How Imaging Centers Can Get Social

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Christine Boehms HawkinsBefore you set up a business page on Facebook, or sign up for a LinkedIn account, first determine if you have the time and discipline to post content on a frequent basis. At a minimum you should do a Facebook post once a week and tweet at least twice a week. Second, decide if you are ready for public criticism. Patients might post a complaint about a staff member, or their wait time. They may also rave about their treatment at your center. Delete negative posts, but communicate with the person directly and quickly before it escalates.

Content is King
Social media works because of a reciprocal exchange. In order for people to “like” you, follow your tweets, and engage in dialogue you have to provide useful content that benefits the reader, such as educational information, articles, videos, or an interesting point of view. Your imaging center’s service information is not enough.

Examples of content a center can offer include:

  • Procedure information: Link to your web site, video, or a document that explains radiology procedures, and patient prep instructions.
  • Available appointments
  • Radiologists: Post video interviews and links to their articles, speaking engagements, or webinars.
  • Special events: free mammography screenings, grand openings, walk-a-thon participation, lunch and learns should all be posted. Post photos on Facebook and tag people if possible.
  • New staff, equipment and service announcements
  • Trade articles about radiology research findings
  • Milestones, eg, 100,000th study
  • Ordering information
  • Job openings (Effective on LinkedIn)

Obviously, you should never respond to a patient asking about a specific procedure or results he/she has had, or participate in any dialogue that violates HIPAA guidelines.

You can segment your posts by audience type. For example, you can choose to send select posts only to your referring physicians and their staff.

You can also post your videos on your YouTube channel and then provide that link in other social media posts or your web site. It’s a good, free video hosting tool.

Internal Processes
As with any new venture, it is important to map out a strategy for your social media, including policies and procedures:

  • Social Media Policy. Develop this document to explain how you will execute your social media strategy, do’s and don’ts for employees, and address how to follow HIPAA privacy guidelines. Many samples are in the Internet.
  • Content Schedule. Brainstorm with your team several content topics, then write up the posts. Schedule them on a calendar to ensure they happen. Align posts with other center activities, industry events, holidays, etc.
  • Social Media Leader. A single staff member should own the social media effort, reporting to an executive. Select someone that enjoys this activity yet understands the balance between this and primary work.
  • Monitoring. Most sites e-mail automatic reports on follower activity. Also set up a Google Alert and periodically search Twitter for your center name. The supervisor should regularly check the sites to ensure posts are delivered at the desired frequency and content is appropriate.

Connecting with Referrers and Patients
Follow the following guidelines to motivate referrers and patients to connect to you:

  • Integrate social media logos and your links on your web site
  • Include social media links in your e-mails (under signature area)
  • Add your social media links on printed marketing materials.
  • When patients call for an appointment – invite them to connect to you.
  • When patients leave – give them a business card with your links.
  • Invite your opt-in e-mail list to connect to you.
  • Have a contest for referring physician staff to “Like” your center on Facebook and get entered for a chance to win a prize. Check Facebook’s Contest Rules.
  • Let referring physician staff know that you will be posting educational information and available appointments.

Set realistic expectations. You will likely never obtain the number of followers that @charliesheen has today (3.5 million), but at least you can focus on building relationships with those that are connected to you.

Imaging centers can effectively utilize Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to educate, create awareness, promote and build relationships with referrers, patients and business partners, but it takes discipline and precautions because of the private nature of healthcare information.

Original, interesting content is a key differentiator. For example, instead