Social Media: Can It Be Beneficial For Your Practice?

Brian McCurdy, Senior Editor

How can social networking market your practice to the public? What should you and your staff post, and what should you avoid posting? In addition to answering these questions, a few experts offer insights on how sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can help practices connect with patients and potentially increase referrals.

These days, it seems that almost everybody is connecting with friends on Facebook and posting 140-character updates on Twitter. Social networking has allowed people to reunite with old friends and engage with people they would not have met otherwise. How can podiatry practices harness such connective power to boost the profile of the practice and reach new patients?

   If your practice is not active in the social networking arena, some experts say you may be missing out on a great marketing opportunity.

   Rem Jackson, the President and CEO of Top Practices, a marketing and practice management company, calls social networking “an essential component in a larger electronic (web-based) marketing strategy.

   “The fact is that millions of people now use this social networking in a significant way on a daily basis and if podiatrists do not enter this world, they are leaving themselves behind and that is a great risk for them now and in the future,” says Jackson.

   For his Save a Leg, Save a Life Foundation, Desmond Bell, DPM, CWS, uses Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yammer and Google Plus. In addition to their interactive nature, these sites are free of charge (except Yammer) and have the potential to reach a wider audience than with local marketing, according to Dr. Bell.

   Christopher Hyer, DPM, has a Columbus, Ohio practice with a lively Facebook feed and approximately 1,000 fans. He and his staff use Facebook “fairly heavily” to interact with patients, colleagues and industry “friends.” He notes that the site’s traffic coincides with how active the practice is on the site with increasing posts generating more traffic. Dr. Hyer will post updates on ongoing research and conference presentations, humanitarian work, new or innovative surgical techniques, and general news of his practice.

   Even if podiatrists do not personally engage in social networking, Jackson says they must engage professionally. He says many podiatrists may have misconceptions that their older patient base is not using computers or that they are in rural areas where most of the community doesn’t use computers or social networking. However, Jackson says practitioners are wrong if they believe their patients are not embracing and using technology at a rapid and accelerating pace.

Reaching More Patients Through Social Networking

For Dr. Hyer’s practice, social networking provides a low-cost option to keep the practice connected to the community, allowing him and his staff to deliver information in real time. In addition, he notes that social media can bring traffic to the practice’s website.

   Social networking gives a practice not only the potential to reach local patients but for a practice with a niche specialty, Dr. Bell says a practice can reach patients well beyond its locale.

“People are using the Internet and social networking to find medical information at an increasing rate,” notes Dr. Bell. “Marketing via social media enhances one’s ability to market even the smallest practice.”

   “The relationships may seem superficial but they are not,” says JudyAnn Lorenz of BarJD Communications, who handles social networking for the Indianapolis practice of Patrick DeHeer, DPM. “The connections result in being top of mind when someone needs our service or has a friend or family member needing our service.”

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