For free medical clinics with limited budgets and personnel, here are a few key tools and take-aways for implementing and growing your clinic’s social media presence and enhancing community outreach efforts.

TOOLS

Before you embark on your clinic’s social media marketing, outfit your toolbox with a few staples to help you develop content:

  • CanvaThis is a life-vest for social media managers at non-profits. It’s free, it’s intuitive, professional and visually stunning. You can choose to be as creative and advanced as you dare, or stick to a vast array of pre-built templates – just substitute in your own text and images. Create social media posts, infographics, fliers, brochures, even a clinic newsletter or magazine.
  • HootsuiteIf you only have an hour or so a week to devote to social media, let this site do your weekly bidding for you. Schedule your Facebook posts, Tweets, Google+, you name it. You can make sure to hit all of the peak times for followers during the day, and even track your engagement using their platform analytics feature.
  • Pixabay. Need a copyright free image for a design or post? Browse this site for beautiful, professional and free stock photos. Simply type in a word, like “medicine,” and scroll through until you find the perfect image for your content. This resource is particularly helpful if you plan to develop a free clinic blog.
  • WordPressWant to start a clinic blog? There is no better way to develop new, interesting content for your social media platforms. If your clinic website doesn’t already host a blog platform, develop a free one via WordPress and promote it using your clinic website and social media channels. Browse our Charleston Cares Blog for content ideas!
  • iMovie/ Windows Movie MakerMake use of these applications on your computer to create personalized videos for your website or social media presence. Interview volunteers, tour your clinic, or provide health and wellness tips using these simple programs. Need help figuring it out? Plenty of Youtube tutorials will point you in the right direction.
  • IncompetechNeed free music for the video you just created? Incompetech offers copyright free soundtracks for you to browse and download – then simply drag and drop them into your video as needed. You can search for ideas by identifying the mood of your piece and the genre of music you are interested in.
  • Google AnalyticsSync this platform up with your clinic website or blog, and track what webpages and posts are getting the most action, where your hits are coming from, and more! Following your analytics closely will help you to get a clear picture of what works best for your web presence. *Also, be sure to take control of your Google Business page. Here, you can update information and photos about your clinic. This is the information that will likely come up first to those who are googling your clinic.

YOUR CLINIC’S SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY

Before you begin (or, if you have already “begun” but never considered a strategy), think about the questions below and try to narrow down an overall direction for your social media presence. Keep in mind that different social media platforms may have different targets and goals, depending on those particular audiences.

  • Mission: What is the overall impact and impression your nonprofit is trying to make?
  • Goals: What you want to achieve through your social media pages to support your mission?
  • Target Audience: Who are the types of people you aim to reach with your social media campaign? Volunteers? Donors? Patients? How will you reach each demographic specifically?
  • Content: What are the stories and visuals you will use to engage your audience?
  • Measurement: What are the metrics you will use to track and determine your social media success?

Above all, consider this as you develop your clinic’s strategy: Roughly 90% of what you put out on social media should be… social! How does your content enhance your viewers life? No one wants to follow a commercial or endless solicitation: If all they see is a constant advertisement for your brand or an appeal to donate, they will likely unfollow or mute your activity – and they certainly won’t keep the “likes” coming. Social media is often less about your total brand likes, and more about engagement with your content and followers.

BEST SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS FOR FREE CLINICS

  • FACEBOOKThis is your core base, spanning all ages – though mostly 30-60 year olds. Put the most effort into Facebook if you have little time for anything else. Facebook is the hallmark of social media legitimacy. You can view our recent Volunteers in Medicine VIM Talk presentation, Facebook for Free Clinics, here.
  • TWITTER. Using Twitter will offer your clinic exposure to younger audiences and other businesses, and will help drive traffic to your site via hashtags & links. This platform is tremendous for building relationships with other local businesses and brands, networking with health agencies and clinics, joining in on healthcare tweet chats, and finding sharable resources and content.
  • INSTAGRAM. Not critical for your clinic if you don’t have a lot of free time, but it’s certainly the easiest! Instagram will offer your clinic exposure to younger audiences via hashtags, and is a great source for crossposting on Facebook or Twitter. 
  • YOUTUBEOther than Google, Youtube is actually the second most “searchable” database on the internet. People use this for reviews, questions, and to find more information about your business or product. While this is not critical for your clinic, if you are able to create a channel and take control of your presence using informational videos, short volunteer interviews or health tips, a little can go a long way!
  • GOOGLE BUSINESS It makes sense that Google would promote its own platform above others in a Google search, right? Sharing your content via Google Business will help your clinic stand a stronger chance of boosting SEO and appearing in a search. Update your page periodically with pictures of your clinic, hours and events.

MONITORING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE

Whether you are using Hootsuite to schedule your posts or not, it is important to check in with each of your platforms at least daily to monitor your engagement. Responding to comments and questions in a timely manner is just as important via social media as it is via your office phone or email – perhaps more important, because the public is actually watching this exchange in real time.

A hard and fast rule: Always respond to criticism (and really, any comment, good, bad or bland). The more comments on a post, the more visible the post becomes. If a negative comment arises, apologize if appropriate – and let the person who commented know that you will be following up with them individually to discuss their concerns further. Everyone is watching at this point, so take the upper hand and be professional – and a peacemaker.

There is one exception: If a comment is offensive, abusive, or discriminatory in nature, it’s best to delete the comment and block the user.

SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY

Does your clinic have a Social Media Policy in place? Since free clinics deal with volunteers, patients and sensitive information, adhering to HIPAA guidelines when it comes to on-line content is critical. Develop a social media policy to help lay out general boundaries and best practices for your clinic community – not only for those who post to social media on behalf of your clinic, but also in the personal use of social media for staff and volunteers who ultimately represent your clinic. 

Not sure where to begin? Feel free to view and borrow from this example of a social media policy for your clinic needs: Example- Social Media Policy

RECOMMENDED FOLLOWING VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

These social media accounts, from health and poverty sources to non-profit support sites, will help provide data, articles of interest, and sharable content as you develop your own social media presence. It is also important to engage with your fellow community clinics and non-profits, so look for area hospitals and poverty initiatives near you. ‘Like’, comment on, share, RT (retweet) and join in on hashtag chats when possible.

Volunteers in Medicine (Facebook)

National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (Facebook) (Twitter)

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic (Facebook) (Twitter) *A search of “free clinics” will help you to locate other free clinic accounts.

South Carolina Free Clinic Association (Facebook*You can also search your state’s ‘Free Clinic Association‘ websites for links.

Direct Relief (Facebook) (Twitter)

Americares (Facebook) (Twitter)

Poverty Insights (Facebook) (Twitter)

National Institute on Minority Health (Facebook) (Twitter)

TalkPoverty.Org (Facebook) (Twitter)

American Diabetes Association (Facebook) (Twitter)

American Heart Association (Facebook) (Twitter)

Kaiser Family Foundation (Facebook) (Twitter)

Kaiser Health News (Facebook) (Twitter)

Content Good (Twitter)

NonProfitOrgs (Facebook) (Twitter)

The New England Journal of Medicine (Facebook) (Twitter)

CDC/eHealth (Facebook) (Twitter)

CDC Obesity (Twitter)

CDC Flu (Twitter)

Time Health (Facebook) (Twitter)

WomensHealth.Gov (Facebook) (Twitter)

UCD Poverty Research (Twitter)

National Institute of Mental Health (Facebook) (Twitter)

NYTimes Well (Facebook) (Twitter)

WSJ Health News (Twitter)

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

When is the best time of day to post on social media platforms?

What are the health awareness days, weeks and months?

What are some healthcare hashtags I can use on twitter?

How do I create a movie in iMovie? (Tutorial)

How do I set up a free WordPress blog?

How do I advertise on Facebook?

How do I completely maximize my Facebook business page info?

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Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist – but it is free. We are based out of Charleston, SC, and serve uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube.