In the past decade, social media has grown into a place where we feel comfortable sharing our every thought and feeling with the entire world. Individuals, clubs, organizations and even the family dog have all built a social media platform to express who they are. The same is true for businesses and healthcare practices. In turn, social media has become a staple when it comes to crafting a marketing strategy. Practices, like yours, use social media to interact with patients on a more personal level. But have you ever considered social media as a tool for reputation management? If not, you need to start now.

One of the biggest elements that set social media apart from other online resources is that it revolves almost entirely around user-generated content. By creating a social media presence for your practice, you are giving the world permission (as well as a platform) to shout from the rooftops how they feel about you, whether it’s positive or negative. It may be a post directly on your Facebook page, a mention on Twitter, or a #hashtag involving your brand. When it comes to managing your reputation on social media, your reaction to these posts is imperative.

Often times, practices build out their social media profiles, write a few posts relevant to their target market, log off and don’t give social media a second thought until they have something else to post about. This approach can be detrimental to their reputations. Don’t make the same mistake. When it comes to your social media strategy, what you share is only half the battle. How you engage with your followers has a greater impact on your reputation than you may think. In today’s society, people use social media as a primary channel for communicating with (and about!) healthcare practices. Responding to an inquiry or complaint within a few days is not only frowned upon, but it’s simply unacceptable. Thus, it could greatly impact your reputation. Current and prospective patients expect a response within a few hours. If you don’t deliver, things can get out of control faster than you can say, “Sorry.” In turn, social media management has evolved into a full-time job consisting of constant monitoring, interacting and reacting.

This may seem like a daunting task, but with the right strategy and tools in place you can succeed. There are so many reputation management tools built specifically to help you keep tabs on social media mentions of your practice. These tools, along with frequent Twitter/Facebook/Google searches and constant notification monitoring, will help ensure that you are casting a large net and catching each and every post pertaining to your practice.

Once you can see what people are saying about you, you need a response strategy that will protect and build your reputation. To maximize your full potential, you need to have an understanding of customer service. Here are some quick tips on how to respond when a customer expresses a negative opinion on social media:

  1. Tell your side of the story. Let the patient know how you view the situation. Without being defensive, explain what may have gone wrong. Helping him/her understand can relieve some of the frustration.
  2. Tell the truth. When it comes to maintaining your reputation there is one golden rule: never lie. Everyone makes mistakes and owning up to them will strengthen your practice’s integrity.
  3. Make it right. Perhaps the most important step of the entire process is to find a solution to the patient’s problem. Put yourself in the patient’s shoes and decide what you can do as a practice to satisfy the patient and help him/her see your practice in a positive light again.

You can’t control what people say about you on social media. What you can control is the way you react. Be proactive, create a strategy and take ownership of your practice’s online reputation.

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