Whenever a doctor tells me that he doesn’t have time for social media, he’s really saying that he doesn’t believe that social media provides enough benefit to justify the cost.
To be fair, the financial costs of social media are fairly low. Twitter is free. Facebook is free (well not exactly, as Facebook limits the number of people who see your posts unless you pay). Even starting and hosting a website cost little compared to running television, radio and newspaper ads.
The real cost of social media is time and effort. Is it worth your time outside of clinics and surgeries to put in quite a bit of effort in social media?
Marketing to potential patients
If your main goal is to increase your patients through social media, you might be disappointed. Most of your readers, Twitter followers and Facebook fans won’t live near you, so you might not get that many patients from your efforts. That doesn’t mean that social media isn’t worthwhile, but it’s hard for healthcare providers to know that patients choose them simply based on online activity.
Secondary exposure from social media
If you’re creating valuable content that educates the public, you will attract attention. Maybe a journalist sees your posts on different illnesses and treatments, so she decides to interview you for a newspaper article. Or you build credibility with your content, and a conference organizer invites you to speak to his audience. Exposure from those activities might justify the social media efforts that lead to those opportunities.
Helping people through social media
If you want to help people or influence people’s health, you will have far greater opportunity to do it through social media than in your clinic. For instance, say an orthopaedic surgeon sees 1000 new patients each year. If he even has a moderate blog readership, he will have the chance to reach more readers looking on his site for health information each month than he could help in his entire career in his office.
The key is to create content that helps people. Write or talk about health topics that people are searching for online. Discuss it in ways that people can understand. If your goal is to make an impact and truly help people, I believe social media is absolutely worth the time and effort.