Clinical marketing, and in particular social media, is a subject which I have found to divide professionals across healthcare and medicine. In the small amount of time I have been employed in private practice and even in the student training clinics, the issue of marketing and self promotion seems a dynamic quandary for qualified practitioners and students alike.

I was speaking with a colleague over lunch during the past week, a qualified osteopath who has been practicing in multi-disciplinary teams for over 25 years. She told me that, in no uncertain terms would she ever ‘waste money throwing it at a public relations company who don’t understand what we do as practitioners’. I found this to be an incredibly interesting viewpoint, as on one hand, yes – as an osteopath she is successful, operating a number of clinics and working as an associate practitioner at a number of others. She is unquestionably very good at her job, and if she has built up this level of practice without any online marketing – then why start now?

However with the speed at which social networking platforms are now evolving in terms of business and practice opportunities for healthcare professionals across the spectrum, and the sheer opportunity for expanding outreach to potential patients as well as to other institutes, surely she is mistaken in overlooking social media as a useful addition to the self-promotion toolkit?

As a student osteopath, I have what may be viewed as a bit of a fortuitous luxury, of having grown up with most of this new technology. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn amongst many others, are all proven successes for small businesses and large institutes alike. Furthermore, these platforms all offer the ability for us as practitioners to engage with a vast, targeted audience and interact with said audience in a wealth of ways. In private practice, the ability to quickly and efficiently answer comments and questions posed to clinicians on social platforms can turn quick queries into paying patients – and beyond. Targeted post reach on platforms such as Facebook can work wonders for small clinics looking to expand or branch out – and informative, attractive tweets develop brand recognition brilliantly. I have seen this firsthand in the clinic I work at, where I am part of the clinical marketing team and where in fact just recently, we had one of our tweets featured in the Institute of Osteopathy’s national publication Osteopathy Today – as an example of good clinical marketing strategy.

Recent clinic expansion projects and campaigns have called into question the most efficient direction of funds, and a particular area of success we have found is quick and efficient response to questions from members of the public. It takes a mere couple of minutes search across Twitter to find surgeons using twitter polls as an efficacious method of interacting with the populace across a variety of issues (a brilliant example of this is Mr. Olivier Branford, a leading plastic surgeon who devotes a huge amount of time to correct social media strategy).

There is no doubt that brand recognition and professional expansion as an osteopath has benefited dramatically from the advent of social media. Personally, I believe that in osteopathic education more focus should be placed on social media to prepare a student for the strategy involved in life in private practice. Building a brand, whether it is as a clinic or a sole practitioner, takes a tremendous amount of effort – and if some of that load can be shared by the cheap and streamlined services offered by the current platforms, regardless of how much experience in practice an osteopath has, it is an utter no-brainer.

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