How One Small Doctors' Office Uses Facebook

by Kevin Casey on August 2, 2011
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Click through a collection of Facebook Pages and you’re likely to see a lot of retail, entertainment, and other consumer-focused small businesses trying to get the word out. But an OB-GYN? How does Facebook work for a medical practice?

Comprehensive OB-GYN of the Palm Beaches, a two-physician practice based in West Palm Beach, Florida, launched a page in March to help generate interest in its small office. Chris Heuwetter, whose own small firm, TwiloPR, handles online marketing for the practice, says the doctors thought Facebook would be a good venue to engage with current and prospective patients about women’s health — especially younger ones.

The decision was also fueled by doubts about the effectiveness of some of the office’s traditional marketing channels; though Comprehensive just re-upped its phone book ad, it isn’t sure how much return it’s getting on the investment. “The more sophisticated customers are searching online, they’re not going to the Yellow Pages,” Heuwetter says.

While you might not immediately think of your doctor and Facebook in the same vein, Heuwetter says that Comprehensive has seen quick results: “It’s actually working better than I see [Facebook] working in other industries.”

Since the page launched, it has garnered some 850 Likes. One of the key catalysts was a contest that urged visitors to post a baby picture, with the most Likes determining the winner. Comprehensive will soon run a similar promotion that asks patients to submit a family photo of three generations of women.

“To us, that means that’s another person that could be a patient that’s not already, or keeping us top of mind for women to stay in touch with their health needs,” Heuwetter says.

Better still, Heuwetter says the practice has gotten around 200 Facebook check-ins at its office — Comprehensive donates $1 to the Susan G. Komen Foundation each time someone does so, showing how marketing and philanthropy can go hand in hand. “Obviously, there’s no product that we can give them a discount on,” Heuwetter says, noting a key difference between healthcare and a retail business. Charity promotion is one of four options Facebook offers businesses that do check-in deals. “We thought about how we could use that to our advantage and we naturally tied it in with Komen, which is obviously a very popular women’s charity,” Heuwetter says.

The check-in deal offers a key takeaway: Conventional social media advice doesn’t apply to every business and needs to be reconsidered for particular industry or organizational needs.

Another example: While the standard-issue wisdom says it’s all about interaction — the word “social” should be a clue there — that’s not necessarily the case for a compliance-heavy industry such as healthcare.

“We’re not looking for huge participation,” Heuwetter says, noting that the sensitive nature of healthcare and patient information means its Facebook page is more about providing information rather than interaction. “Health is a very private matter, and I don’t think people tend to chime in as quickly as they would with their favorite beverage.”

Another lesson learned from Comprehensive: Set realistic goals. 850 Likes might not make the front page, but the office is thrilled with the results. “This is a very local health practice, so you have to keep the numbers in perspective,” Heuwetter says, adding that smaller firms shouldn’t try to stack up with big ones. “Don’t get caught up in the numbers — it definitely needs to be proportionate.”

Kevin Casey is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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