How do you reach your audience when you have news to share – newsletters by email? Signs in the waiting room? In an era where contact time is compromised and the patient-doctor relationship is under threat, what can you as a practice manager do to reinforce the sense of wraparound care your surgery wants to uphold? Twitter offers business owners and service providers the opportunity to add value and communicate easily with their customers, and there’s no reason why your surgery shouldn’t be on it. Learn a few tips and tricks from us and you’ll get the maximum out of your twitter account.
Check It Out
Go to Twitter.com and use the integrated search bar to get an idea of who else is on Twitter in your area. Chances are, your local doctors surgery and dentist are using Twitter to engage their audience, get feedback and share information updates. See what they’re tweeting about to get an idea of how they’re using this free service to improve the way they connect with their public. Next, have a look at what other general practices are tweeting about to get a sense of what’s useful and what’s not.
You or the Practice
If you want to use Twitter to promote the Practice and inform patients, then it’s best to set the account up as the Practice, rather than yourself as the Practice Manager.. By that I mean pick a username like LakesideGP. You get a limited amount of characters for your username so you may have to abbreviate it using GP. Here are some live examples:
This General Practice tweets a lot of interesting human facts:
But remember not to go overboard with one style of tweet. Try and mix it up as much as you can to keep your feed varied.
Set Up An Account
Signing up to Twitter takes minutes. If you think you might want other staff to share the Tweeting responsibilities, use a common email account rather than your own one. Choose an unusual password to avoid being hacked by chancers, and share it on a strictly need-to-know basis. Go for a username that your patients are likely to search for, and write a nice succinct bio for your profile. Again, see what other surgeries write to get an idea of what works.
Time to start following accounts you’d find it useful to get updates from. Remember, Twitter is as much about receiving news as it is a platform for broadcast. The best users recognise this and treat it as a two-way forum and not just a soapbox! We also recommend following accounts like @NHSChoices. @nhs_headlines, @NHSEngland @BBCBreaking and of course, @practiceindexgp for starters. Then cast the net wider and follow other local businesses and care providers. In all likelihood, they’ll follow you back and become part of your audience. Retweet interesting news and updates too, so your patient followers get access to relevant local and industry-related happenings. Even if you’re sharing news of unplanned roadworks in your town centre, it’ll create that sense of community and care you’re keen to foster.
This is the most important bit. First of all, you should use the platform to share important updates like changes to opening hours, details on new GPs and links to your latest newsletter. Next, use it to start conversations with your followers. Once your patients know you’re on Twitter (make some posters to publicise this in your waiting room) you can start asking them for feedback and opinion on how to improve things – and let them know they can tweet you any questions they have as well. Just make sure you have someone manning the account on a daily basis so you can respond in a timely manner, and it may be worth making it clear that medical and appointment-related questions can’t be handled on Twitter! Responding to patients’ queries on Twitter will publicise both the question and the answer, so answering one query on Twitter can in theory cut down on several incoming phone calls.
Is your practice already on Twitter? What are your top tips for getting the most out of it?