Marketing via social media has many advantages for small businesses of all types.  It’s a non-salesy way to connect with customers at lower out-of-pocket cost to start up than traditional advertising.  No wonder so many medical practices are exploring how they can get started with social media — and no wonder that so many ‘experts’ are at the ready to tell physicians how they should get started.

Usually, the advice begins by offering an entry point to begin using the social web.  “Start by creating a blog,” the advice might read.  Or, “Facebook reaches more people and it’s easy to create your presence.”  However, what this advice sometimes fails to consider is the personal connection that is the key to social media success.

Users of these networks already know what engages them and what doesn’t.  Non-users who jump into social media as a marketers first, though, tend to stick out like sore thumbs. It’s not that there’s anything that mysterious about using social media — after all, Facebook has 700 million users precisely because it’s easy to use! — but there is a certain flow to how people use it that’s important to understand.

So, before you try social media as a marketing tool, try it first as a user.  For example, before starting a Facebook page, set yourself up with a Facebook account, and subscribe — i.e., ‘like’ — different organizations to see how they interact with their followers.  (A few examples we like in medicine: Children’s Hospital Boston, MacArthur OB/GYN, Kaiser Permanente, One Medical Group.)

Another way to put your toe in the water with blogging: start out as a commenter.  This is a great first step for would-be bloggers — and, in addition to building your online reputation, comments on other physicians’ blogs can give you links back to your website. The range of blogs published regularly and inspiring comments is as diverse as the population of physicians: something for everyone.  Some lively medical blogs you might want to check out include Dr. Wes, KevinMD, Movin’ Meat, Pharmalot, Diabetes Mine, Buckeye Surgeon — plus, we’d naturally love to have you comment on any of our posts here at Capko.com.

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