by Maria K Todd, MHA PhD

 CEO and Founder
Mercury Healthcare International

Many of our clients originally come to us with the misconception that social media marketing is free and simply involves posting content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. However, as social media continues to grow and develop in sophistication, they quickly learn the difference between amateur tactics and professional strategy and execution - especially if they need to achieve targeted results.

If you’re doctor, dentist or veterinarian, or someone on their staff who has been tasked with managing social media within their business, then there is a lot more you could be doing, aside from just posting.

Try these 10 best practices and activities to improve your outcomes, or call us and we'll manage it for you.

1. Develop a social media strategy

Develop a detailed social media strategy. This should outline what you want to achieve, such as more brand awareness, additional traffic to your website, or increased sales. This strategy should then document what you need to do in order to implement the strategy (time, staffing, budget, tools) and your target objectives. Use it as a guide throughout the rest of your process and to measure results against hypotheses about social media marketing.

2. Audit your branding - update as needed

Audit your branding to ensure it's clear and consistent across all of your social media channels (and other marketing platforms).  This includes image, color, typography, font, messaging, and relevance to a targeted audience. Use your logo where indicated in profiles to ensure your listings in directories clearly display your business and distinguish it from others.

3. Create a monthly calendar

Add discipline and structure to your activities by creating a monthly posting plan list. This can help to ensure posts are consistent, while it’s also a great way to double check for any spelling or grammar mistakes before posts go live. We use a rotating strategy to ensure that content is repurposed and posted on social media channels with a distinct purpose and to a targeted audience. Often than means little tweaks aligned with the followers and targeted audiences channel-by-channel. Not every channel is followed in the same way, nor is engagement identical. If you can't figure this one out, we're happy to coach you or your social marketing specialist in a one-hour online coaching session. Then if believe you'd like a little help, we'll work with you for a limited time to mentor and check your work.  If you decide to hire out the whole project, talk to us. We can help.

4. Schedule posts in advance

It’s not always feasible to sit around and manually post at set times, especially if you’re out of the office or stuck in a meeting. Instead, consider scheduling posts in advance. This can help save you time in the long-term and ensure posts go live when they’re supposed to.  The tools to do this are free depending on posting frequency and the number of channels you want to use. If you need to scale larger, the tools are not too expensive to upgrade to add more channels and more frequency. Our advice: start slow and work up as you learn more and become more adept.

5. Reputation management

Make sure you're responding to any messages or comments from followers within a reasonable time frame (same day). Our teams use a client approved spreadsheet which includes sample responses our clients and their malpractice attorneys want us to use on their behalf to help speed up the process. However, it’s important to always ensure that every response is personalized in some way.

6. Social listening

In addition to responding to comments/messages that people have intentionally directed at your business, you should also be listening for relevant conversations that are happening without you by competitors, industry, researchers, etc.. One way to do this without paying high prices for tools is to use Google Alerts.  Set alerts and  keywords related to your business, your specialty and your competitors.

7. Manage your followers

It can be hard work keeping track of all your followers, however, with Twitter lists you can easily categorize them.

For example, you could create a list of followers segmented by thought leaders, industry news, influential bloggers, journalists and TV news anchors and others from your local area. You can then add these lists to tools such as Google Alerts, so you can quickly and easily monitor what is being said and see any opportunities to engage.

8. Run advertising

Although you can let people come to your social media channels naturally, you may also consider running advertising to help get noticed. Advertising requires an experienced media buyer for the best deals. If you contract these yourself without a media buyer's discounts and connections, you'll pay a lot more and risk mistakes. Media buyers charge a percentage of the placement costs, so expect that fee in addition to the cost of the advertising itself, but not a separate fee for their service. (Agree to pay one or the other, not both.)  Another tip we've learned along the way: It seems digital advertising buyers and print advertising (newspapers, flyers, coupons, and mailers) buyers and media (radio, cable and network TV) are all different skills sets.  Hire the right buyer for the approach you want to use.  Set a budget, decide on your target audience, set metrics to measure results and monitor the results regularly.  Never assume that the more you put in, the more you get out - unless your decisions and targets are accurate and appropriate.

Several laws are on the books related to healthcare marketing, so you must also plan for legal review and advice, as well as placement costs and ad design and layout.

9. Create a monthly report

Check your strategy is on track with the help of monthly reporting. This is an opportunity to look back at what's happened over the last month and see whether there are any opportunities to improve moving forward.  Don't get into big long-term contracts for anything while you are still learning what works - especially when it comes to advertising contracts. Month-to-month, even if it costs a little more per insertion, is best at first.

10. Stay current with social media marketing trends

We invest about 90 minutes each morning reviewing new updates, trends, data and benchmarking results. In this time we learn about and test new tools, feature changes, best practices and even updates to our own and our clients' social search algorithms.