1. Send electronic newsletters to patients. It's cheap, easy and effective, and further tips will actually create content for your newsletter. The original article suggests you "offer patients the option to sign-up" which means you need to add this on your website. If you are using a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, it is easy to drop in a signup graphic that points to a signup page, or even the form itself on a sidebar. You'll want to do this on every page to drive patients to your sign-up page. Another tip – look at your Google Analytics (you do have those, don't you?) and see where most trafficked pages are, and drop an ad or sign-up link there.
MailChimp (http://mailchimp.com/pricing/free) offers free emails for up to 2,000 subscribers, 12,000 emails a month. This is far more than you'll need to get started and won't cost you a cent to tryout.
One more tip for newsletters – if you have a blog, you can automate the newsletter creation process with FeedBurner. FeedBurner is a free service that helps you measure traffic on your blog. It gives you many amenities including an automatic newsletter service that sends summaries of your blog posts to all subscribers.
2. Interact with patients through a healthcare blog. A blog is a great idea if you have the time to devote to it, and is becoming a necessity in your marketing strategy. Ease into blogs by Content Curation. What this essentially means is that as you read materials that you think may be of interest to your patients, post these links to your blog with a short synopsis of what the article is about. Because it has your stamp of "endorsement" on it, your patients will read this. As your time permits, write original content.
While you're gathering content to curate on your blog, give yourself a social boost by "pinning" the content you find. Pinterest is a newcomer on the social media scene, but it has exploded in popularity and surpassed many older social media channels. Pinterest is created for one purpose: aggregating content of interest. Pinterest can help you quickly collect content and store on a site and can get you additional traffic to your website.
When you begin your blog, it is best to turn the ability to comment off. Many doctors are hesitant to interact with patients because of perception of legal issues that might arise, as well as lack of compensation for interaction. The facts are that 90 percent of blog readers "lurk" or just read a blog post, 9% occasionally interact by comments or questions and only 1 percent continually interact with your blog. Starting your blog without benefit of commentary is a safe move. But if you do choose to interact, make sure you set your blog to "Moderate" so you’ll have a chance to review and accept posts from patients as you see fit.
Remember, content is KING! You have to publish to get the mileage out of a blog. If you really want to pump up your blog, as well as your social presence, consider working with a content strategy and creation team of medical marketing experts. They provide pre-written content at scheduled intervals that can be customized to your site, giving you well-written content that is unique to you.
Reuse these blog posts – as mentioned above, you can turn your blog into an email newsletter with services from FeedBurner, MailChimp and others.
3. Create pages and applications on Facebook. Social media is not without fear and misunderstanding in the medical community, but is a vital marketing component. Advertising and applications are still less engaging than regularly posting on your Facebook business page and keeping it fresh and current. As the original article suggested, involve an office manager in the strategy and use a medical marketing specialist. Our recommended first step is to define the Content Calendar that fits your practice – those types of articles and frequency of publication that you can maintain. A big tip: use HootSuite to publish automatically to Facebook, Twitter and many other social sites. It's quick, easy and free, and you can point it at your blog and its automatic.
Applications on Facebook are difficult and expensive to build, unless you are a programmer, but using pre-built applications that leverage your content are great. You can easily add your blog or videos or other website content through many Facebook apps that are free or of little cost. This turns your Facebook presence into a more comprehensive destination. Facebook just launched a Wordpress plugin that automatically adds social components to all of your blog pages, plus will automatically post to your business page when you post on your blog.
Finally, make sure you claim your Facebook Places page. It's amazing how many practices don't know they have it. Start your iPhone or Android Facebook app, stand in your waiting room, and click the "Check In" button. You'll likely see your practice listed and that links to a Facebook Places page that has already been created for you.
4. Promote community events online and through social media. This is a great tactic and good PR. Post events on your blog. Lead with a short descriptive paragraph, about 100 characters. Your HootSuite application will pick it up and post it to Facebook and Twitter. Twitter will grab the first 120-plus characters and create a link back to the event post on your site. Use HootSuite and post additional reminders to Twitter and Facebook at critical times of the day: 9 am, 11am, 1pm and 4pm – your patients arriving at work, getting ready for lunch and after lunch, and getting ready to go home.
Use that other social media platform DESIGNED FOR EVENTS… MeetUp.com. It continues to amaze us that doctors don't leverage this. It's targeted at your demographics, and there are likely meetup groups that you can join and use to post about your event. Create an event on Facebook as well and promote to your followers. These social media outlets can give you an idea of the size of the crowd showing up and extend your reach to their friends as well.
5. Encourage patients to use social media at the practice. Post simple signs at front desk, on doors leading in and out of practice, at patient focus points (bulletin boards, below TVs in waiting room), and make sure you’ve added your social addresses to all collateral. Encourage patients to "check in" on Facebook and tweet their news about their condition.
Make it easy for your patients to find your practice by getting a vanity name for your Facebook page. It’s free and you can get your name now at http://facebook.com/username.
6. Post videos showing patients how to avoid injury. Don't stop at avoiding injury. Post videos of you welcoming patients, your staff introducing themselves and their role in patient care, insurance options, all of your conditions and treatments, etc. A rule of thumb: anything you might say to a patient should be a video, posted on both your YouTube channel (and any other video channels) as well as your website. You CANNOT have too much video.
Video does not have to be expensive either. Simple videos shot with your own digital camcorder will work. Remember that it's the message that counts. Your medical marketing specialist can help you produce these videos at a very low cost if you want a little better production value. As a guideline, we typically get ten to fifteen videos per day of shooting. Set up in a conference room and have doctors come in throughout the day for ten minutes maximum. Aim for videos of two minutes or shorter.
7. Upload patient education material and practice forms. Let's split these two types of information out a bit. Patient education material should already be a part of your website. A PDF about back pain isn't going to be as effective as a well written article on the site. PDFs get downloaded and lost. You need condition and treatment articles on your site, and you need to "prescribe" them to your patient. Each of these articles can contain animations that also produce branded handouts. Pre-written medical content is available from some device companies and top-tier medical marketing specialists provide a library of patient education at no cost to you. Animations can be licensed that tie to your content, giving multiple education points on a subject. This content not only educates your patient, it also helps you with Informed Consent. Post all of your practice forms, but look into some of the web-based options available for your Electronic Health Record software you currently use. More and more have patient self-service portals that drop the information directly into your systems.
8. Include a photo tour of your facility on the practice website. Photo tours can turn out to be glory pages for many practices, but if you have a nice facility, with PT or imaging in-office, then showcase it by all means. Bear in mind that your patients are using your website as a resource for their condition and treatment, not to admire the furniture. Priority-wise, this photo page comes after you’ve completed those things that hold the most value for your patients.
9. Post patient testimonials. This is grass-roots marketing at its best. Patient testimonials are always reviewed – everyone wants to identify with someone who has the same condition, so the more testimonials you have, the better chance to have someone identify and hear that patient extol your virtues. Use photos of the patient at the very least, and video if possible. There is a human factor in a video that you cannot capture with photos or written words. And be sure to post these patient testimonials on your social media presence as well.
10. Publish press releases to positively promote your physicians. Yes, but make sure they're current, and if they're not, why aren't you releasing more press? You have to be engaged with the real world, not just online. Put on events, ask your reps about co-marketing, call the local media and invite them to lunch and share new technology and techniques you've just learned. Then post these things on your social media and website presences.
When doing press releases, make sure to use a reputable company to distribute them. Online press release vendors are plentiful, but only a few can actually give you the reach you are looking for. Call your Chamber of Commerce and ask for a list of media contacts in your community and contact them yourself for local events.