Social Media and the Radiology Practice: Initiating a Strategy

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This article is the second in a three-part series. To read the first article in the series, click here.Thomas GreesonKim LongeteigFor radiology practices contemplating adding social media to their marketing initiatives, a multitude of free platforms can help build engaged audiences, both among patients and fellow health-care professionals (including referrers). Key to initiating the process is proper preparation, and this includes adopting the best practices of other health-care organizations, as well as developing a strategic plan for leveraging social outlets.

Ramsey Mohsen is social director of Digital Evolution Group, a full-service digital consultancy. “Do a little research,” he recommends “Observe peers in your field, such as Mayo Clinic. Evaluate good and bad examples. Look for individual thought leaders who are already experimenting with social media. Assess how they do it. Figure out where you fit.”

Thomas Greeson, JD, a health-care lawyer with the firm Reed Smith, recommends developing an internal policy to govern social-media use. “All legal risks can be dealt with by developing a solid social-media policy and responsibly monitoring and responding to your pages and feeds,” he says. He adds that social-media policies should include, at a minimum, decisions about who posts, as well as what kind of content (and communication style) is appropriate; he also emphasizes that health-care professionals should use social media to have public conversations with communities instead of private conversations with patients.

“Focus on disease and issue education, rather than on individual health concerns. Sharing your general knowledge—for example, about the value of diagnostic imaging and disease prevention—makes you a good citizen,” Greeson says, “or post photos of your charity activities. This sort of post creates no legal risk.”

Additional tips from the Mayo Center for Social Media on developing a social media policy can be accessed on its website. They include the fact that information posted online is difficult to scrub (thanks to search-engine caching), meaning that a judicious approach is best. Greeson notes that organizations put themselves at risk by engaging in direct physician–patient conversations about individual health problems and by making false and/or derogatory comments. “Part of the policy should be to make no particularized comments about anyone,” Greeson says.

Picking Platforms

New social-media platforms seem to pop up every day, while others fade from relevance just as quickly; for instance, Myspace, once the most visited social-media site on the Web, is now shedding staff and revenue as its user base continues to plummet. Determining which platforms are right for a radiology practice can represent a challenge.

One commonly heard statement is that everyone needs to be on Facebook. Social-media choices, however, should be based on where the target audience spends time online. Searching imaging-related keywords on different social-media platforms will reveal where valuable conversations are occurring; for example, specialists in sports medicine might find sports fans and athletes on Twitter, while specialists in women’s health might find strong audiences through Pinterest.

Different social-media tools are suited to different audiences, and a qualified social-media strategist can help a practice evaluate its options. Part of the plan also depends on the practice’s marketers and their capabilities because they will act as messengers to different audiences.

“You must really understand who you are,” Mohsen says. “Understand your own strengths and weaknesses.” For example, a radiology-practice marketer might connect especially well with other health-care providers, but less well with patients. One solution might be to have someone else in the practice communicate with that audience.

Kim Longeteig of Ali’i Marketing and Design, which specializes in working with radiology clients, points out LinkedIn’s potential for helping physicians to connect with their peers. “That PowerPoint presentation you gave, that case study you published—post them on LinkedIn,” she says. “Then post an update letting other physicians in your network know that the information is there and that they can view it on their own time. Acting as a resource for referring physicians and giving them meaningful information that can help them treat their patients: Those are valuable.”

Developing Content

The next challenge for radiology practices