Reputation Management for Healthcare Professionals
Published on November 22, 2017
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You’ve probably heard the commonly-quoted statistic that healthcare amounts for 1/6th of the American economy. And while that’s true, and significant, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
As anyone who works in the field – including physicians, insurers, advocacy groups, and others – will tell you, healthcare is about so much more than money. It’s about teaching wellness; it’s about taking care of people in need; it’s about families and communities; it’s about staying in compliance with shifting regulations from various agencies.
With all of this being said, it’s also important to realize that the health and wellness industry has always adapted and shifted with the times. And today, understanding the digital component of healthcare is more critical than ever, both in terms of providing high-quality care and when it comes to reaching new clients.
For healthcare pros, as with professionals in so many other industries, a huge number of leads are now generated online. Personal word of mouth still matters, of course, and many of your prospective patients or clients will always consider what their friends, family, and colleagues have to say about a health provider before reaching out.
But here’s the diagnosis you may not have heard yet: The very concept of “word of mouth” has changed. It doesn’t just occur over coffee or around the dinner table anymore; instead, your potential clients are getting their referrals and recommendations online, via search engines, social media, and recommendation sites like Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, and ZocDoc.
And there’s a way that you can help guide the conversation around your organization for the better, helping you turn your existing clients into advocates and making sure that all of those reviews, rankings, and testimonials all work in your favor.
We call this strategy online reputation management, and it will allow you to gain new leads while also establishing even better relationships with your existing, satisfied clients… making it a must-have for any healthcare professional today.
Generally, we break down successful reputation management into three interrelated parts, each of which has a major role to play in making you and your colleagues stand out – for the all right reasons – online.
Ready for your prognosis? Here’s what healthcare professionals need to know about online reputation management today…
Taking the Temperature: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
According to a study from Pew Research Center, 77% of health seekers begin their search online, and 72% have used a search engine to find health information within the past year. As one Dr. Deanna Attai famously put it at a 2017 AMA meeting:
“In this day and age, your reputation is whatever Google says it is.”
How are you reaching this massive audience of eager searchers looking for a specialist like you?
In order to dominate on Google, Bing, and Yahoo search ranking pages, you’ll need a solid, local SEO strategy in place. For healthcare professionals, this will include:
- A responsive, well-designed website
- Compelling content, optimized for search
- Accurate and up-to-date location tags
- An emphasis on mobile design
That last point, in particular, is worth noting. Today, more users are using smartphones to find, and, subsequently, reach out to their prospective healthcare professionals than ever before. In fact, According to a Think with Google study, about one-third of patients use mobile devices or tablets on a daily basis for research and/or to book appointments with healthcare providers.
If your site isn’t attractive, responsive, and highly functional on mobile devices – and some research shows that up to 91% of small business websites aren’t optimized for phones – your potential audience won’t hesitate to move on to the professionals who makes a better first impression on the go. In fact, more than half of all consumers will abandon your brand entirely if your site isn’t quick to load and functional on mobile devices.
Checking the Pulse: Reviews and Testimonials
In addition to relying on search engines, many of your prospective visitors will first find out about you via a review or listing service, a category which today encompasses sites ranging from Facebook, to Google, to Wellness.com, to even Yelp.
Research suggests that the vast majority of consumers say that they consider third party reviews important in their decision to opt for one healthcare professional over another; indeed, a full 62% of patients use online reviews as their first step in choosing a physician, and nearly half say that they would consider going to an out-of-network doctor if their reviews were better than those of an in-network doctor. That’s remarkable!
The best way to put your best foot forward on these review sites and resources is to make sure that they work in your favor. This will involve monitoring what is said about you online, managing negative reviews as they crop up, and encouraging your clients to post positive reviews.
So, how can you accomplish all of that? Here at Geek Chicago, we partner with a national reputation management service to offer our clients access to a review management tool with a proven track record of success.
Essentially, we’ll set up a workflow that lets you automatically reach out to your clients via text or email after you’ve completed your business with them, encouraging them to rate and review your place on a variety of sites.
Establishing this line of communication early will help you encourage your happiest clients to post glowing reviews. At the same time, reaching out like this allows you to “park” negative reviews before they come up. You may be surprised, but research shows that just giving less-satisfied clients a chance to vent privately to you over email could well prevent them from ever posting that negative public review in the first place.
The most important thing to know is that you don’t have to leave the word of mouth about your business up to chance! Instead, our tool will help you monitor all of your feedback and, ultimately, steer the conversation in a positive direction.
Managing Care: Social Media and Email Marketing
So far, we’ve talked about reputation management in terms of what it takes – and what it can do – to get new audiences to discover you for the first time.
But what about those who you can turn into lifelong friends and partners, ready to turn to you for future advice or service? Can reputation management and digital marketing actually help keep your clients coming back? Yes!
In fact, there are a ton of things you can do to encourage loyalty and retention among your client base – and it’s important that you do, since research shows that for businesses, a loyal customer is worth up to 10x as much as the value of their first purchase.
Most of these long-term audience maintenance strategies take place over two main digital channels: social media and email.
When it comes to social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, it’s important that you remain active on your pages and profiles and really foster a sense of community between your organization and your existing and former patients or clients.
To that end, take care to respond to positive and negative feedback and answer any client queries as they’re posted; don’t be afraid to pose questions and polls; offer up interesting blog posts and fresh visual content; and give your dedicated fans a “peek behind the curtain” with behind-the-scenes stories, insights, and exclusive social media offerings.
You can also use social media, particularly Facebook, as a paid advertising channel; the platform’s sophisticated targeting tools make it easy to identify and appeal to a narrow audience, including users who’ve already searched for or otherwise showed an interest in your brand (a process that we call “remarketing”).
Email marketing is also a powerful tool for retention and reputation management; reaching out to your past visitors in their inbox with fresh blog content or updates can be a great way to make sure that you’re top of mind the next time they need to consult with a healthcare pro – or offer a recommendation of one to a friend or colleague!
With all this being said, we also recognize that healthcare professionals may be held to a different standard than other businesses when it comes to digital marketing – and we’d be happy to discuss what you can accomplish within the legal and ethical parameters or restrictions that may be giving you pause.
Curious about what it would take to execute this three-part reputation management plan for your healthcare brand? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any and all of your digital marketing questions or concerns! Or, join us for our upcoming Reputation Management Training Webinar - its free! Our experienced team is here and always ready to help… even if it means making a house call!