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The Health Care Social Media Disconnect

A recent study of plastic surgeons and social media was entitled, Social Media in Plastic Surgery Practices: Emerging Trends in North America. But after considering the results of the survey, the study could have easily been called, The Health Care Social Media Disconnect.

The 19 question survey was e-mailed to 4817 board-certified or board-eligible American plastic surgeons. They were posed questions involving three topics: how they used social media in their professional and personal lives, form of marketing they used in their practice, and the depth of their knowledge of demographics.

21% or about 1000 plastic surgeons responded revealing the following:

  • 28.2% use social media in their practice
  • 46.7% use it in their personal life
  • 88% advertise in some form

The majority of plastic surgeons reported they managed their social media themselves or with the help of a staff member. For most of those, their principal use of social media is aimed at patient referrals. The typical plastic surgeon responding was in a solo practice in a large city.

The Big Disconnect

An initial look at this survey might lead one to think a significant number of plastic surgeons understand the value of social media for their practice. But a closer look at the survey reveals a serious disconnect between what many plastic surgeons say about health care social media and what they practice. Medical professionals that claimed social media wasn’t working for them said two basic things:

No one is listening

More than one respondent said something like this, “I have a presence in social media, but it probably won’t accomplish much. Why? Because my patients aren’t really into it.” With approaching ONE BILLION Facebook users, that one is a little difficult to believe.

More often than not, what that plastic surgeon is really saying is, “I’m doing it because everyone tells me that I should, but my heart isn’t really in it.” People who use social media can tell who is committed to it and who isn’t. Social media is about connecting and that takes a certain amount of enthusiasm and commitment.

I got it started; now it should take care of itself

Too many medical professionals seem to think social media will run on auto pilot. It won’t! Over half of the respondents that said they used social media also said they didn’t pay much attention to it. This indicates these plastic surgeons still view social media like older types of advertising. Billboards, yellow page adds, and direct mail are by nature a monologue. You say something and hope someone that hears it picks up the phone.

Social media is fundamentally about dialogue. Dialogues cannot be put on auto pilot. They require attention and interaction. In short, they require a certain level of commitment.

The Secret of the One’s who are making it Work

Plastic Surgeons that responded positively to the survey indicated the best thing they ever did was to ask their patients about it. It is true that you ultimately need to explore as many channels of social media as possible. But the best place to begin, or retool, is where most of your patients already are.

Use web and printed surveys to ask your patients where they are online. How many use Facebook regularly? How many use Twitter? Are there any blogs a number of your patients frequent? The idea is to find your core group of social media patients and begin by focusing your efforts and time on them.

In the social media world, you will never be the best person to recruit new patients; your followers will. Some experts call these people “social media evangelists”. When they see your commitment to interacting with your followers they are motivated to send you more followers. The result is connection – not disconnection.

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About Tim
Tim George is a regularly contributing author to the MDWebPro blog. Tim is passionate about web marketing for MDs expecially the latest trends and results in social media, SEO and inbound marketing. For more, please follow @MDWebPro on Twitter

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