January 18th, 2013 Mike Wilton
According to a study released earlier this week by the Pew Research Center, of the 81 percent of U.S. adults who use the Internet, 72 percent say they have looked online for health information in the past year. But more importantly, 8 in 10 online health inquiries start on a search engine.
The report released on Tuesday titled, “Health Online 2013 ,“looked at a number of aspects related to online behavior as it relates to health care. Some of the topics explored include how people are using the Internet to research health, the increasing trend of “online diagnosers,” the role of social interaction in healthcare, and the adoption of reviews among general consumers.
SEO and Content Is More Important
One of the more impressive numbers from the study stems from the growing trend of “self-diagnosers.” Of those who have looked online for health information, 59 percent say they have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. Of those questioned 46 percent of online diagnosers said that the condition needed the attention of a doctor, and 53 percent of online diagnosers say they spoke with a medical professional regarding what they found online.
This, along with the statistic that 8 in 10 online health inquiries start on a search engine, create a unique opportunity for medical professionals when it comes to content. Now, knowing that more patients are looking to the Internet before they look to a doctor, doctors should be seizing this opportunity to create helpful content that can help patients to determine whether or not they should be seeking a doctor for their condition or concern in the first place. Well- optimized content can not only help a potential patient make better decisions about his or her health, but also drive prospective patients to your practice in the event that they do want to further investigate their findings.
While many feel that online diagnoses and research is dominated by specialty sites, such as WebMD and the like, it’s important to note that only 13 percent of online health seekers start their search on this type of website.
While past Pew studies explored usage of specific social networks when it came to health care, this study focused on how patients were using social interaction as a means of researching their health. Interestingly enough, of the 72 percent of Internet users who said they looked online for health information within the past year, a mere 1 percent actually said they started at a social network site like Facebook.
But while the search may not start with social networks, the study uncovered that more and more people are looking to connect with people dealing with similar health matters online. One in four Internet users have read or watched someone else’s experience about health or medical issues in the last 12 months, and 16 percent of Internet users have gone online to find others who may have shared the same health concerns in the last year.
Eight percent of Internet users say they have, in the past 12 months, posted a health-related question online or shared their own personal health experience online in some way. Of those:
- 40 percent say they posted comments or stories about personal health experiences
- 19 percent say they posted specific health questions
- 38 percent say they posted both
In addition, 78 percent of those who posted a comment, story, or question about their health say that they did so to reach a general audience of friends or other Internet users. Eleven percent say they posted somewhere specifically to get feedback from a health professional. Four percent replied that they posted for both a general and a professional audience and 5 percent said neither of those choices fit.
This growing trend of social need and the desire to be a part of a community of supporters also opens a door of opportunity. As more patients look for a sense of community, doctors and hospitals can be at the forefront of community creation and provide a means for connecting patients both in their practice and on their websites.
Some examples that quickly come to mind are the DREAMERS Support Group started by Houston breast reconstruction surgeon Dr. Aldona J. Spiegel, which was designed to provide information and support to breast cancer patients who desire restoration, in order to enhance their physical and mental vitality and allow them to live a fulfilling life after surgery. Another example is the vaginismus forum run by Dr. Peter Pacik to help patients suffering from vaginismus. The form is used for education and support for patients suffering from this unfortunate condition.
The Slow Adoption of Doctor Reviews
Just days before the Pew study was released, the Journal of Urology released a study that suggested patients should be wary of online doctor reviews. Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, of the Texas Children’s Hospital, spoke on the topic during “CBS This Morning.” His discussion echoed the study’s concerns stating that the polarity of positive and negative reviews combined with the low volume of doctor reviews make review sites less-than-reliable or constructive when it comes to making a decision about a health provider.
The findings from the Pew study shine some light on the topic, and perhaps the biggest issue with doctor reviews is the low adoption rate from general consumers. When it comes to writing reviews of general interest items, 37 percent of Internet users say they have rated a product, service, or person online, and 32 percent have posted a comment or review online about a product they bought or service they received. In contrast, three to four percent of Internet users have posted a review of a treatment, hospital, or clinician. If those numbers weren’t shocking enough, the growth from 2010 to 2012 is almost at a standstill.
The percentage of Internet users who consulted online reviews or rankings of doctors or other providers only increased by one percent, from 16 to 17 percent. The percentage of Internet users who consulted online reviews or rankings of hospitals or medical facilities declined by one percent, from 15 to 14 percent. The percentage of Internet users who posted a doctor review online remained at four percent and reviews of a hospital remained at three percent.
This trend shows that the struggle for patient reviews isn’t being felt just at the individual practice level, but in the health industry as a whole. As more doctors push for patient reviews to help with their online reputation, local rankings, and the like, fewer patients are taking notice or even getting involved.
It’s a difficult place to be in, and I believe much of what we are facing is a result of the reputation management industry and the continued desire for health issues to remain private.
As a whole, review spam along with less-than-constructive patient reviews has left the review reading process less than desirable. To correct this I think doctors, and reputation management professionals alike need to educate patients on how to effectively post reviews. It’s not about posting things such as, “Dr. X is the best in the world I always love going to see him!” It’s about patients sharing why Dr. X is the right choice, how the doctor has made a difference in their health, and what made their experience with the doctor valuable enough to review. The sooner the medical community embraces this mentality, I believe the sooner patients will begin to trust and pay attention to online reviews.
Unfortunately, while I believe consumers seek more transparency from the healthcare industry, patients will continue to be very private about their health matters, and in many instances, such as in the cosmetic surgery field, be less inclined to talk about or rate their experience with a doctor or medical facility. I believe this to be especially true in cases where they are forced to use their full name or likeness.
Other interesting statistics to note:
- Eleven percent of Internet users say they have signed up to receive email updates or alerts about health or medical issues in the past year.
- Fifty-two percent of smartphone owners have looked up health information on their phone, compared with just six percent of other cell phone owners. The likelihood to use such technology is amplified by relative youthfulness, having a higher level of education, living in a higher-income household, being Latino, being African American – and owning a smartphone.
What are your thoughts on this recent study? Are you surprised by any of the findings?
September 24th, 2012 Mike Wilton
Recently I had the opportunity to discuss social media strategy with a plastic surgeon who has had a rather lucrative and exciting career. During the conversation there was a lot of discussion about wanting to post content and articles surrounding some of the milestones in his career. While I agreed that these details were valuable and showed the doctor’s expertise, I warned that sharing content and information that was several years old may not be as appealing to his audience. The solution? The Facebook Timeline Milestone feature.
We highlighted this feature briefly when we posted “Everything You Need To Know About Facebook Timeline for Pages,” using “The Today Show” as an example; they generated a number of milestone posts to showcase the feature during the big reveal of Facebook Timeline for Pages earlier this year. Milestones can highlight a significant event in your practice or career history, which can include not only a date and description, but a large photo to accommodate it.
By using Milestones you can showcase your growth and achievements, as well as those of your practice. You are able to do so in a way that will not annoy “friends” (who may already be familiar with your history), while providing exciting new insight to users who are unfamiliar with it.
Creating a Milestone
Milestones are simple enough to create and can be accessed directly from the status update box. To create a Milestone click on “Event, Milestone, +” in the upper right corner of your status update, and select “Milestone” from the drop down. You will then be presented with the following window where you will be able to fill in the information about your milestone.
- Use photos. Milestones are much more effective with photos, but it’s important to make sure you use high quality scans or digital images to showcase the occasion. Milestones appear much larger in your timeline and therefore will need to be of larger images at a higher resolution so that they are visually appealing.
- Be a storyteller. When adding a description to your Milestones you want to keep it short and interesting. Try your best to capture the moment in your description.
- Start at the beginning. Create a Milestone for the year you began your career/practice and in the description, encourage users to browse your timeline for news and Milestones from throughout your practice history.
Though greatly underutilized, Milestones are a great way to tell the story of your practice from the beginning. If you need help with your social media presence and overall strategy, be sure to check out our social media programs for more information.
September 17th, 2012 Joanne Fuentes
By now you’ve hopefully managed to successfully integrate social media into your daily business practices and have begun measuring the social media metrics that matter. And as you review your data you realize that maybe you’re not getting the kind of engagement you had hoped to receive from your content. Fresh out of ideas, you are probably thinking, “What else can I post that will benefit my practice?”
Give Your Practice a Personal Touch
- What is going on in your office? You can share the latest happenings, from new staff members to updating office decor. Give your fans a glimpse into the day to day of your practice.
- Did a happy patient send you a ‘thank you’ note or something special to show his or her gratitude? Take a picture of it and post it.
- Share photos from office parties, office activities, events. Here, at Plastic Surgery Studios, we post our office activities. We have had “Sports Day,” during which everyone wears some sort of sports attire, such as their favorite teams’ jersey. On Halloween we dress in costume here, and every year we have an office holiday party. Share your pictures! People love them. These can even double as an Office Fun board on Pinterest.
Promote Your Practice!
- Share current promotions or specials your office is offering. Are you offering a current discount on a procedure or service? Let your followers know. Want to take it a step further? Create social media specific promotions.
- Share cosmetic events and upcoming seminars. If you can take pictures at these events, do it. So you can show people how much fun everyone had, which can stimulate an interest for new comers for the next event.
- Promote your website content. When you add a new page or blog post to your website, post it. You can post the link to that cool virtual makeover tool you added. You can tell people to check out your before and after photos, your testimonials, your TV interviews, etc. Anything you feel like highlighting that is on your website.
- Share press releases. Most press release sites have this built in to the submission process, but either way, it can’t hurt to share any press releases your practice may have recently submitted.
- Share articles from other websites that you have been featured in or written.
- Let readers know when you win an award or received special recognition.
- Share things you do for the community or charity. Do you volunteer your time? Have you made a recent contribution to aid a charity, or are you hosting a charity event? Get your social media audience involved.
Give Helpful Tips and Info
(This can be tricky, because you do not want to be too self-promotional. Because you are the expert in health and beauty your followers will love to gather tips from your blog. Not to mention, you want to provide valuable information to your followers so that they return.)
- Did you come across a great article that provided great health or fitness tips that you liked? Share it.
- Did you read something that you find useful, informative, or interesting that is unrelated to your practice or surgery, but may be of some interest to your following? Share it.
- Has a new article, paper, or news story been published about plastic surgery or other happenings in the industry. Share it.
You don’t always have to have a link to share. Share your own tips. Maybe you can provide the tip of the day (one beauty, health, anti aging tip). Or even weekly is fine too, if daily is too much for you. The key is to engage your social media followers with content that is meaningful and relevant.
If someone comments or asks questions be sure to respond and answer those questions. You do not want to leave people hanging. A simple response will keep people coming back.
Follow other businesses and people that you like or admire, and take the time to engage with them as well. Don’t be afraid to mention someone in an update and tag them in it. This can create engagement from your peers and other businesses you work with. Are you a doctor who has found success with other types of content? Share your ideas in the comments below!
September 12th, 2012 Mike Wilton
Just over a year ago we discussed how fake likes can impact your EdgeRank on Facebook, and now Facebook has announced they will be taking further action by removing fake likes from accounts that appear to have purchased like’s as a means of making their page look more popular. In an announcement late last month Facebook stated that they would be targeting likes generated by malware, “deceived” users or purchases.
From the post:
We have recently increased our automated efforts to remove Likes on Pages that may have been gained by means that violate our Facebook Terms.On average, less than 1% of Likes on any given Page will be removed, providing they and their affiliates have been abiding by our terms.
These newly improved automated efforts will remove those Likes gained by malware, compromised accounts, deceived users, or purchased bulk Likes.
The post goes on to explain that Facebook has always had systems in place to prevent these tactics, but that the new system is designed to specifically combat suspicious like’s. They also stand behind their stance on “Like” buying by saying, “To be clear, we do not and have never permitted the purchase or sale of Facebook Likes as we only want people connecting to the Pages and brands with whom they have chosen to connect. Beyond the need to maintain authentic relationships on Facebook, these third-party vendors often attempt to use malware or other forms of deception to generate fraudulent Likes, which is harmful to all users and the internet as a whole.” They then warn users to vet their internet marketing providers to ensure that they are using legitimate practices that do not violate the Facebook TOS.
If you’ve taken part in buying Like’s in the past, there is a strong chance you may see a drop in your Facebook Like’s in the coming weeks.
As it stands, Plastic Surgery Studios has never, and will never take part in Like of follower buying. We recognize that organic growth in followers is far more valuable than creating a false perception of interest from Facebook users, not only because it is a dishonest practice, but for Facebook specifically it can impact your overall EdgeRank. If you’ve been impacted by the recent developments and are wary of the practices carried out for your social media efforts, we encourage you to contact us for more information about our plastic surgery social media marketing program.
August 1st, 2012 Mike Wilton
Hashtags — they’re everywhere these days. On your television, on your favorite social networks, and on your event flyers. But what are they? And, how can you use them effectively?
What Are Hashtags?
Hashtags are keywords or topics prefixed by the # symbol. The tags gained their popularity in the early days of Twitter when users began using them as a means of organizing topical messages. Thanks to its popularity it became a core element of the Twitter service and was adopted by many other social networks and services.
The first high-profile use of the hashtag was by San Diego, California resident Nate Ritter, who included #sandiegofire in his regular updates about the October 2007 San Diego County wildfires. It has since been used in other high-profile events such as the Occupy movement (#OccupyWallStreet), and most recently during updates from the Aurora Colorado Dark Knight massacre (#TheaterShooting).
What Do Hashtags Do?
A hashtag connects the conversations from various users into a single stream, which you can find by searching the hashtag in Twitter Search. This allows for users who are not otherwise connected to communicate about a topic that interests them using a specific hashtag. Oftentimes hashtags can become trending topics if they are being used to the point that they become a “trend” on Twitter.
Hashtags are perhaps best for centralizing conversations around live, in-the-moment events or occurences.
Using Hashtags Effectively
To effectively use hashtags its important to use them sparingly and respectfully. Hashtags can provide useful context to a tweet, but they don’t have to be used for every word you feel is important. Used excessively it can be an annoyance and appears spammy to some users and ultimately result in users unfollowing you.
Twitter recommends using no more than two hashtags in a tweet, and a recent infographic from Social Caffeine suggests that tweets which include more than two hashtags see a 17 percent decrease in engagement.
Some popular uses of hashtags:
- Events or Conferences, e.g.: “Did you miss us at #ASAPS2012? Check out our photo gallery from this years Aesthetic Meeting http://ow.ly/aPCvh”
- Disasters: “#sandiegofire 300,000 peo-ple evacuated in San Diego county now.”
- Memes: “#MentionSomethingAboutYourself I’m addicted to ice tea”
- Context: “#twittertip – Occasionally check your DM’s to make sure you aren’t spamming. Seeing a lot of hacked accounts from docs sending us stuff.”
- Topical: “Thinking of getting your practice involved with Pinterest? Here are 6 inspiring ways it can be used in healthcare http://ow.ly/b6zzT #hcsm” #hcsm is the hashtag for healthcare social media that is widely used for tweets on the topic.
Don’t Abuse Hashtags
The key to using hashtags effectively is that they need to provide value to the tweet. More often than not I am seeing doctors cram as many hashtags into their tweet as possible thinking it will gain them more exposure, similar to the keyword stuffing you would see on websites in the early days of SEO. For instance I came across the following tweet this morning, “A new photoset has been added by take a look at http://lyb.com/s/dcQ #cosmeticsurgery #boobjob #breastaugmentation #breastenhancement” How does this add value to the tweet? Not only does it clutter the tweet it tries too hard to show up in additional searches on Twitter.
According to Twitter the following behaviors could cause your account to be filtered from search, or even suspended:
- Adding one or more topic/hashtag to an unrelated tweet in an attempt to gain attention in search
- Repeatedly tweeting the same topic/hashtag without adding value to the conversation in an attempt to get the topic trending/trending higher
- Tweeting about each trending topic in turn in order to drive traffic to your profile, especially when mixed with advertising
- Listing the trending topics in combination with a request to be followed
- Tweeting about a trending topic and posting a misleading link to something unrelated
Hashtags can be a great tool if used properly, but when used excessively they can hinder your efforts. The key is to ensure your hashtags are either adding value to your tweet or you know they are something already being sought on Twitter. Cramming your tweet with pointless hashtags in hopes of greater exposure won’t help you or your twitter followers. Don’t do it!