As a private practice audiologist, you probably have a website. And while your website is an essential tool for showcasing your credentials, it is a fixed entity that does not offer the ability to interact or engage with potential patients in ways That have become expected. When it comes to attracting and maintaining patients today, the most effective method, by far, is social media marketing.
The world of social media marketing can feel overwhelming if you are not experienced with it. You might ask yourself, “Is it really necessary?” There are so many platforms out there, so which one do you choose? And at a time when budgets are constrained more than ever, you might ask if social media marketing is too expense?
This article provides the basic tools and key analytics to help you start marketing your private practice on social media at little to no cost.
The basics of social media
The term “social media” is defined as, “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” Patient care is about forming relationships, and social media gives you the greatest chance of finding them. According to the National Institutes of Health, 80% of internet users search for health information online, of which 74% use social media to search for health information. The medical professionals that can be found here, therefore, are the ones who will find the most success.
For your private practice, social media is the key to awareness, engagement, lead generation and support. People turn to social media to find professionals that meet their specific needs, so carving out a high-quality presence in this online space opens up new paths to success. Let us cover a few key terms that you will keep seeing as you read further.
|Analytics||Tools that use data to evaluate the performance of your social media profile as a whole or a specific post. The measurement of how many people click a link included in your social media post is just one analytics-based data point among many for that post. Most social media platforms provide a range of analytics tools already built into the platform itself for free.|
|Engagement||Is a way to measure how receptive or involved your audience feels about a post or content that you share on social media. If you share a post and it receives many likes, comments and shares, that post would be said to have a high level of engagement.|
|Reach||Is the total number of people that viewed your post.|
|Bounce rate||Is the percentage of visitors to a page who enter and then leave (bounce) straight away rather than continuing to stay on the page. Bounce rate is the number of single page visits divided by the number of total visits.|
Set your goals
You have already decided to go ahead with social media, but why? What is it that you are hoping to achieve by taking this step? Answering this question well is one of the keys to getting the most out of your journey. Let us consider a few different goals you could set yourself.
As social media is one of the best places to get the attention of prospective patients, doing your marketing there could help you to increase the awareness of your practice. In 2020, the time spent on social networking by internet users worldwide was 145 minutes per day, the highest it has ever been. You can track this goal by measuring how many followers you have, the reach of your posts and other metrics, such as shares or retweets.
While brand presence is great, you could go further than this and aim to drive traffic to your website. One of the most effective ways to do this is to create content to post on social media that persuades readers to click on a link and be redirected to your website. You can keep track of what is working by looking at your analytics. How many website visitors are coming from your social posts? What is the bounce rate for the content, and what does that say about its quality? Which links are people clicking the most, and therefore are curious about the most?
A third type of goal you could pursue is building a reputation for having excellent patient care. This reputation can lead to increased revenue and better retention of clients through recommendations. Think like a client: if you are browsing social media and stumble upon two similar audiologists, the only thing differentiating them is that one of them is a much faster and more helpful responder, which one would you pick?
Find your audience
Unlike with older forms of marketing, social media marketing gives you the tools you need to understand your audience better than ever before – so it works in your favor to use them! What do your clients do for a living? How old are they? How does this information affect their decision-making?
Using the data you already have at your fingertips, ask yourself questions that will shed light on how to better serve your clients. What are the most common problems that your clients face, for example? Or what are the features that they most look for in their healthcare professionals? You can use this information to improve your service and gain new clients.
Once you know who you are dealing with, your next job is to find out where they convene. Remember that not everybody has an account on every platform, so you will need to do this on every platform you decide to use (see more below). The older adult population, for example, have been using Facebook more and more, whereas they have consistently stayed away from Twitter. So, if the elderly makes up most of your client base, it would be best to search for new clients on Facebook rather than Twitter.
Choose your platform(s)
There is a wide range of social media platforms on the internet you can choose from to grow your practice, but the most common ones (and therefore most active) are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Each platform specializes in a certain type of content, so you should be familiar with them in order to build better relationships with potential clients.
Facebook is a good choice if you want to create and share several different types of content. There are plenty of tools on the platform from photo sharing to polls – all designed from the ground up to engage your audience. You can use Facebook to post important updates (e.g. about increasing your office hours), share articles that patients can trust thanks to your medical expertise and use Facebook Messenger to contact patients in real-time to give advice or arrange consultations.
Twitter was once famous for its 140-character limit, which forced users to make their message short and to the point. Like Facebook, Twitter also makes use of a variety of engagement tools, but bear in mind that evidence shows that on Twitter images perform better than videos, and text performs even better than images. Twitter is good for answering questions and providing insight in public and therefore showcasing your expertise in a way that people find interesting.
Instagram focuses on photo sharing and so works as the best choice if you want to make your marketing visually-led. People-focused stories work well on Instagram – this could take the form of pictures of yourself doing your everyday work to show that you’re relatable, or pictures of willing participants along with their story and how you helped them. The top-performing Instagram posts make use of high-quality original images, well-thought-out accompanying text and relevant hashtags to make your content easier to find.
The fourth option, TikTok, might seem like a channel only for teenagers, and the largest group is indeed between the ages of 16-24. The media, however, has users across all ages, is now estimated to have 1 billion users and is downloaded more than 200 million times in the US alone. Chances are that some of your potential customers are active users. The platform consists of ultra-short (15-60 seconds) user-recorded videos and might be relevant to you if you want to promote your practice with authentic, casual and playful content, simply recorded with a smartphone.
Consider your tone of voice
Even with the right platform, goal and audience, there is no guarantee that your private practice will stand out from the crowd, but you can do that through establishing a personal and consistent tone of voice that matches your service. This can be easier said than done because, unlike everything we have discussed so far, tone of voice is not based on data. You cannot track it like you can track follower counts.
When choosing a tone for social media, it is important to remember the concerns, life situations and emotional state of your audience. In the context of patient care, this can have very specific effects; would humor be appreciated, or would it be seen as inappropriate? Does discussing a complex topic necessarily mean that you need to strike a serious tone?
While tone of voice is largely subjective, there are some general principles that you can use as a starting point: a trustworthy and credible tone is essential, it usually helps to be conversational, humor and playfulness are often too risky to justify pursuing. When you finish writing posts or other content, be sure to review not only what you say, but how you say it.
Make a plan – and be consistent
Once you have your social media marketing goals determined, along with your target audience, platform(s) and tone of voice, it is time to match the "what” with the "how” and stitch them together to create your social media plan (or ‘strategy’). A plan will allow you to dedicate your time and energy to developing a rhythm that works for you and your audience.
There isn’t really a limit to the number of factors you can include in a social media plan, but we recommend the following:
|Target audience||Decide which demographics you want to target and be sure that you can explain why you think those demographics will be the best decision for you and your practice|
|Platforms||Decide the social media platforms you’ll use to create your presence. Why those specific ones? Is your marketing going to revolve around photos of people you’ve helped and their stories, for example? And if so, is Instagram best for that format?|
|Tone of voice||Think about your practice from your patients’ perspective. Write a list of descriptive words that outline the tone you’ll use for your online presence Remember that you can tailor different tones of voice to different platforms if there is an appetite for it|
|Key message(s)||Make a list of statements of which you want to convince your patients and refer to them with any action you take in public (e.g. "audiologists handle more issues than hearing loss only”)|
|Content themes||Make a list of topics that your audience will respond well to and stick to the list when creating new content to post on your social media platforms (e.g. the latest developments with hearing aids)|
|Post mix||Decide which types of posts you want to create on your platforms (e.g. original text written by you, commentary on third-party articles, short videos of yourself talking to the camera, etc.), depending on what your audience will be interested in|
|Post frequency||Decide not only how often you will post but which time of day. The key to maintaining a high-quality online presence is to successfully manage expectations through consistency|
|Event templates||An invaluable part of your social media marketing plan is to prepare for what you can. It is statistically likely, for example, that a patient in the future will be dissatisfied with an aspect of your service. Writing a template for your response in advance means less time taken from you during these events, as well as ensuring a professional tone during a time that could challenge you emotionally|
In hearing healthcare, your reputation as a professional is the biggest determining factor in the success of your practice. Good patient reviews are a powerful marketing tool because it allows you to communicate the quality of your care and skills without having to say those things directly, which can be off-putting for some.
In a 2021 survey, 77% of consumers ‘always’ or ‘regularly’ read reviews when browsing for local businesses (up from 60% in 2020). This figure is likely to translate through to private practice because consumers are those who consume services, and the services of a medical professional are still a service.
Some effective ways of getting reviews include asking politely at the end of appointments with patients, sending out automated requests using free platforms such as MailChimp or even adding a request and a link to follow on administrative materials such as appointment cards. In any case, make sure that you i) send everybody to the same place, and ii) adhere to any and all legal requirements that apply to you as a professional (e.g. the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA).
Keeping in mind all these topics we have now covered, you are well on your way to using social media to your advantage. To help you get organized, we have created a social media planning sheet. Download it here...