Let’s face it: social media as a tool for business is here to stay. Whether you choose to utilize Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other number of platforms, the opportunity that social media affords physicians to connect and engage with patients is astounding.
But many doctors are wary of using social media as a tool and taking advantage of all it has to offer. Below are some common myths that people believe about social media, and our responses to them.
MYTH #1: Social media is just for millennials
Yes, social media may be incredibly popular among millennials (those aged 18-34), but it’s not just a tool for them. In fact, while the 25-34 age group is most popular on Facebook, (accounting for 29.7% of their user base), older generations are beginning to use social media platforms more and more.
While millennials are certainly “digital natives” (as many would be hard-pressed to remember a time before the Internet and digital tools), older generations (the “digital immigrants,” if you will) are embracing social tools as a part of their everyday lives.
MYTH #2: Social media has no return on investment
Myth #2 is all about investment, specifically that social media has no return on investment. In reality, however, the opposite is quite frequently the case. Social media has quite a high return on investment…you jus have to know what you’re measuring.
When it comes to ROI on social media, many users get confused, thinking that follower count, the number of “likes” on your page, or how many retweets you got last week are the prime metrics. However, these are what the startup community has coined “vanity metrics” – they may feel good, but don’t really mean anything.
The important thing to remember about social media is reach – and reach means return on investment, though sometimes it’s hard to see.
Just because you didn't get as many retweets last week as you would have liked to doesn’t mean that your efforts were useless. How long did it take to compose that tweet? Maybe 30 seconds? Go and look at your Twitter insights, and you’ll probably see that through favorites, retweets, and mentions, you had a reach of several thousand people (or more, depending on your following)
Whether you’re spending dollars on social media advertising or just going after organic reach, it’s important to remember that even if one new patient visits your practice or one new doctor follows you and likes what you have to say, that’s return on investment. Is it a large new contract, hundreds of new patients visiting your practice, or publication in a peer-reviewed journal? No…but it is increasing your reach, and that matters more than you can know.
MYTH #3: Nobody turns to social media when it comes to their health
Myth #3 is the belief that nobody turns to social media when it comes to their health, so it’s useless for doctors to have a presence there. While one could argue the finer points of what audience each social network is intended for (in reality, if you have a pulse, you can find a place on social media), we’ll let the stats do the talking here:
- Each month, 329 million people read blogs.
- 18 to 24 year olds are more than 2x as likely than 45 to 54 year olds to use social media for health-related discussions.
- 31% of health care professionals use social media for professional networking.
- 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility.
- 60% of doctors say social media improves the quality of care delivered to patients.
- 44% of patients say they are likely or very likely to share positive or negative experiences on care received from a hospital or medical facility online, often through social media.
- More than 40% of consumers say information they find via social media plays a role in how the deal with their health.
- 60% percent of social media users say they trust social media posts by doctors over any other group.
- One in five Americans use social media websites as a source of health care information, according to National Research Corporation's Ticker survey, the largest, most up-to-date poll on consumer health care opinions and behaviors.
- One third of consumers now use social media sites for health-related activities.
- 40% of consumers have sought out reviews of treatments, physicians, and other patient experiences.
- 45% of consumers say information from social media sources would affect their decisions.
- 73% of consumers would welcome social media-based tools like make an appointment, or ask a question.
MYTH #4: Social media is a waste of time
This myth harkens back to the return on investment myth by asserting that social media is a waste of time. At Messenger, we believe that social media can be an incredible asset…it all depends on how you use it.
If you’re turning to social media to scroll through an endless news feed full of GIFs and cat videos, then yes, social media is likely to be a waste of time for you, and dilutive to your practice. But, if you have carefully and thoughtfully crafted the right message, the right following, and offer and engage with useful information that educates, inspires, and establishes yourself as a thought leader in the field, social media is anything but a waste of time.
Time on social media must be sent with a purpose in mind. This is what most people today forget – social media has become a distraction, an escape, something to do with your phone when you’re waiting for the next thing in your day and don’t want to appear bored (its’ ok to admit it – we do it too from time to time).
But time spent on social media purposefully can be one of the greatest assets your practice has. It boosts engagement, establishes you as a thought leader, helps connect and educate, and can ultimately lead to more website or in-person visits. When the connections are as plentiful as they are on social media, the possibilities are endless.
MYTH #5: I don’t have anything to say
Our fifth and final myth is one many of us have experienced: why turn to the Internet when I don’t have anything to say? The prospect of not having anything to say is a daunting one, especially when it takes time and investment to grow (and maintain) a following on social media.
The fact is, you do have something to say.
But what is it? What will I post? What if I run out of ideas? And what if I have an idea but nobody likes what I have to say? It doesn’t matter – just start saying things. It’s literally the only way to develop your voice.
You may feel like you don’t have anything to say, but that’s not true. You just haven’t found your voice yet.
For starters, begin with what you know. If you specialize in a particular area of medicine, start educating people about it. Offer information and provide value, inspire and connect with followers, and make social media a valuable resource for those that follow you (they’ll love you for it).
Over time, your voice will develop. You’ll begin to discover what you like posting, what you like reading and seeing, who you engage with most, and how you can tailor social media to make it the best resource possible – both for you and your followers.