useful as you’re getting started and consider sharing it with staff. 

Here are some tips for surgeons who want to use social media in a HIPAA-compliant way:

  • Educate yourself about HIPAA regulations. There are many resources available online and in libraries that can teach you more about HIPAA and what it means for you as a surgeon.
  • Develop a social media policy. This policy should outline what types of content you are allowed to post and what types of content are prohibited. You should also have a policy in place for handling patient complaints about social media posts.
  • Train your staff on HIPAA regulations and your social media policy. Make sure that everyone responsible for posting on your social media sites is familiar with the rules.
  • Use social media monitoring tools. These tools can help you to track what is being said about your practice online, including on social media. If you see something that is potentially non-HIPAA compliant, you can take steps to address it immediately.

Follow Sloan Medical on Social

Once your social platforms are up and running, let’s connect! We’d be honored to be one of your first followers or fans.

Again, you can find Sloan Medical on Facebook and follow us on LinkedIn where you’ll find regular industry-related content and occasional reminders to stay safe and STA-DRI with our high-quality PPE.  

Try the PPE everyone’s talking about.

Finally, PPE to keep surgeons and nurses dry and safe during surgery.

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