If you frequent just about any social media site these days, you’re probably familiar with the hashtag. Using a hashtag (or pound symbol: #) in front of a word or phrase creates a clickable link that collects other users tweets or statuses that also include that hashtag. For instance, if you write a tweet about your weekend plans including the hashtag “#TGIF” and then click the link Twitter creates out of your hashtag, you’d likely see hundreds of thousands of tweets from users also praising the weekend. Because of this connection, hashtags are a great—and often underutilized—marketing tool.
Healthcare Social Media: Hashtags Across all Networks
And hashtags are clearly not going anywhere. At one point, they were unique to Twitter, but now other social media platforms have jumped on board. Facebook, Instagram, and Google+ all employ hashtag links, so you can benefit from connections across all of your healthcare practice’s profiles. To help encourage you to embrace the hashtag, we’ve come up with five ways they can influence your marketing.
5 of the Best Ways to Use Hashtags
Hold a Live Chat on Twitter: Perhaps you’ve received feedback from your patients that they wish doctors were more readily available to answer basic health inquiries and curiosities. A hashtag delegated live chat is the perfect forum for taking that feedback to heart. Announce that patients will be able to tweet questions with the hashtag #AskDrSmith between a certain time period. Doctors will be able to follow the tweets and answer the questions as they come in by searching for all tweets containing the hashtag.Stage a Giveaway: Offering a contest is a great way to bring in new followers and create traffic to your social media sites. For instance, say “Happy Hospital” has been working on an exercise initiative with the local gym and has a free membership to give away. They might post a blog explaining the contest and encouraging contestants to enter by posting a status, tweet, or photo to Instagram about their favorite way to exercise with the hashtag #HappyHospitalFitnessPlan. Happy Hospital would then randomly select a winner from the posts by searching for the hashtag.Take a Poll: Feedback is a great way to make your patients feel involved in their standard of care. By creating a feedback hashtag, you can invite your patients to be active participants in your practice’s growth and development. Whether it’s a one-time poll (“What are your thoughts on the new healthcare portal? Tweet with the hashtag #portalfeedback to let us know!), or something more long term, seeking out feedback lets your patients know you care. For long term feedback, you could even consider posting a sign at your reception desk: “How was your visit? Tell us! #HappyHospitalFeedback.”Collect Information: Since hashtags have the great ability to link posts from extended periods of time into one collection, you can use them to connect posts of similar categories and provide easy reference for yourself and your followers. Maybe you have a regular “Patient Stories” feature onyour blog. Well, anytime you promote those posts on your social media platforms, you can tag them with #HappyHospitalPatientStories and have them collected by the hashtag for easy access. You can employ a similar method for categorizing posts that you might use on your blog so users can search your hashtags in the same way they would search your blog archives.Join a Broader Conversation: Perhaps the best quality of hashtags is their ability to connect similar interests across a whole range of users. Using broader categories in your hashtags is a great way to connect with other healthcare practices, medical professionals, or concerned patients for a unique exchange of information. Just as you can tag your posts with hashtags like #hearthealth and #cancerresearch, you can also search to see what the conversation about those categories currently is on any given day. Plus, interacting in the broader conversation is a great way to amass new followers and bring attention to your practice.
We’ve found that content marketing works best when it makes the world feel small and hashtags certainly seem to have that effect on social media at large. You’ve probably heard us say a time or two (or twenty…) that social media is all about connecting. Well, hashtags are a great resource for finding and making connections while taking big strides in your marketing plan. Hashtags can help make your healthcare practice more visible, while simultaneously allowing users to feel involved in daily processes.