This article appears in the March 2020 issue of the
PE GI Journal
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media are changing the way consumers find products and services, including medical care. The days when doctors were the sole gatekeepers of medical information are gone. About half of all Americans look for health information online before seeing a physician. This may be especially true for those with gastroenterology problems, as many people feel embarrassment when discussing digestive issues.
The Power of Social
Research shows that about 80% of physicians are now online and use social media for personal interactions, research and professional communications. About 90% of those online are social media consumers. This means they use Facebook and other social media sites to find information. Another 9% engage with others by commenting on posts and participating in community discussions. Only about 1% of online docs are content producers who create blogs, forms and other original content.1
While most physicians and patients are online, the statistics suggest practitioners are not quite sure how to reach out and connect with patients. In many cases, they leave it up to administrators to post content on social media. A growing number of practitioners may be interested in taking control of their social media presence but are not sure how.
Fortunately, it is easier than ever for gastroenterologists and clinics to promote their services and attract new clients on social media. Although posting on social media can be tricky, especially for medical professionals who spend more time with patients than on the internet, developing a presence on social media is not as difficult as it seems.
Before you start developing content for your site, consider what your content is targeting and where you want to send people who are interested in your content. You should:
- Develop a keyword list. Google and other search engines use keywords to help people find the information they are looking for. Internet users type keywords and keyword phrases into the search bar, and the search engines look for web pages that closely match those keywords. Don’t forget to add in locally-based keywords that help patients in your community find you. For example, patients in Georgia may type in “Atlanta gastroenterologist,” or “stomach doctor in Atlanta.”
- Link the post to your website. When you make posts live, be sure to provide a link to your website at the end of each one. Link short posts to longer blogs, for example, or link social media posts to the contact page.
What to Post
There are myriad interesting topics for GI practices to post about. Here are some ideas for your next potential post:
- Practice/practitioner information. Some of the posts should focus on the practice, the gastroenterologists and the staff. These posts can highlight health fairs or events in which the practice or staff participates, awards, continuing education achievements, facility upgrades, holiday hours or general news.
- GI diseases and disorders. Social media posts can discuss general information about GI diseases and disorders. Most of these posts can cover the common digestive problems patients may encounter. For example, colorectal cancer, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, gastroenteritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and appendicitis. A few posts should discuss rarer conditions, such as achalasia, a cyclic vomiting syndrome. Posts can describe common symptoms, little-known symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Discuss any risk factors, such as gender or ethnicity, which readers may not know about.
- Gastroenterology procedures and treatments. Some posts can cover information about gastroenterology procedures and treatments, such as colonoscopies, and the use of various medications, to help patients know what to expect. Centers that offer an easier, more desirable prep for colonoscopies can promote their services in these posts to draw in more patients.
- Interesting information about the digestive system.
People love learning interesting health facts, and they love sharing that information to social media:
- For example, create posts that describe the immense surface area of the small intestine, or the similarities between the enzymes in laundry soap and enzymes in the digestive tract.
- New research. Technology and research change the face of medicine nearly every day. Patients love to learn about new medical research, particularly as it relates to conditions that they may have or that a family member may have. Gastroenterologists can present themselves as “thought leaders” by discussing new research on social media. Read our article about digital outreach tips to learn more!
- Hot topics. Talk about current hot topics, such as the microbiome of the gut, “detox,” colon cancer awareness, encouraging patient screenings, and fecal microbiota transplantation.
- FAQs. Talking about digestive difficulties can be embarrassing for many patients, so many are reluctant to have face-to-face conversations about their digestive troubles – even with their gastroenterologists. Posting frequently asked questions (FAQs) and their answers can help shy patients find the answers they need from the privacy of their own homes. Information presented in question-and-answer formats is also attractive to Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and other voice assistants, which work by finding snippets of information that best answer users’ spoken questions.
- Take polls. Create surveys and polls to determine how often patients undergo screening and to learn why some are afraid of screening. These polls also tell patients that their opinions and perspectives are important.
When to Post
Once you have the content created, it’s time to put it to work. Create a plan for posting your content with these guidelines in mind:
Frequency. There is considerable debate in the marketing industry when it comes to the frequency of social media posts. Co-schedule, a social media pre-scheduling tool, crunched the numbers from 10 data-driven studies. Their research suggests posting to Facebook once a day, “tweeting” 15 times on Twitter daily, and uploading one LinkedIn post daily.
Schedule posts to reflect gastroenterology health observances. National health observances help raise awareness about important health topics. The month of March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, for example, and April is both IBS Awareness Month and Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. Clinics and clinicians can use the observances to promote screenings.
Posting on social media is getting easier—and more powerful—every day. Gastroenterologists and gastroenterology clinics can develop a social media presence quickly, present themselves as leaders in the medical industry, and reach more patients with just a few social media posts.
So, should GI Physicians use social media? ABSOLUTELY! Read our article here to learn more.