Having seen and audited hundreds of websites for doctors and the like, I feel the need to address what is now a nationwide problem. I foreshadowed this post earlier this year if you’d like a sort of spoiler. Before I hop into the entrée, it’d be to all of our advantages if I served some psychological hors d'oeuvres first.
Social cognition “explains the mechanisms of social behavior using concepts and methods shared with related fields of cognitive psychology and cognitive science” (Winkielman, P. & Schooler, J. In press. Unconscious, conscious, and meta-conscious in social cognition. In Social cognition: The basis of human interaction, (eds F. Strack, J. Förster). Philadelphia: Psychology Press.). In psychology, priming refers to seeing or thinking of something that prepares you to do something better right after. For example, “exposing experimental participants to words related to ‘kindness’ as part of a purported ‘language study’ caused them to subsequently view a target person as more kind, compared to the impressions formed of the target by a control group” (Srull & Wyer, 1979). Social behavior can be produced and affected unconsciously in a similar fashion. When first visiting specific social media platforms, say, Facebook, your behaviors online were both learned consciously and unconsciously (primed) based off of how you saw other Facebook users act. The number of likes on a post, the number of posts on a page, the types of posts and comments on a page, and other similar aspects. Combine informational social influence (AKA social proof), a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation, with priming, and it is obvious why testimonials and reviews in plain sight on a website or Facebook page can produce desirable results for the page or site owner (Ninja Tip #1).
So, you’re posting consistently on your blog with hopes of connecting to your ideal audience and patient, your site is clean and free of typos, you have photos of smiling people (hopefully NOT stock photos – Ninja Tip #2), your services are listed and obvious…you’re doing everything right..right?
Entrée: Medical websites are still highly relevant for 1 reason only: Setting up appointments in a secure patient portal. Aside from that, I’d challenge any supposed “healthcare marketing expert” or “consulting agency” to refute that statement. I’d also ask them for data that shows how medical websites will survive and help practices and clinics as much as, or more than, social media will for the next 5-15+ years. Everything a patient needs to see can be placed on a Facebook page.
Address and picture of the location? Check.
Contact information? Check.
Authentic personality? Check..I hope (Ninja Tip #3)
In the book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect, Matthew Lieberman, Professor and Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab Director at UCLA Department of Psychology, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, states that “people consistently report being more motivated to use Facebook to connect with people from their offline lives than to meet new people. Because Facebook use is more of an extension of real-world connections, it has been associated with enhancing offline social networks and general well-being. It’s also particularly useful for maintaining social bonds over long distances” (Lieberman 256).
Okay, the best excuse may be that your ideal audience is older and not as well-versed in all things technology. Google + “your practice name” or Google + "your name" may be all that the older generation knows to do on their tech gadgets.
The 2014 Facebook Demographic report speaks for itself. Although the data was originally compiled to show how teens were leaving Facebook (which can also be attributed to aging), the 55+ demographic has skyrocketed since 2011.
The gig is up.
Tell those marketing agencies to show you the metrics.
How many people are interacting with your blog on your website? How many likes, shares, etc? How many of these visitors are converting into patients and clients? How many people are visiting the website weekly? What are they doing on the website and at what rate? What are the demographics of the visitors and people interacting with your posts?
As I’ll dive into in another post titled “The Greatest Story Never Told”, the visibility for Facebook pages in search engines is unusually high without even placing any real effort into SEO. This in itself goes against what many old “marketing gurus” used to, and still do preach. This defeats the purpose of posting content with long-tail keywords solely on a website for boosting search engine visibility. Go ahead, Google “Ascendance Medical” and let me know what the first result is.
To sum up:
Facebook is not a fad. Social media is not a fad.
The age where medical websites were the be-all and end-all is gone and will not return (Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are simply going to enhance the power of social media in a way we can't even quantify as of yet, but that’s a conversation for another day).
Social media is quickly overtaking medical websites in utility, so having a decent website and an exceptional presence on social media would be ideal, but simply having a website and an underdeveloped social media presence is a bad call in terms of future business.
I will continue this series unabashedly for months to come until the overwhelming majority of practices understand that they can either grow (and take advantage of this permanent shift) or decay. The public deserves the best services, and everything pertaining to those services should be easy to find.