Leveraging Social Media to Inform, Educate and Engage Patients During COVID-19

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By Marissa Carlson

As medical practices continue the process of reopening, many are still struggling to reach pre-pandemic patient volume levels. Engaging and retaining current patients is crucial, but it’s also imperative for today’s physicians to focus on attracting new individuals in order to support their growth and bottom line. 

One tool that practices can use to effectively build relationships and engage patients and prospects is social media. In fact, 41% of consumers said information from social media would affect their decisions in choosing a medical facility, and a recent survey found that 71% of patients use online reviews as the very first step to finding a new doctor. 

While building and maintaining a social media presence can seem like a daunting task, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are simple steps that practices can take today to develop an effective social media strategy that informs, educates and engages patients

Building Your Social Plan to Connect with Healthcare Patients 

The first step to developing any social plan is to start by defining your target audience – specifically, the group of people you want to reach with your social channels. For example, if you manage a local community health center, you’ll want to have a deep understanding of the primary characteristics, demographics and behaviors of patients in the area and surrounding communities. For starters, compile data on your existing patients and social media audience. Then, use social listening tools to uncover conversations about your organization, and begin to research which social channels your audience is using most. 

After you identify the group of individuals you’ll be connecting with, focus on creating messaging and content that addresses the specific needs, questions or concerns of this population. If your goal is to become an authoritative voice in the community, develop and distribute content that showcases your expertise. 

This is especially crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. Take Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, for example. Serving a large Latino population, the health center recognized that the majority of the updates and information being shared about the coronavirus is written in English, which leaves patients who speak different languages at a real disadvantage. The center addressed this issue by developing COVID-related content written in multiple languages and leveraged the power of social media to better communicate with patients and prospects. This guaranteed the community at large was able to understand the critical information being shared, and positioned the Center as a leader amongst its target audience. 

As you begin to map out your social media strategy, also consider developing a weekly or bi-weekly content calendar. This enables you to plan a regular cadence of posts rather than posting too frequently in one sitting or forgetting to post at all. Don’t forget to leave placeholders for video and other imagery. Social media posts with video have 48% more views than those without, and video promotions are now equally as popular as photo promotions on Facebook, so implementing images and video into your social content calendar is key. 

Recognizing the power of video, Sixteenth Street also developed and launched a Doctor Series to share information, answer questions and interact with its patient base on Facebook Live. The center leveraged multiple medical team members at the organization to not only address COVID-related questions, but also to provide insights on topics such as mental health, chronic disease management and more. Since kicking off the program, the center has seen great success and received positive comments and feedback from its patients. 

Lastly, just like anything else in business, the goal of your social efforts is to see a return on your investment. In just four months since enhancing its social media efforts during COVID, Sixteenth Street attracted more than 1,000 new followers across its social channels, seeing a total audience increase of 26%. In addition, the center has seen a sharp increase in overall impressions (186%) and engagements (149%) since late last year. 

The power of social media is real. When used strategically, it provides medical centers and their staff an affordable, efficient way to engage with patients and prospects. By creating a strong online presence and posting timely, engaging content that addresses key questions and concerns, your facility can further build brand recognition and strengthen patient trust. 

About the Author

Marissa Carlson is vice president of marketing for Greenway Health, a leading health information technology and services provider. She leads all marketing efforts for Greenway, including social media, demand generation, market research, corporate communications, product marketing and marketing operations. Carlson brings more than 12 years of sales and marketing experience in software and healthcare to the company.

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