social media guide for doctors

The simple social media guide for doctors

Are you uncertain about the right way to use social media as a doctor? We thought the time was right to publish a really easy social media guide for doctors in private practice and even for your work in the public sector. Warning: we will keep this social media guide for doctors really simple.

Social Media Guide For Doctors

Social media guide for doctors (public and private)

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

October 23, 2022

Let’s first clear the air. Social media or not?

AHPRA restrictions

AHPRA restrictions are the elephant in the room. So let’s tackle those first in our social media guide for doctors.

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

"Nobody, not even AHPRA, is telling you that you can not communicate on social media as a doctor. The Advertising Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals are there to protect the customer or patient. If you communicate in an ethical way, you can do a lot."

So with that clarified, let me be clear. AHPRA is not a valid reason to state that as a doctor, you will not be using Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Business or email marketing. Ever.  Consumer behaviour in healthcare is moving fast. That’s why a social media guide for doctors was long overdue. I’d say there are good reasons to at least open the door and consider a social media strategy for your career, whether it’s in the public space or as the owner of a private practice. Let’s carefully unpack the dos and don’ts now, and also look at that potential feeling I often detect when I work with doctors: reluctance to look at social media in more detail. 
The simple social media guide for doctors

The big question: Why would doctors use social media?

doctors on social media

Let’s assume for a moment you are now reassured.

AHPRA’s Guidelines have been clarified in recent years: No testimonials, no unsubstantiated claims, no package deals, no promotion of medication, no promotion for unnecessary treatment, no false representations or risks and a few more guidelines. This is by no means an absolute summary but a brief reminder of the spirit of these guidelines. 

If you are wondering why – as a surgeon or doctor – you would use social media, let’s go over a few potential reasons:

  • Authority: If you want your name to be part of word-of-mouth referrals, conversations in your local community, publishing content that supports your role as a key opinion leader is a must. Without this content, you are fighting an uphill battle, particularly if your colleagues are all publishing content and you are invisible. 
  • Referral generation: Well-chosen posts and articles sent to an audience of potential referrers can boost your practice. Always make sure you are covering the whole range of referrers. For some specialists, the focus might be GPs, but in other cases, school principals can be referrers for psychologists, optometrists for laser eye surgeons etc.
  • Google visibility: Did you know that Google keeps track not just of the content on your website (to see if your content is high quality, optimised for the user and worth being ranked high in Google Search results- Check this article if your practice is not ranking well on Google). 

I have to add a few more disclaimers here in our social media guide for doctors. You always want to make sure that whoever creates and publishes on your behalf knows what they are doing. After all, you are trusting them to handle an important aspect of your reputation as a surgeon, a specialist doctor or allied health professional.

Secondly, you want to make sure the use of social media platforms is in line with the business goals for your private practice. 


Instagram. Facebook. LinkedIn. Anything else?

social media platforms

Here at Digital Practice, when we design a full medical marketing strategy for a clinic, an individual doctor or a group practice, we get strategic before we start.

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

"Ask yourself, why are you using social media? To get more patients is a good executive summary. But how about this. I am using social media to build a strong reputation and generate more enquiries in the local community for my unique approach to endometriosis treatment and ways to improve a woman’s chances of conceiving without IVF, because of my longer and more in-depth consultations."

Only a medical marketing agency with senior team members will take the strategic work to this level.

Only after doing this foundational work are you ready for the next question. Which platform will help me achieve my goals?

There is no one-size-fits-all advice for doctors on the best social media platforms for medical marketing.

If your services are highly elective and a nice-to-have kind of treatment or surgery:
If you are marketing for breast enhancement, teeth whitening, rhinoplasty or certain forms of non-essential intervention, then your audience is shopping around. Reading up on procedures, treatment options and the people who provide those services. In this case, it pays to be on Facebook and Instagram and to build an educator profile. If your name pops up, it will echo in word-of-mouth conversations and you will generate additional leads.

If your services are highly specialised and involve life-threatening conditions:
If you are marketing for cancer treatment, orthopaedic surgery, gynaecology, then there is a higher degree of urgency when a patient starts googling around. It always starts with making sure you show up in Google searches, and the next layer you can add to your medical marketing campaign is about making sure you position yourself as a key opinion leaders toward referrals. Typically, you would connect with GPs on LinkedIn and publish content that keeps you top of mind. Book a free 1:1 Strategy Session to explore how we can set this up for your practice.

If you work in a very competitive niche:
The content you publish on social media allows you to build a unique profile in the mind of referrers and patients. Remember, this type of work happens long before someone actively needs your services. With an immediate need, they will go on Google. Before anyone reaches that state of relative urgency, your content on the right social media platform reminds the community of your role as an educator, and your leadership status in your specialty area.

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

"If you work in a competitive specialty, make sure you develop a unique brand positioning strategy for yourself as a doctor, or for your group as a brand. Amplify the one or two reasons why patients should choose you over a competitor and work on the verbal and visual aspects of that profile."

Can you see now that a social media guide for doctors is not a standalone item? It needs a 360-degree vision for your practice as a business. An ongoing mindset of growth and communication with the patient and referrer in mind.

The mini guide to YouTube as a doctor

video marketing

Video marketing is the core of online communication for many corporate brands. It has become such an essential part of online content that we no longer pause to observe that there is a video.

So how come doctors are reluctant to go on camera and talk?

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

"This generation of doctors will be the last generation that did not grow up with YouTube, Instagram Live and Tiktok. That simple reality should be a warning sign if you plan on being in practice for 5 years or longer. A new generation of video-savvy doctors is entering the market as we speak."

It is in no way my intention to paint a grim picture here. Of course, young fellows have to build experience in the surgical and clinical field and just having YouTube skills won’t put them in a position to be your competitor in the coming months.

So why would you start using YouTube as a social media channel? The major benefits we see in medical marketing are game-changers:

  • Video builds rapport
  • Video keeps patients on your pages for longer and Google flags it as a validation of your content in general
  • Video on YouTube becomes an extra item that Google can detect in itself, provided it is properly tagged with the most relevant keywords in the description

Video production has become a no-brainer and you can do it from anywhere anytime, using your smartphone. If you are in doubt and want to learn more, book a free 1:1 Strategy Session and mention that you’d like to get started with medical video marketing.

The one thing you do before going on social media

google strategy

As tempting and innovative it may seem to go all the way on social media…here’s a bit of boring and unpopular advice.

First optimise your Google strategy.

This is going to sound really bad when we talk about healthcare but I’ll use the expression anyway. The willingness to buy is higher when people have a real need for something. The best way to measure that is if they start doing multiple Google searches in an area. A symptom they experience or a suggestion made by their general practitioner.

There is a different intent behind a Google Search, compared to the act of clicking on social media content. The decision to follow someone may be step 1, but what if your website offers no content or presents it in an old-fashioned, academic and unwelcoming way?

A Google strategy ensures you capture the low-hanging fruit. You can find plenty of inspiring articles here in our Digital Practice Grow magazine about optimising your medical marketing profile for Google visibility. That’s what we call Search Engine Optimisation.

Let's meet

We’re here to talk about social media

social media advice for doctors

Social media advice for doctors is a broad area. This simple social media guide for doctors gives you a perspective and it can be a great starting point for our conversation. If you want to use us as a sounding board to explore your own future social media strategy as a surgeon or specialist doctor, why not book a free consultation?

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