Doctors Don’t Need to Be on Facebook (and other good news)

Doctors Don’t Need to Be on Facebook (and other good news)

150 150 Tom Seery

Facebook and social media are not lead generation tools. These services provide an opportunity for prospective patients, fans and followers to get to know you…at an appropriate arm’s length

Doctors in social media should have arms length relationshipsWhen I presented about the social media-empowered patient at the recent ASAPS and ASDS conferences, one statement I made got audible sighs of relief from doctors: “you don’t need to be on Facebook.” That’s right. Doctors aren’t missing out by staying on the Facebook sidelines.*

This counter-trend opinion is based on data we’ve analyzed in conjunction with vendors operating hundreds of websites for plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and medical spas. The research shows that doctors see very little in the way of new patients stemming from their Facebook activity. They get minimal referral traffic to their practice website in return for their posts.

Some practices believe having a page is important for maintaining a connection with patients. Facebook can indeed serve as a dynamic newsletter that keeps committed patients somewhat engaged. But patient “likes” to the practice are super challenging to acquire given people’s desire to keep their cosmetic procedure activities a private affair. Doctors should expect de minimis returns from time consuming Facebook updating efforts.

Doctors who are being pushed into Facebook by their office or marketing vendor should answer one question to do a quick gut check: do you think it’s appropriate for doctors to be directly accessible and “friending” patients? From my perspective, these unprotected exchanges are awkward and fraught with risks of violating patient privacy. Doctors who post in places where they can get into a back-and-forth with a patient could, feasibly, form a patient-doctor relationship. I’m quite sure doctors are incredibly disinterested in this outcome from their social postings.

Doctors can leverage the benefits of social media in a safer and more effective approach then becoming BFF’s with their patients.

Based on millions of social data points we collect each month at RealSelf, we’re seeing empirical evidence that core aesthetic doctors get a positive ROI when they devote time on the social web toward becoming approachable, rather than accessible in social networks. More specifically, being approachable means sharing your expertise in posts to the web with only one agenda in mind: to be helpful and supportive of consumer education.

5 ways you can be approachable and build trust with prospective patients:

1. Answer questions. Q&A services provided by RealSelf or Quora don’t enable a two-way communication that draws you into a place where the conversation is entirely unpredictable. Questions are great because they express what’s on people’s minds vs. what you think they should be told. You can even add Q&A from RealSelf to your own website or blog to demonstrate how you’re centered on patient safety and outcomes vs. selling products and services.

2. Show your human side. Prospective patients can’t get to know you if your tweets are just the quote of the day, or your practice’s Facebook updates are plastered with the latest practice promotion or discount. Putting an emphasis on your connection and activities within the local community is far more effective at garnering attention and differentiating you from others. This is frequently called “cause marketing,” which is a proven way to cut through the clutter to get people to engage and feel they can relate to a practice or doctor.

3. Avoid controversial stands. Keep personal opinions to immediate friends and steer away from religion, politics, and other potentially divisive topics. Enough said.

4. Share other people’s information. Retweet, link to blog posts, and reference other resources that offer good information. Loads of bad SEO advice has convinced many doctors that linking hurts the practice’s website rankings. Linking to quality information is great for consumers and it’s good for rankings. What you choose to share also builds your personal brand.

5. Let others do the talking. Empower your patients to share their experiences. While it may be uncomfortable for a doctor, requesting that a patient post about their outcome is a powerful way to help people understand your expertise as a doctor and how you deliver superb care. When they say you’re great it has vastly greater impact than you saying it.

Social media is undoubtedly a time commitment that is difficult to factor into a busy medical practice or spa. But, most businesses are starting to see social media as the new cost of doing business. As stated by Gary Hamel, an influential business strategist,

To gain influence and status, you have to give away your expertise and content. And you must do it quickly; if you don’t, someone else will beat you to the punch—and garner the credit that might have been yours.

Based on the doctors I’ve met, few would be comfortable with the idea of declining influence and status.

I’ll hedge my statement Facebook’s relevance to doctors. The impact of Facebook could change down the road as the company tackles search, mobile devices and demonstrates it can be relevant to commerce. At present day, they’ve got a ways to go.

Tom Seery

Tom Seery is the founder and CEO of RealSelf, the most popular online resource that helps consumers research cosmetic treatments and find the right medical aesthetic provider. Each month RealSelf attracts 10 million unique visitors who view 50 million photos. Another 500,000 people contact doctors and clinics seeking more information or appointments. Integral to RealSelf is a model that showcases the expertise of aesthetic providers. Experts have posted two million answers to questions and routinely upload educational videos, and patient before & after photos. Prior to RealSelf, Tom was a member of the founding team at Expedia, where he conceived a $1.2b private-label travel business, launched the cruise travel line of business, and introduced search marketing long before Google was a household name. Tom sits on the board of ReSurge International, a nonprofit that builds plastic reconstructive surgical capacity in developing countries. He also regularly lectures on innovation and serves on the board of the entrepreneurship programs at the University of Washington. Tom holds an MS from Drexel University, MBA from University of Washington, and BA from Connecticut College. He resides in Seattle with his wife and two highly energetic boys. He is @seery on Twitter or @realself_tom on Instagram, should you wish to connect.

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