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In today’s digital world, being a member of online communities is essential for engaging patients with your brand. Establishing and maintaining online relationships via online communities is critical to the success of your practice.

What exactly is an online community?

An online community is an interactive platform where two-way conversations can serve marketing goals for your practice. Many physicians have started engaging via online communities, as they facilitate communication with patients/potential patients, foster innovation, provide interactive support and help build brand equity. While some people just watch and read the conversations in an online community, there are many who actively participate and share information with their friends, family and peers.

Why being a part of online communities can influence the success of your practice

The healthcare market is teeming with competition, and healthcare providers and hospitals are working to maximize opportunities and redefining strategies for leveraging digital mediums to engage and extend relationship with patients.

There is a famous quote by Albert Einstein, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Online communities offer an edge to your practice, as they enable you to offer information to others that is of value. It creates a sense of trust and credibility will ultimately make your practice successful.

Online communities already exist in one form or the other. For instance, there can be a common set of people reading blogs about preventive measures of a particular disease/disorder and sharing their experiences through comments. If people can be engaged around their information needs by building specific online communities, it can be a symbiotic association – serving the best interests of patients as well as physicians.

Successful online communities can be created on many social media platforms by responding to tweets, lively discussions on LinkedIn, replying to messages and comments on your Facebook page or creating pages for discussion on special topics on all these platforms or your website. The “golden rule” is to provide tailored content customized to the latest trends through which people can get accurate information on topics they are searching for. The empowered digital consumers are smart enough to distinguish reliable, scientifically accurate and informative content amid the vast reserves of online information. They are likely to trust the healthcare provider whose content posts are useful for them, and there’s a high possibility that they will share these post with others. This functions as a medium of online reputation-building for your practice through which many others can learn about you and your practice.

By their nature, online communities are social hubs where providers interact with people in addition to connecting with one another. The discussions and information exchanges that take place from your end reflect a lot about your practice. The social proof that can be developed by analysis of your engagements is a direct representation of your skills, expertise and reputation.

Depending on your online marketing goals and the target groups you want to engage, there are different types of online communities. Whatever areas of interest you identify to build around an online community, always remember to treat them like a garden – you need grow and nurture your community for achieving continuous success.