We’ve lost track of how many times we’ve been asked whether social media is the ‘secret’ to recruiting new patients. It’s no surprise that practices are looking for easy answers. Aesthetic medical marketing is more important than ever, with rising competition among providers, price shopping (more on that soon!) and growing patient demands related to service and experience.
But, is social media the one true answer to new leads? Sure, the average young American spends up to 32 minutes a day on Instagram, but does that make it the aesthetic marketing ‘magic bullet’ that will bring you more new patients, grow your practice, and reap higher returns?
It’s not that simple, and here’s why:
Social media is about engagement and discovery; the conversion is a bonus
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: social media is called social media because it is meant to be social. Brands that exclusively push sales, services and treatments in the hopes of recruiting a new patient miss the boat. Patients log into their accounts to be inspired and engaged, to share with friends, to check out what influencers are doing and to learn and discover new information, tips and insights — it’s part of their path to a transaction (a phone call, a booking), but more often than not, it won’t be the central deciding factor, but one step in their research journey.
Other marketing initiatives can be more important in attracting new patients that actually book
Referrals, reviews, search engine marketing and word-of-mouth remain the most important factors that foster real new patient leads. That means investing in a diversified marketing plan. What does that look like?
- Cultivating your referrals all year (not just when you need them). This includes sharing personalized notes about news at the office, maintaining your network all-year-round with check-ins and professional networking, reciprocating referrals (only when it’s relevant, of course) and remembering and acknowledging important milestones (birthdays, a new book launch or publication.)
- Taking care of your existing patients. There is no easy way to cultivate word-of-mouth referrals, but attracting new patients starts with taking care of your existing ones. Elevate your practice’s patient experience by developing and properly training your staff (your number one brand ambassadors and customer service representatives), by creating customized patient treatment plans, sending patient reminders and follow-ups, and adding value with loyalty programs and carefully selected home care regimens. The result will be a patient for life, and your biggest word-of-mouth advocate online and off.
- Making search engine optimization and marketing a priority. A vast amount of research shows that when consumers (and that means patients too), need to ‘get something done’, they turn to search engines to find the answers. As far as the consumer journey goes, it’s the closest place to the final ‘conversion’ as you can get – the sale, the booking, the appointment. One Google study showed that when consumers are ‘ready to buy’, 92% of them turn to their search engines first. The most common actions preceding a purchase? 30% include a search engine visit, 24% involve visiting a brand’s website. Social media? 6%. This means that investing in content development, your online presence and search should be a marketing priority.
Remember that social media platforms are controlled by media and advertising companies
Social media channels are not, and never will be a medium that you can control, and are not a guarantee forever (remember MySpace?). Tech companies own the rules, and they are not the organic platforms everyone remembers. Algorithm changes over the years have made it harder and harder for business pages to ‘show up’, engage audiences and grow followers organically without allocating significant media dollars to boost posts and reach people. When practices think of social media platforms they have to shift their mindset and view them in the same light as they would a magazine ad or billboard. You’re paying for space on someone’s feed. Allocate budget for that or risk getting left out.
No, we’re not saying that social media isn’t important
We’ve talked about the opportunities to drive revenue in social media, and we stand by that. And there is absolutely no question that social media marketing has transformed how countless businesses do business and interact with new, existing and future clients. What we’re advocating instead, is to keep your marketing mix diversified (remember the old adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket? It applies here too.) By not limiting your marketing channels, your practice will be able to adapt to change, embrace opportunities to bring in new patients from every source, and grow organically (and sustainably!) into the future.