This article is third in a three-part series. To read the first article in the series, click here; to read the second, click here.Developing a social-media presence helps radiology practices develop their brands and build relationships with patients, referring physicians, and hospitals. Several practices have already tested these waters. Inland Imaging (Spokane, Washington) and Charlotte Radiology in North Carolina have successfully learned how to fit social media into their marketing strategies, create compelling content, and evaluate social-media return on investment (ROI).
Providing services throughout the Western United States, Inland Imaging became involved in social media as early as 2009. Pam Pyrc, director of marketing at Inland Imaging, recommends that radiology practices be very clear about their social-media goals. Her own goals include increasing brand recognition and inviting patient interaction and engagement.
Inland Imaging currently maintains an extensive social-media presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, as well as a few geolocation services. Inland Imaging also carries out extensive reputation monitoring on review sites (such as Yelp). Inland Imaging’s social-media team is made up of Pyrc and Adam Clear, digital marketing strategist .
Pyrc sees a social-media presence as critical. “We’re in a new era where reciprocal conversations help shape your brand,” Pyrc says. “In fact, if you don’t allow this interaction and freedom, then your audience may turn on you.”
Pyrc and Clear also point to how social media can inform other marketing efforts. “When you have online conversations with patients, look at the words they use,” Pyrc says. “Pay attention to their colloquial ways of talking about procedures. Be sure to shape campaigns from the patients’ point of view.”
Relationship to Traditional Marketing
Katie Robbins, marketing director at Charlotte Radiology, offers another important caution for integrating social media into a practice’s existing marketing efforts. “Using social media complements traditional marketing, but does not replace it,” Robbins says.
A practice of more than 80 radiologists, Charlotte Radiology has a social-media team that is composed of Joe Decker, data and technology specialist, and Michelle Russell, manager for breast-health marketing/practice relations (in addition to Robbins).
Charlotte Radiology maintains a social-media presence through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Its content stream—posts, status updates, and more—trends toward patient education regarding mammography and vascular services.
Robbins sees social media as an extension of public relations and as a platform that is especially effective in reaching patients. She recommends using social media to maintain a year-round brand presence, then using traditional media (radio, print, and television) in support of targeted campaigns. Based on patient-survey results, Robbins and her team estimate that Charlotte Radiology currently reaches a minimum of 3,000 screening-mammography patients through Facebook, and numbers are on the rise.
Developing Content That Works
Through social media, a radiology practice can tell its story by generating and sharing content—interesting and frequent status updates, links, photos, polls, contests, and other engaging material. For Inland Imaging, telling its story means putting a face on the practice and showing how it supports wellness throughout the community. A key part of Inland Imaging’s social-media identity is that, Pyrc says, “We produce our own authentic content. We keep an eye on national radiology trends and discussions, too, but our posts are genuine to our area, our brand identity, and our company culture.”
Clear describes Inland Imaging’s typical content stream as a mix of stories about the community, patient feedback, events and contests, company culture, and charitable work. Inland Imaging doesn’t particularly focus on educating patients about any specific treatment modalities. It does, however, use social media to address some of patients’ major questions, such as those concerning exam procedures and radiation dose. The practice’s Facebook page also provides a place for patients to share positive experiences and unsolicited testimonials.
According to Pyrc and Clear, the key to developing successful content is to understand patients’ perspectives. “You want to honor the patient’s health experience,” Clear says. “His or her