Updated: Nov 26
Becoming known within the digital landscape is proving increasingly vital in the day and age in which we currently live. If you or your practice is not discoverable online, then you are already seriously on the back foot. However, it is not enough to just appear in an online search. One needs to develop an online presence and the depth, nature and spread of this presence is critical in developing a sustainable, future-focused practice.
Building a medical online community
An online community is a group of like-minded people who gather around common interests, ideas and goals. It is built when people find your content and brand online and start to engage with it. The social media platform they follow you on can take many forms, but it can add to the sharing and promotion of the content you post as well as talking about the brand online.
Regardless of your preferred platform, online communities are a great way to connect meaningfully with your patients, both current and potential. They are also a great way to bring your patients together in a place where they can discuss their healing journeys, exchange experiences, ask questions and provide you with the opportunities to add more value to their lives.
The desire to form a community is often assumed to exist in communities on social media, but this could not be further from the truth. The formation of a community needs to be nurtured and given a clear focus and direction in order to achieve a level of cohesion and inter-connectedness. It does not develop automatically or overnight but requires a diligent intentionality toward creating and adding value to the lives of your patients. Social media community management and engagement are critical to enhance a marketing game for businesses, including medical practices. Recent changes to Facebook's algorithms mean that companies need to change their strategies to build community engagement and quality content. Social media is a place to reach out to existing customers and build community around your brand.
Human behaviour is generally fickle and many are quick to follow the status quo. This can make it a complicated exercise to hold the attention of your patient-base or, even more so, to gain the attention of new patients. The good news is that if you do the right things and are coming with the right attitude and the right intentions, you can turn your social media platform into a place where your patients can share your brand and get to experience you. Essentially, your social media community needs to be founded on your unique selling points. The very reasons that people would choose you over someone else is what you would seek to communicate through these platforms. The secret is to not blatantly throw that fact around but to rather allude to it through the material, content, resources and communication you, or your team, put out. Your number one goal should always be to add inherent value and to know that what you hold can and will drastically alter someone's life for the better should they follow your processes identified.
By looking for keywords and hashtags on your forums, social media platforms, community and websites, you will be able to engage with people and show appreciation for the human element of your community. You can also reach your entire community through live Q & A and other types of content where you can ask them their questions about you. Make sure you engage with them and respond to their comments to create a light-hearted, serious, positive and fun atmosphere in which people feel at home.
Being a relatable medical practice
Authenticity is absolutely imperative, it is critical for community management to maintain the voice of your practice at all times. Engaging in meaningful ways with your community members' interactions and providing insight or advice, where required, is something that needs to be continually present. This is a big part of what makes your community unique and ensures that it is identifiable to your members, your audience...your patients.
We have all heard the saying, "Your mood attracts your tribe" and we know that a social media community engaged is the key to online success. Not only does your community consist of current and potential patients, but within your community can also be found practice advocates and practice ambassadors who can help reinforce your message within their networks and ensure that your reach is spread in ways beyond your own connections. No matter how many people use your community, make sure that they understand your practice voice and how they can help to maintain it through interaction, engagement and content. There will always be those select few individuals who are more than ready to spread the news of your great service or the wonderful treatment they experienced at your hands. Word-of-mouth referral is one of the quintessential tools in expanding your reach. Having your word-of-mouth network expanded through the appropriate use of social media communities and the identification of practice advocates and ambassadors will greatly affect your efficacy within the space of becoming more well known and building out a solid base of loyal patients. This will impact the lifetime value of your patients as they begin to show more loyalty to you and to the ways in which you have proven to help them. The identification of advocates and ambassadors is something that can be viewed in more of an organic sense. When given the space to interact with the professionals who have helped impact their health journey so profoundly, these advocates would naturally aid in spreading the word of your good services.
Content marketing for medical professionals
When it comes to content marketing and content distribution, the topic of how to build community on social media and gain dedicated followers, who become patients, is not often discussed. If you pump out content and no one gets involved, it doesn't work! The real solution is to go on the offensive and to build communities on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram and other social media platforms. This allows for a level of engagement that is unrivalled by other forms of content distribution. Adding paid advertising campaigns that are created, managed and run by professionals such as Social Medical (www.socialmedical.co.za) into the mix, will multiply the effects of these efforts even more profoundly. The ingredients to that recipe for success are to build an online community that seeks to add value, engage in a way that is authentic and relatable and then drive higher numbers to this community and to your practice through the utilisation of paid advertising campaigns.
If you are serious about building a strong community and engaging with your patients on social media, spend at least 2-3 hours gathering comments and posts a day. This way, you will get a lot of followers within a month and be able to build a dedicated online community. Connect with micro-influencers (think professionals with a bit of a celebrity edge on social media) in your niche to share ideas for blogs, content and partner projects. Look for fresh trends emerging on social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn or the trendy TikTok, where you can find your community and feel comfortable having a conversation.
For practices, establishing connections between social media accounts and websites is crucial to build a large social media community and build a strong bond with potential patients. Personal accounts are fine for building your community, as long as they are not brand-related. However, if you are a practice that wants to build a community and use its social accounts to promote it to people, you should be aware of where that support comes from.
Grow and scale your medical practice
Building an online community means taking care of it and ensuring the engagement and management of the community. The interactions coming from the side of your practice function as an extension of your business and need to carry the weight and importance that you strive to achieve in all interactions with your patients. Creating and managing online communities are essential components in building out a successful practice that is geared toward the future we are heading towards. The importance of this role cannot be underestimated and the informed patient populace is hungry to engage meaningfully with their medical service providers. Building an authentic point of contact through these digital platforms is such a useful tool in creating solid points of contact going forward.