Functional medicine practices: Rock your online reputation with social media September 13, 2018Once upon a time, reputation management was the sole responsibility of corporate PR departments. We sat back and watched as news outlets reported on scandals and company representatives spoke before press conferences. But before we knew it, the digital age hit and leveled the playing field for everyone. Today, anyone can “report” on what a large company or small practice is doing through social media. The digital age has made it more imperative than ever for industries of all kinds to become involved in “online” reputation management. Online reputation management is proactively influencing how your patients perceive your practice by influencing the information they find online. Whether you realize it or not, people are talking about your practice, and not becoming involved is almost worse than doing so and not being perfect at it right away. That in mind, it is important that you have a plan. You must be ready to face the feedback you are receiving. Today we are going to talk about what a functional medicine practice can do to rock their online reputation using social media! Stats to Consider In case you are not already convinced that online reputation management is important, here are a few stats to consider. According to BrightLocal, 97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations 49% of consumers need at least a four-star online rating before they choose to use a business Stats like these make it evident that people are creating perceptions of what they believe about businesses (and practices) by the information they find online, first! So what can you do to influence this information? You Can Do This! By creating your own content for your functional medicine practice, encouraging positive feedback from your patients, and effectively managing negative feedback, you can outshine information that is creating a negative or neutral reputation for your practice! There are four online platforms through which you can do this, following the PESO model: Paid Media – Pay-per-click advertising such as Facebook or Google advertising Earned Media – Free advertising you receive as other practices and industry affiliates talk about you online Social Media – Where we will be focusing our attention in this blog Owned Properties – Your practice website, blog, etc. (any online space that you own and from which you can publish content) On any one of these platforms, you can use an online reputation management strategy to push negative or neutral information down the page. We will be focusing on how to develop an online reputation management strategy for social media! Have a Plan 1. Find Your Reputation What is your practice’s current reputation, offline? This is a good place to start. Ask around and see what perceptions your fellow professionals, patients, and industry affiliates have about your practice. Does this match what you want your reputation to be? Now take a look online. If you already have social media, peruse your accounts and see what people are saying about your practice. Take a look at your competitors while you are at it and see what reputations they have created for themselves. Next, plan a meeting with your staff and discuss these things as well as what you as a team would like your unique reputation to be. Maybe you want to be seen as high-tech, genuinely caring, or scientifically-grounded. One company that has succeeded at creating a strong online reputation is Wendy’s, most famous for its snarkiness on Twitter. We do not recommend this tactic for most people, but it is an excellent example of the power of a reputation. 2. Draft a Policy Now that you have your reputation nailed-down, create a policy for your staff to protect it. In your policy document, outline appropriate and inappropriate topics and/or a post-approval process if you are not comfortable with giving your staff free reign to post and comment on your social media accounts. Establish important ground rules like “never publish sensitive patient or practice information.” Unfortunately, HIPAA was enacted before social media existed, so there are no specific guidelines. However, many have written helpful articles on HIPAA and social media. Use your policy document to set the tone of social media professionalism for your staff. Be sure to include that your practice reserves the right to edit or delete any content that could be harmful to your reputation. 3. Create Your Strategy At Beacon, we often start our work on an account by developing a digital marketing strategy and editorial calendar for our clients. This includes the topics or services we are going to focus on, important themes, keywords, and elements of voice, as well as the platforms and media types we will be using. Our goal is to have a foundational document that we can always go back to for direction to keep our mind on the reputation we are establishing. The document also includes a schedule of what types of posts we will publish at what times and should include the person responsible for responding to comments. It is important to publish content regularly, as in, 3-4 times per week if you want to maintain your reputation. If you are at a loss for what kind of content to publish, take a look at your competitors and what is working for them (only do not copy their tactics, learn from them). Facebook Insights has a great tool called “Pages to Watch” that will help you discover which competitors you should be watching: In your strategy, include the types of posts that encourage your followers to engage positively, such as questions, quizzes, and calls-to-action, like, “Have you recently had an appointment with us? We’d love to know what you think about our care. Review us now at the link below!” Also, include posts that highlight the positive things about your practice. The reason you are publishing content is to proactively create a positive perception about your practice that pushes any negative perceptions that your patients may have out the door! Finally, you may want to include some important reminders for online reputation management in your strategy, especially if you will be having your staff do the publishing. For example, remind staff to “pause before they post” and check for grammatical errors as well as topics to avoid. The last thing you want is for your reputation to be tainted by something as simple and easy to fix as a grammatical error. Read and re-read our posts. We use Grammarly at Beacon and it is an especially helpful tool for catching these errors. As for topics to avoid, not only should your staff be thinking about no-no topics for your practice, but current trends, news, and cultural perceptions that could cause something they say to be misconstrued. For example, we were writing a post about visiting a particular national park last week until we saw the news that there had just been an accident at that location. Run your post by your fellow professionals, especially if you are unsure. In fact, if you are unsure, it is probably best that you do not publish the post at all and come up with something different. We know that it is a hassle, but it is better to be safe than sorry. 4. Engage with Followers A significant part of online reputation management on social media is responding to the people who engage with your content! This shows that you are active, listening, and credible. Social media is not unlike any other sphere for social communication. Imagine if you never answered emails, phone calls, were never in office when people came to visit, or only talked about yourself in conversation. What would that do to your reputation? On social media, 32% of followers expect a response within 30 minutes and 42% within 60 minutes. Have a plan to check your practice’s social media platforms throughout the day and respond to comments and messages as they come. In your response, be as friendly, transparent, and as human as possible. Avoid canned, robotic responses, even to negative comments. 5. Optimize Your Profiles Have you ever visited a social media account and felt like, “Wow, this practice really has their act together.” It is actually surprisingly easy to achieve this reputation for your practice! Take a look at your social media profiles and make sure you have all of the important pieces in place, the profile picture, cover photo, about, bio, description–Fill in all of the gaps. Make sure all of these pieces are consistent, using your colors, logo, fonts, imagery, and voice. Practices look credible and trustworthy when “everything is in its place.” As an example, take a look at the profile picture and cover photo of one of the social media accounts we manage below. Although we are currently running a particular campaign for this client, everything is consistently branded: We recently wrote a blog on how to optimize your Instagram profile. Take a look if you would like to learn more about this topic. 6. Monitor and Adapt After everything is in place and your strategy is up and running, it is important that you track the effectiveness of your plan. It is now standard practice for just about every social media platform to provide some form of data analytics. Monitor these analytics and adapt where necessary. See what your audience likes and does not like and continue to refine your ideas about how to effectively manage your online reputation on social media. Although there is a lot of science to social media, it is also an art. Be flexible and willing to change your tactics for your audience if you need to. Tools for Monitoring There are a couple tools you can be using to monitor your online reputation in addition to the tools available on your social media platforms. You can setup Google Alerts to tell you when anyone is publishing content about your business, your competitors, or your industry. This is important for finding social media platforms where people are talking about you and you should establish a presence. Social media management tools like Hootsuite allow you to view posts, comments, and messages that mention you or use keywords or hashtags pertaining to your practice on all of your platforms, all in one dashboard. These tools can help you never miss a message. A lot of groups have done great things for their online reputation by responding to posts in which their followers mention the name of their group, but do not tag them. When followers do not tag you, they do not necessarily anticipate your response. You can look really on top of the ball by responding to these, making your followers feel like, “Wow, they were listening!” Responding to mentions turns around negative feedback and rewards positive feedback, reinforcing this behavior. A Note on the Negative (Reviews, Posts, Comments, etc.) Negative feedback is something no one wants to deal with, but how you handle the negative speaks volumes for the reputation of your functional medicine practice! After years of working in the social media space, we have learned a few things about how to respond to negative reviews, posts, and comments. Here are some pieces of advice: Don’t take it personally. This can be particularly difficult for people who genuinely care about what they are doing. We get it. That said, a lot of people don’t realize that they are talking to people behind-the-scenes when they talk to social media accounts. They are angry with their situation and your practice is the face they have chosen to blast with their woes. Use the 20-minute rule. If you are becoming angry or upset, pause and take a breather so that you can respond instead of reacting. Be the bigger person and keep your practice’s reputation intact! It’s okay to hide, delete, and report. In some cases, especially where vulgarities and disparaging language is being used or the commenter is being irrelevant and ridiculous, you should absolutely hide that comment from your wall and possibly report it. Use your best judgment. Be willing to improve. If the negative feedback being given touches on the truth and is a real service issue that you need to take care of, be willing to make changes to your practice and demonstrate that you are taking feedback to heart on social media! This will do powerful things for your reputation and possibly win the commenter over as a follower for life! Focus on the positive. Be kind and friendly and look for opportunities to turn negative feedback into a positive interaction. We recently had the opportunity to do this with one of our clients in the example below. Due to the advent of the digital age and social media, reputation management has moved online and is open to everyone. It is now more important than ever for all industries, including functional medicine, to participate in online reputation management! By having a plan that is firmly rooted in policy and strategy documents and backed by a firm understanding of social media, functional medicine practices can rise to the occasion and rock their online reputation. If you are a functional medicine practice and would like to work with an expert partner on your social media, give us a call! We have years of experience working in the field of health and wellness that we would love to share with you and your practice.