hashtags in medical marketing

How to use hashtags to market your private practice?

Can a hashtag give you 10% more patients as a specialist doctor? It certainly can. Discover how smart content strategies also drive traffic from specific prequalified audiences to your practice, on platforms that facilitate the use of hashtags: Instagram is the most famous one, but you can also use them on other social media tools. 

hashtags in medical marketing

How to use hashtags to market your private practice?

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

April 11, 2022

The one thing social media fans sometimes forget

hashtags and content marketing

When doctors look at social media, there is either a total disconnect -’I do not like social media’ – or there is excitement. Let’s get on social media and demonstrate that we’re on top of the trends.

Both are pitfalls.

The most important reminder is that hashtags and social media strategies are only one leg to stand on. The second one is your entire content marketing strategy.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Having 2,000 or 200,000 followers as a doctor will flatter your ego at some stage but what really matters is the volume of new patients that come in as a result of your marketing efforts and investments."

Using hashtags for the sake of it, reaching people who become followers and likers of your Instagram or Facebook content, is not necessarily a strategy. 

Driving followers ‘off the platform’ onto a platform that you own (your website) is the logical and more mature strategy and when we work with leading doctors, that is where the conversion happens.

After all when was the last time someone actually booked a consultation in a Facebook comment?

The danger of fake social media strategies

social media pitfalls

The use of hashtags has a similar mechanic on various platforms: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. They facilitate semantic keyword search, and they allow audiences to follow a hashtag. It means that they get any update, posted anywhere on the planet, that uses this specific hashtag, in their feed. 

This is where you need a clear, strategic vision when you start using social media as a doctor.

I’ve had multiple conversations where doctors would focus on the number of followers other doctors had. The obsession with numbers would dominate the conversation until we would bring up a couple of shocking realities about this phenomenon:

  • Many of these high-profile accounts for doctors thrive on followers that were purchased – in other words, they are not locals and they are not candidates to book whatever treatment is on offer.
  • In other cases, profiles are boosted simply because attractive human bodies are on display. Again, the type of followers these accounts attract is not contributing to your patient numbers.
  • Even with these high follower numbers, having few or no engagements when a new post is published, will give it away and tell you that there is no interaction with any local community going on, in other words, there is zero lead generation going on.

Once we let go of the illusion that social media success stories sometimes create, we can have a more authentic and strategic conversation about the use of hashtags in medical marketing.

How to use the right hashtags as a doctor?

hashtags for doctors

This is where it becomes exciting. You have avoided the pitfall of just going after anyone who wants to follow you and you have established that you want quality, not quantity. Enter the space of intelligent social media marketing for doctors. 

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"A quality follower is someone in the catchment area of your health practice who may become a new patient or a referrer, in case they are closely connected to someone with a relevant healthcare need, for example, a parent, a sibling, a friend or a child."

It is important to note that there is no such thing as the one-and-only hashtag to use. Our medical journalists and marketing experts make these choices with our customers, based on the content strategy we develop. 

For example, if you are a holistic dentist and your audience consists of patients who prefer a more natural approach to dentistry, you would look at the popular hashtags used by naturopaths. If you are in sports podiatry or sports orthopaedics, you will look into hashtags that are widely used by athletes and sportspeople.

That includes hashtags such as:
 #runners
 #running
 #run
 #runner
 #instarunners
 #runningmotivation
 #runnersofinstagram
 #instarun

You would then refine your hashtag strategy by looking at the upcoming local sports events with a relevant connection to your medical specialty and add them to your list.

It goes without saying that the hashtag is only one component. Your strategic work with your marketing agency should always start from the bigger picture:

  • Who is my ideal patient and how do I reach them at various stages of their healthcare journey, from prevention all the way through to recovery after treatment?
  • What are the activities, concerns, research areas, lifestyle topics and trends my ideal patient could be connected with?
  • What is the value I have on my website as a thought leader and educator in these areas?
  • What are the hashtags that I can use to push my educational content to these captive audiences?
hashtags in medical marketing

Avoid overdoing it with medical hashtags

hashtag tips for doctors

Many social media strategies for doctors were set up in a do-it-yourself context or done by a Practice Manager who spends a lot of time on social media, not in healthcare communication. 

As a result, it may have seemed like a good idea at the time to add these hashtags to a post about your latest successful hip replacement as a hip surgeon:
 #hipreplacement
 #anteriorhipreplacement
 #directanteriortotalhiparthroplasty
 #greatbeingasurgeon

What we see here is inconsistency and a lack of strategic vision. If our target audience is the catchment area of a specific hospital, it’s worth considering the hospital name and the capital city or town name.

Three hashtags are enough because you don’t want to overload the post with more hashtag content than the copy. The third one could be #hipreplacement if you are posting to peers (general practitioners, podiatrists, physiotherapists) and it could be the one of a local sports event if your story can be linked to running again after a hip replacement, or how to train for a swim event after hip replacement.

Like most things in content marketing, hashtags are not bits-and-bytes you enter into a computer to make things happen. They are part of your content strategy, a way to amplify your message and make it pop up on someone’s screen. Quality of quantity. That is how we generate new patient leads, not just followers.

How to connect hashtags to content marketing

social media marketing for doctors

True digital magic happens when – as a doctor- you get a great return on investment from your medical social media strategy. It happens when every post on your social media channels is consistent with your main goals:

  • To generate more conversations with prospective new patients
  • To build a leadership profile so people remember your name
  • To make it easier for people to refer to you, forwarding your social media post to a friend or relative

The proven way to get more get ROI is to link it back to your medical website.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"People don’t commit to a medical treatment on social media. They follow, like, comment and share, but they don’t give their full trust to a surgeon or specialist doctor based on the posts they see. If you don’t have the next step in place as part of your medical marketing strategy, chances are you are just wasting resources on social media."

Moving patients off the social media platform and onto your own is pivotal here. It means that you are now in control of the buttons. On social, there is the constant habit to keep scrolling, liking and commenting, to get distracted.

Once a patient makes a conscious decision to click away from a social media platform onto your website, we have a new level of conversation, even though it is still digital.

A patient who now skims through a relevant article about the main topic of the post moves closer to the ‘buying decision’. As a doctor, you may think that is just a horrible marketing word, but when we are talking about increasing your patient numbers, we can replace it with a more appropriate conclusion: Once a patient moves from Facebook or Instagram to your web page about obesity surgery, antenatal care or anterior hip replacement, they are one step closer to become your next new patient.

And wasn’t that exactly what we had in mind when we started this journey together at the start of the article?

Smart hashtag marketing is just another component of medical content marketing. The hashtags on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even YouTube all contribute to the flow of relevant traffic (real people from your local area) to your content (relevant quality content on your own medical website).

The next step is of course to make that website content convert but that is part of many other articles here in our Grow! magazine.

Let's meet

Tell us if you want more #hashtag­clarity

social media in medical

Social media in medical marketing needs an approach that complies with medical marketing regulations. It also needs a strategic view on the patient’s online behaviour and here at Digital Practice we have been analysing, monitoring and mapping online patient behaviour for almost any medical specialty since 2015. It puts us in a great position to explore your own practice growth ambitions and to plan and execute your strategy with #ahighchanceofsuccess. That was a very poor hashtag by the way. 

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