Implementing an effective healthcare reputation management strategy
This article is part 3 in a 3 part series regarding social media risk and strategy for healthcare professionals.
- Part 1: Why doctors need to take reputation management seriously
- Part 2: The mobile phone can be mightier than the sword
- Part 3: Implementing an effective healthcare reputation management strategy
In the first 2 parts of this series, I demonstrated some of the primary reasons online reputation management (ORM) should be an essential ingredient to healthcare marketing and PR. ORM is the process of observing and optimizing the easily accessed, online information related to an individual or organization.
Tenets of Healthcare Online Reputation Management (ORM)
- A doctor’s name, the name of a practice and the name of a hospital are all brands.
- The reputations of these brands are assets you have a responsibility to protect.
- Conversations about your brands will take place with our without your participation.
- Ignoring conversations related to your brands will not make them go away and search engines will archive this information indefinitely.
- The primary goal of your ORM strategy should be to control the content of the pages listed in the top search results of each brand.
- The process of ORM should be ongoing.
- Fixing a reputation problem is much more difficult than preventing a reputation problem.
Over the past 18 months, I have spent a significant amount of time researching this issue as it relates to physicians, practices and hospitals. The healthcare industry has some very unique challenges when it comes to ORM for a variety of reasons.
In my research, I tested countless methods for effectiveness and compiled the data to eventually share with other marketing and PR professionals. The following information outlines a basic strategy to address ORM for healthcare professionals. It is not a comprehensive solution, but covers several of the strategies I have developed specifically for the healthcare industry.
4 Actions for Successful Healthcare ORM (M.E.D.S. Approach)
- Monitor the Internet for search terms related to your brands (physicians, practice, hospital).
- Engage others with a social media presence.
- Disseminate quality, relevant medical content.
- Search Optimize your various online brands.
#1 – MONITOR
The first step to an effective reputation management strategy should be setting up a routine to monitor what others are saying about your physicians, practice or hospital. There are a variety of tools you can use to accomplish this. The process of monitoring can be broken down into the following 4 steps.
- Determine relevant search terms for each of your brands
- Assess the online presence of each brand by searching for each of the terms on Google, Yahoo and Bing
- Set up automatic alerts for each search term
- Periodically monitor healthcare review sites and local search reviews
Determine relevant search terms
When it comes to monitoring, the most important element is a list of search terms related to your various brands. These terms should be created by determining how consumers will search for each of them. Depending on the brand, there may be many terms to consider. For example, if one of your of physicians is named Dr. Edgar Wozniak, you might try terms such as “Dr. Edgar Wozniak”, “Doctor Edgar Wozniak”, “Edgar Wozniak MD” and so on. If it’s a physician with a common name such as Dr. Jeff Jones, then you will likely need to add some regional relevance to you search term such as “Dr. Jeff Jones Kalamazoo”.
If your brand is a hospital, you might consider variations like “Barnes Jewish Hospital”, “Barnes Jewish St. Peters”, “BJC Healthcare” among others. There are additional ways to determine search terms by using your website analytics and reports from your local search listings which are beyond the scope of this article.
Assess the existing online presence of your brands
Now that you have a list of search terms, you should perform a search for each of the terms on Google, Yahoo and Bing. This way you can determine if there are any existing reputation management concerns and establish a baseline for what results were displayed at the beginning of your ORM process. The process should then be repeated at least quarterly while saving the results for comparisons and internal reporting.
Set up automatic alerts
There are a wide variety of online tools designed to notify you when new content is generated matching your predefined search terms. These tools are essentially search engines that will send information to you via email or RSS feed as the information is published.
Free Monitoring Tools
- Google Alerts is a powerful service from Google allowing you to save search terms and have content matching those terms delivered to you via email or RSS feed. Google Alerts searches news, blogs, websites, video and groups.
- SocialMention also offers a service called Alerts which is similar to Google Alerts, but it monitors social media content. While they do not offer RSS feeds on saved terms, you can choose to have alerts emailed to you on a daily basis.
- BackType is a real-time, conversational search engine. They index and connect millions of conversations from blogs, social networks and other social media so you can find out what people are saying about your brands. Saved alerts can be delivered to you by email but not RSS.
- Twitter Search is exactly what you would expect. You can search for specific keywords to get a history of tweets matching those words. They offer the ability to receive the information by RSS but not email.
- BoardReader searches online message boards scattered around the Internet for any reference related to you search term. Each search term can be delivered to you via email or through RSS.
- YahooPipes is a very powerful search tool allowing you to combine and filter search results from multiple sources. However, it’s not very user friendly so be prepared for the learning curve.
Paid Monitoring Services
- Trackur is an inexpensive, flexible monitoring service starting at $18 per month.
- TraceBuzz is another inexpensive monthly service offering the monitoring of multiple search terms.
- Radian6 is a robust monitoring and analytics platform targeting large businesses with many brands and search terms.
- Evolve24 is another service targeting large brands with impressive monitoring and analytics
The paid monitoring services just listed are intended for those in need of monitoring multiple brands with multiple search terms. If you are only managing a few brands such as a couple of physicians and a practice, the free monitoring tools will be sufficient. In the following video I demonstrate one way to manage your free alerts in a single location. In order to see it best you may want to click on the “full-screen” button located on the bottom right.
Periodically monitor healthcare review sites and local search reviews
Healthcare review sites
Let me be perfectly clear about my position on physician review sites. Many of these sites are legitimate businesses offering a valuable service to patients. It’s important for patients to have access to this type of information in order to make informed decisions about their own health. On the other hand, the business model for physician review sites includes them aggressively using search engine optimization(SEO) techniques for your brand names. It’s important for the success of their business to show up very high in the search results of your particular brands. Remember that you own your brands and you are responsible for them.
It is never a good strategy to leave your brand in the hands of 3rd party entity that doesn’t specifically represent your best interests. Furthermore, physician review sites are anonymous and provide few barriers (as they should) to submitting a review. This means that anybody can post anything – including disgruntled former employees or competitors. Is it likely to happen? Probably not, but do you want to bet your reputation that it won’t?
When checking the review sites, you should focus on those displayed in the first 2 pages of the search results for you brand. The following is a list of a few sites that generally rank high in search results for healthcare professionals.
Local search reviews
Local search reviews are those reviews included with the local search listings on Google, Yahoo and Bing. I have also added Yelp to this list because it’s a large, independent local review site. You may notice that some of those results are actually added from the healthcare review sites. If that is the case you should take note of which sites are being posted and monitor them closely.
#2 – ENGAGE
As you might expect, this is where social media enters into the process. There are a number of benefits for healthcare brands embracing the social media environment. A more detailed discussion on the topic, can be found at Why Doctors Should Tweet. The following 4 steps necessary for online engagement.
- Determine which social media sites are the best fit for your needs
- Develop a plan for who will manage the social accounts
- Set up social media accounts and populate the profile information
- Connect & communicate with others
Determine which social media sites are the best fit for your needs
Choosing which social media platforms to join is dependent on your specific brand(s). For example, hospitals and multi-specialty clinics probably should have a Facebook fan page and Twitter account, but a radiologist might want to have only Twitter. When making your decisions regarding this matter, you should take into account how many accounts you can effectively manage. The following is a list of social media sites you may want to consider.
Available for organizations and individuals
- Twitter – Despite what you may have heard, Twitter can be an excellent tool for enhancing your online presence. When used properly, Twitter is a great way to connect with other healthcare professionals, share information, learn , listen and interact.
- Facebook – The best place to start with Facebook is to create a personal Facebook profile. Once you have a profile, you can choose to create a Facebook fan page. Fan pages are intended for business purposes so you can create a page for a physician (if that is the most appropriate solution), a practice or a hospital.
- Flickr – Owned by Yahoo, Flickr is photo sharing service. This could include pictures of your office(s), employees, physicians, hospital, etc. The profile information should be detailed and include relevant search terms for your brand.
- Youtube – Owned by Google, Youtube is now the world’s 2nd largest search engine. You can open an account and use it to host video you have created to promote your brands.
- Tumblr is a microblogging service that allows to connect with other and have you blogging in minutes
- Posterous is another microblogging service that is quick and easy. It also offers the added benefit of allowing you to update many of your other social media accounts through their service.
Available for individuals only
- Naymz – You may not have heard of Naymz.com, but it’s a social media newtork for professionals. It matters in this case because you can categorize your healthcare specialty and search engines give the profiles a high relevance ranking.
- LinkedIn – LinkedIn is an excellent professional social media network that allows you display public profile information and connect with other professionals. You will be surprised how many friends and colleagues already have accounts at LinkedIn.
- Plaxo is similar to Linkedin giving you another opportunity to create an additional professional profile.
- Businesscard2 is a profile service allowing you to create an online business card and link back to your other social media accounts.
Develop a plan for who will manage the social accounts
Once social accounts have been created, it’s imperative that they be managed. Therefore, you should establish who exactly is responsible for the day to day or week to week actions and monitoring of the various accounts. If the solution requires allocating responsibilities to multiple people, it’s important to have someone overseeing the activities of all accounts. This way you can be sure objectives are met and the strategy is consistent.
Set up social media accounts and populate the profile information
Setting up the various accounts is an easy process but it will take time. Make sure you have the necessary biographical information, photos, video, links and addresses before you begin. Each of the social accounts will have some form of profile information you can populate with information regarding the brand. It is this information that will help you to connect with others and provide the search engines with the data they need to rank the profile for relevance.
Connect & communicate with others
Different social media sites have different ways to connect with others. It’s important to research and understand the best practices for connecting with others on each of the individual sites. For example, the goal for a Facebook fan page should be connecting with patients but a physician’s personal Facebook page should be reserved for personal connections. With a Twitter account you don’t have as much control over your connections because anyone with a Twitter account can follow your tweets. Generally speaking, the more you tweet on Twitter, the more followers you will obtain.
Most social media sites offer the option of scanning your email address book for existing contacst that already have an account on their site. This is usually a good way start connecting with others.
Now it’s time to put the social in social media by communicating with others. The key here is to keep it professional, but not so professional that it seems forced and impersonal. Here are just a few ideas of appropriate social media communications for healthcare.
- Post links or upload a video
- Announce upcoming events
- Link to important press releases
- Get involved in online conversations related to your specialties
- Post relevant new articles
- Upload photos of employees
- Discuss recent happenings at your hospital
- Pass on public health announcements
The most common objection I hear regarding healthcare and social media is the concern for privacy. Any social media strategy launched by a health care provider should be developed with HIPAA compliance in mind. Hopefully the medical community will find a way to create a standardized policy. In the meantime, Edward Bennett has compiled a nice list of social media policies from hospitals around the country.
#3 – DISSEMINATE
The two biggest objections I hear from healthcare professionals about embracing Internet communication are not enough time and the potential for privacy issues (HIPAA compliance). My answer to these is always the same. There is plenty of valuable information, already at your fingertips, that can be broadcast without violating patient privacy. In fact, disseminating useful health information should be an obligation for healthcare professionals. The Internet is full of health misinformation and physicians can help to combat the problem by delivering quality content.
Good physicians, practices and hospitals make their ongoing education a priority – beyond just CME requirements. Why not share the information that is appropriate for public consumption if you are reading anyway. If you come across a good article regarding patient health, why not pass it along via a post on Twitter, Facebook or a blog. By doing this, you’re online presence will become both valuable and relevant.
A few ways to disemminate good information
- Add a blog to your website
- Link to patient focused health articles
- Become a guest writer for another site such as Examiner.com
- Make a few videos of the physicians in your practice discussing a certain health conditions and upload them to Youtube
- Offer to write a monthly column for your local newspaper website
- Comment on popular health related blogs
#4 – SEARCH OPTIMIZE
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical component to ORM since this will have the greatest impact on what others will find when they search for your brands. When it comes to SEO there are 2 basic types you should consider – local search and conventional search.
One of the relatively recent trends in search marketing is the inclusion of local search results. These are important because when consumers are searching for a healthcare service in a specific area, the search results will display a list of related businesses and a corresponding map.
For example, if you do a Google search for “obstetrician kalamazoo, mi”, you are presented with this result. Notice the first thing Google offers is a list of 5 obstetricians with their respective locations on a map. Each of the listings includes a link to the physician’s website (if the listing has been claimed) and a link to reviews with additional information such as a map for directions, office hours, contact information, photos, insurance carriers and more.
It is possible that you won’t find a listing for one or more of your brands. In this case, you should create a new listing. All existing listings for your brands should be claimed (links below). If you have a medical practice, it’s important for you to claim the local listings for the name of the practice and the names of each physician. You should also make sure each of your locations (if you have more than one) is represented.
The following is a list of what I’ve found to be the most important sites for local search listings.
- Best of the Web
- Alternatively you can have Getlisted.org manage the process
- Another resource for claiming your local listings in19 places can be found here
While claiming these listings has an obvious benefit for marketing, the effect on ORM is the ability to add significant detail regarding your brands. In addition, you will get periodic reporting from some of the local listing sites providing valuable, analytical data. If you browse the local listings for other businesses you will find that some have leveraged this opportunity but most have not.
There are a number of strategies you can implement to create a positive impact on the search relevance of your websites and social media accounts. Most of these strategies are beyond the scope of this article, but the basics should be sufficient enough to affect the search results for your brands.
SEO for your website
- Find a web designer that truly understands SEO and clearly communicate your list of search terms (keywords).
- If you don’t currently have a website integrating web 2.0 technologies, it’s time for a new site.
- It’s a good idea for a medical practice to have a website for the practice itself and a website for each of the physicians.
- Add a blog to your website if you do not already have one. The blog should be updated regularly.
- Research and complete Meta Tag information on your website.
- Work on obtaining as many incoming links to your site as possible. These should be links from relevant sites and not from link exchange services.
SEO for your social media accounts
One of the huge benefits of social media sites is the positive impact they have on SEO. Search engines place a high degree of relevance on social media accounts which means they are likely to rank very high on search results for your brands. Knowing that, your social media account names should reflect your brand and your profile information should include as much content as possible.
- Be sure to complete the profile information in each of your accounts. The more information you can provide the better.
- Try to choose usernames and vanity URLs (when made available) containing your search terms.
- Social media accounts are an opportunity to link back to your primary websites and can easily be interconnected.
- URLs containing names, incoming links from relevant local sites.
In conclusion, the need for ORM as it relates to physicians, practices and hospitals will continue to increase as the Internet evolves into a more mobile, social and transparent environment. In order to protect your healthcare brands, it takes a significant commitment combined with proven strategies. As I mentioned previously in this article, fixing a reputation problem is much more difficult than preventing a reputation problem. So the time to address this issue is now.
The subject of healthcare ORM is complicated and large in scope. In fact, the most difficult part of writing this article was scaling back massive amounts of content into a 10 page blog entry. Since ORM encompasses not just reputation but marketing and public relations, it requires us to look at the business side of providing healthcare from an entirely different perspective. The rules are changing so it’s important to recognize, strategize and adapt.
This article is intended to provide a very basic road map for how to build an ORM strategy. However, each of the individual concepts addressed here can be broken down into a much more advanced ORM solution. If you feel your business can benefit from such a solution please contact us.