Thoughts On Social Media

A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype” – http://online.wsj.com/articles/companies-alter-social-media-strategies-1403499658 explores how companies have modified their social media tactics to promote quality over quantity of followership. The article makes a very compelling case that social media has not yielded the benefits that most expected when it first hit the scene. It also references a very interesting poll that shows a minority of social media users’ purchases as being influenced by these outlets.

As it relates to our customers, a complicating factor is that smaller businesses and medical practices do not have the manpower or financial wherewithal to dig through the mountains of data that can be culled from social media analytics. As a result, it can be very hard to quantify the exact effect of social media on a practice’s bottom line. To that end, below are some of the intangible benefits, as we see them, that social media can offer to practices that are willing to devote the time and effort.

Social Media is Possibly Important for SEO

An important, but often overlooked, benefit of social media revolves around the potential effect, now or in the future, upon search engine optimization and search engine rankings. As search engines tweak their algorithms to weigh more heavily on user experience and less on traditional search engine optimization, there’s no doubt that social media will or does play apart. How much of an impact social media will ultimately have on search engine results is still hotly debated, however, it can safely be said that companies with a robust social presence will have greater exposure.

Case in point is Google+, where websites that you or those in your circles follow are promoted to a higher rank in search. This is the infancy of customized search, a phenomenon that can only be effective when social media is considered as a ranking component. After all, so many of our personal interests are only found on social media sites.

A Tool to Enhance Legitimacy

Most of us would not use social media as the only yardstick for a business’s legitimacy. However, taken as a part of a larger, in-depth research campaign of the business, social media can certainly enhance or detract. This also boils down to what one would consider to be a social media outlet in the first place. For example, online review sites can be considered social media even though they do not conform to the “traditional” model. These online review sites can be huge influencing factors. The bottom line? Make sure you put your best foot forward on any Internet property on which you’re listed.

A Forum on Which You Can Control The Conversation

These days, a lot of what is said about us is on the Internet is there to stay. There’s often very little we can do to change that. However, setting up a responsive and attentive social media platform can shift the conversation from outlets that do not allow you to control the message, to those that allow you to appropriately respond to comments questions and concerns. We’re not advocating the suppression your patients’ or clients’ opinions, however when they feel comfortable that you will respond, you’ll be generating a lot of goodwill and constructive conversation.

In the future, social media will likely play an ever-larger part of a savvy practice’s marketing plans. Until we have more concrete data on how exactly social media can benefit the bottom line, we suggest that medical practices consider social media an inexpensive and effective branding tool rather than one that will drive direct patient conversions.

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