The meteoric rise of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has created new opportunities for web-savvy marketers. But seriously, what can any of these social networking sites do for you and your healthcare practice? In order to answer that question, we must first understand how social networking sites work for the end-user. You, for example…

Since Twitter has the greatest “buzz” right now, we’ll use it as an example. Unless you have been locked in a cave for the past several months, you have, no doubt, heard the terms Twitter, tweet, tweeting and tweeple bandied about everywhere. TV news, sports and entertainment programs, radio and print media have all been telling us not only who’s tweeting whom, but what they’re saying and why it’s important for us to know about it.

How can Twitter work for you?
Twitter is basically an online community that incorporated itself in March of 2007 in San Francisco, CA. It’s a virtual “place” where people can connect, gather, stay in touch and share their thoughts and ideas about virtually anything. Though it’s called a social network, it’s already being used rather effectively as a business/professional network. Think of it as a virtual water cooler where you have 24/7 access to 15 million (and growing rapidly) potential new patients and professional referral sources – around the corner or around the world. And best of all: so far, it’s free.

Twitter, paired with special electronic sensors (which are already in final development, btw) could be used to alert doctors when a patient’s blood sugar or heart rate climbs too high. Such real-time data streams could also aid medical researchers. Doctors are already using Twitter to ask for help and share information about the latest techniques and procedures.

Twitter makes it easy for people to connect with other people. The site asks one question, “What are you doing?” Answers must be 140 characters long or less and can be sent via mobile texting, instant messaging or on the web. To begin on Twitter, you open an account as you would on any other site. Set up your username and password and once your account is open, spend some time exploring the site to see what opportunities there are for you.

Twitter, like other networking sites, works most effectively as a marketing tool when you link it back to your practice web site. Think of your website as the hub of your online marketing wheel, and Twitter as one of the spokes leading to it. Your posts on Twitter, called “tweets”, can include your web URL (address), your latest new patient offers, health tips and new service offerings. You can even tweet about openings in your daily schedule, as one med-spa we know did recently. They filled their entire schedule within a few hours of tweeting. On a long-term basis, using Twitter consistently and effectively can help drive your website up the rankings on Google.