Social media has permeated just about every facet of modern life. It has become part of our culture. Today, people keep in touch and find information via text messages, tweets, snapchats, Facebook posts, and from Google. Social media is here to stay, and it’s important to know how to use it properly to promote your independent pharmacy.
Social media offers a unique opportunity to reach hundreds of current and future customers with your messages, which can be extremely helpful for your pharmacy business. Social media can act as a vehicle to deliver a wealth of information instantly. It enables pharmacy owners to gain important feedback from customer surveys and allows pharmacists to communicate with patients, and share valuable advice. Communication using social media can also allow you to share store updates, health recommendations, product reviews, photos, videos, and links to websites devoted to health matters. Social media engagement helps foster customer relationships, communication, and connection with your local community.
However, there are many important things to consider when you engage in a social media program for your pharmacy–like protecting patient privacy. Here’s a deeper look at best practices for using social media for your pharmacy.
Learn the Standards
Being a pharmacist requires special knowledge when it comes to social media. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) encourages pharmacy owners to rely on social media for educating the public about different medications and for providing information on proper usage. Additionally, the ASHP strongly warns against violation of patient privacy and confidentiality and encourages pharmacists to be mindful of what they post on social media. To ensure that patient privacy isn’t being violated, you should:
- Adhere to all laws, regulations, standards, and other mandates intended to protect patient privacy and confidentiality
- Exercise professional judgement and best practices as they relate with compliance and privacy requirements and always refrain from sharing specific patient information
- Select privacy settings on your social media accounts that provide the greatest degree of protection for personal information while keeping in mind that privacy settings are not perfect
Use the Right Networks
There’s a social network for just about everything nowadays. Each social media site is focused on a specific user type, and not everybody is on every single social network. The networks that you personally use may not be the ones your patients are using and vice versa. Look at your target audience and/or average customer and find networks that cater to that audience. For example, if the majority of your customers are family-oriented and live in suburban neighborhoods, they are most likely on Facebook. On the other hand, if your average customer is a young professional who spends a majority of her time at work, you may be able to reach her via Twitter, as this network provides instant access to the latest news and events. Before making a new profile, ask your customers what social media sites they use. Then, you know that you will be creating the profiles that are most likely to reach your customers.
With all of the different social media sites out there, it can be difficult to know the difference between them all. Here are the major differences between the major social networks: Facebook has a general population of users while LinkedIn is primarily used for business and professional networking. YouTube is the largest video hosting service and can offer a unique opportunity to post DIY and educational health videos. Twitter is used for instant communication to followers. The use of #hashtags will allow you to target to pharmacy and health related groups.
Know the Potential Dangers
Social media can be incredibly powerful, but it’s important to remember that with great power comes great responsibility. Facebook and Twitter messages can be a great way to communicate to the masses, but once a post or tweet is created, it can be hard to delete. It’s easy to delete messages from your page, but once others see them, they are out there, available for people to view, copy and save. An inappropriate post or privacy violation can instantly turn people off or worse, get your pharmacy in trouble for patient confidentiality issues.
Social media gives your pharmacy a fantastic tool to communicate with customers and position your business as a health leader in the community. Your pharmacy can post helpful information that to educate consumers about health issues, epidemics, immunizations, screenings and anything else your target customer would find valuable. Social media is here to stay, and the pharmacies that choose to engage are going to have the best results.