Your reputation, both online and off, is extremely important. While you undoubtedly know this, you may not know how to identify your online reputation and how to impact it in a positive direction. This blog will help you with both matters.
What is an Online Reputation and Why Does it Matter?
Your online reputation reflects how patients perceive you. Posts can be found in forums, social media posts, blogs and other, more specifically, sites, such as Google, HealthGrades, RealSelf and others.
Online reputations include not only what others say about you—past and current patients as well as those who may have had a consultation but chose not to pursue a treatment or procedure—but includes all your online activity, such as posts to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and your practice blog. Every comment that you post to forums, such as RealSelf, or on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, can be used to influence your online reputation.
If a prospective patient does a Google search for your name and finds only positive information—such as comments on Yelp, RealSelf, HealthGrades, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites—they’re highly likely to see you as a favorable prospect for the procedure or treatment that they seek. Conversely, if a prospective patient finds negative reviews and comments about you scattered throughout the first few results, they are highly likely to avoid your practice. According to a study by the Bing search engine, finding a single negative result on Google’s first page can reduce traffic to your website by as much as 50%. Albeit that study was done six years ago, the facts haven’t changed: people tend to be influenced by what they read: they avoid practices that others find problematic and, as unrealistic as it is, they believe what they read without knowing anything about the person(s) sharing the negative viewpoint. Obviously, it is somewhat urgent that you understand how others see you when they look for you online.
How to Find Your Online Reputation
There are numerous sites that speak to the reputation of a physician, including the following on the list below. It’s important that you or a staff member spend the necessary time perusing each of these sites once a month to see what’s being said about your practice.
- Google Business Profile
- Groupon (applicable only if you have ever offered a Groupon option)
How to Influence Your Online Reputation
Let’s assume you or an employee has visited the sites above to identify your online reputation. If every poster says you’re the most wonderful physician in the world, you can heave a sigh of relief and go about your day. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Patients who are highly satisfied will rarely post their delight about you online. Patients who are even minimally dissatisfied tend to post more often.
Should You Respond to Negative Online Posts?
Yes, yes, and yes. If you fail to respond to posts that criticize you and/or the practice (staff, policies, prices, etc), you allow every single reader of those posts to assume that the posts accurately reflect you and/or your business. You simply must respond. Just be sure to abide by HIPAA regulations and try to take the conversation offline when you do.
It’s important, however, that you maintain the highest level of civility. It’s your job to “take the high road” to show others that you are open to criticism and willing to discuss the poster’s dissatisfaction via a phone call to your office. Don’t defend your office, don’t deny the post, just thank them for reaching out to you and offer to ameliorate the situation by hearing them out offline. Obviously, if they are posting untrue, defamatory statements you can involve your attorney, assuming you can identify the poster, which isn’t always the case.
Use These Simple Tools to Boost A Positive Reputation Online
- Encourage patients to post reviews on the sites above. You won’t get what you don’t ask for, so ask!
- Sign up for an Online Reputation Management system like Global Online Reviews & Listing Management for cosmetic practices.
- Send an email to patients after procedures and treatments with a link to post a review.
- Create a simple printed flyer with the list of sites on which they can post a review.
- Make it even easier by giving patients a QR code that links them to the right spot to leave a review.
- Post requests for reviews on your social media sites, i.e., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
- Be sure to tell patients where you want them to post.
- Post testimonials on your website, in your newsletters, and in the office (use only each patient’s first name and last initial or Anonymous if indicated).
- Activate your Review Tab on Facebook, a simple click of a button that allows your FB fans to post reviews.
- Consider engaging a Reputation Management Firm. A simple Google search will give you an idea of the magnitude of help available—for a price.
Since 90% of patients check online reviews first before choosing an elective practitioner, you must make sure that you are actively managing the reviews you receive. This way, you’re in control of how your brand is perceived by potential patients.