The predominant rule of thumb with social media is ‘be where your audience is’. We know they are out there on social media, but where? And how do we find them and engage with them?

Understanding social mediaunderstading social media

Jane Braithwaite says the starting point is to develop a good understanding of the various social media platforms and the demographics of their users so that you can begin to plan your social media strategy using the right channels.

Largely speaking, clinics and doctors will be targeting consumers, not other businesses, so we should be looking at the platforms where the consumer audience is most likely to be.

So, this month, we are focusing on the various social media platforms and the suitability of each, looking at the UK market rather than globally.

Social media marketing is widely considered to be the most cost-effective marketing method, so it’s an area private doctors should be using.

The social media market within the UK is mature and there have been no new competitive entrants in the last year. The ‘big three’ are recognised to be Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but Instagram and Pinterest are making inroads into the market share.

I will consider each of these platforms in turn to show how each is used with a view to helping you to decide which are right for you.


: Has the largest user base –approaching 35m UK users, which is roughly half the UK population;
: 70% of UK users log in daily;
: It has an even split of male/female users.

These statistics have remained consistent over the last year, making Facebook a very appealing platform to utilise. With statistics that put the proportion of over-18-year-olds in the UK using Facebook at 78%, it’s clearly a platform that allows communication with most of the population in one place.

There is a sense that Facebook is less well received by the younger population, but, in fact, the largest demographic using Facebook is in the 20 to 29 age bracket. Broadly speaking, Facebook has the widest and largest cross-demographic outreach of any of the platforms.

For many reasons, Facebook is an excellent platform for business marketing and should probably be considered the primary social media platform for doctors and clinics.

Be aware, though, that the number of people who view your post on Facebook is very low at 10%. The good news is that paid advertising is really cost-effective and we can target the audience when using paid adverts.

When designing your business page, it’s worth thinking broadly about what audiences are interested in and will respond to; could an educational approach appeal to them? For example, this could be a page about orthopaedic surgery which creates useful, expert information rather than one which is solely promotional.

Informed and engaged

In fact, taking an approach that is purely promotional is likely to put off potential followers. Social media users want to be informed and engaged and will react negatively to hard selling.

Facebook can be used with a sense of fun. It is appropriate to be more informal than other platforms and you can add a touch of appealing humour to your posts.

Another strong feature of Facebook is the ability for patients and associates to leave reviews of your service. This customer feedback can be incredibly powerful and you should encourage patients to leave reviews for you.

You need to invest time responding to reviews and comments and thank people for taking the time to review you.

The ability to respond to your client base almost immediately is also very powerful.

Facebook is also very useful for clinics and doctors who run events and speaking engagements.

So, in summary, we are recommending the use of Facebook very highly, especially paid advertising.


: Has 21m UK users – a slight increase on last year;
: But take note, not all these users log in daily: many dip in on a weekly or even monthly basis.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network and doctors could consider their profile on LinkedIn to have the same importance as their website in terms of providing a profile describing their background, education and areas of interest.

Most of our patients will be on LinkedIn and may use it as means to check out doctors and clinics. LinkedIn invests considerable effort in ensuring their results come very high on internet searches. If a patient searches your name on Google or another search engine, the LinkedIn results feature very highly and your LinkedIn profile will be easily found.

LinkedIn allows you to create a personal profile and a business page for your clinic or practice. It is much easier to drive activity from your personal profile, but it’s important to have a business page too. LinkedIn also has numerous groups for you to join and engage with.

Professional platform

For doctors and clinics who choose to use LinkedIn to share information, then good quality content is essential. This is a professional platform and, while some people use it as a social platform, most users frown upon this type of activity and believe it should be kept to Facebook.

LinkedIn offers paid advertising and you may feel this suits your clinic or practice, but we would suggest that you are probably better investing time and money into Facebook.

The main reason for this is that most Facebook users log in daily, whereas LinkedIn users dip in and out on a weekly or even monthly basis.

One specific application where LinkedIn can be very powerful is recruiting staff.

In summary, we would suggest that all doctors and clinics have a presence on LinkedIn, both a personal and business page and these should be very professional. Time should be invested to respond to connection requests and comments on a weekly basis.

A decision to use LinkedIn more proactively for marketing will depend largely on your area of specialty and the patients you are looking to appeal to. In most cases, we would suggest it is not the best platform for marketing.


: Has 15m users, which is approximately 45% of UK adults;
: 62% of users have an income of over £48k;
: 37% login daily.

Twitter has a slightly larger user base than Instagram and it boasts a younger demographic, with 64% users aged 18 to 29 years.

Many individuals use Twitter to keep up with news and information in their areas of interest. For example, Twitter is a very effective way to find immediate reactions to an event – for example, the UK election and the awful tragedies in London.

When you are watching a live TV programme or sports event, Twitter will give you an immediate sense of people’s responses and views.

Twitter is a fast-moving stream of content, which means that, like Facebook, it offers a more casual interaction with users.

In terms of marketing, Twitter can be used to share your brand and personality with your audience. Using good-quality, curated content on Twitter can drive users to your website to find out more information.

Specific demographic

Twitter is a more specific demographic than Facebook and it appears private hospitals do better on Twitter than private doctors and clinics simply because they have a bigger, more diverse audience.

Your Twitter strategy needs to include engaging with other relevant clinics, associates and users and starting a conversation with them.

Ideally, you want to create a situation where other bigger Twitter users ‘like’ and ‘retweet’ your posts to help you gain a wider audience.

Clinics which run, or are involved with, regular events are likely to be more successful on Twitter too because of the nature of the platform. You can use Twitter to build up excitement about an event and particularly on the day of the event itself.

Like Facebook, Twitter is a low-cost advertising platform.

Twitter could be a very useful part of your marketing strategy especially if your patients – and therefore your audience – is in the younger demographic.

It is not as obvious to use effectively as Facebook. The practice of following others and the use of hashtags requires somebody who knows how the platform works and you would be advised to engage an expert to ensure your time and money is invested wisely.


: Has 14m UK users;
: 46% of users have an income of over £48k.

Hot on the heels of Twitter in all senses, Instagram boasts a more visual user experience, with 29% of adults using Instagram and 64% of users aged under 30.

Instagram can be very helpful to drive brand awareness. It’s a highly visual medium and requires original, attractive content every day of the week.

Photos are great and some accounts do very well with created visuals such as quotes and infographics, but, generally speaking, content can’t be repeated on Instagram as it can be on Twitter and Facebook.

Less demanding

Instagram is less demanding than Twitter and Facebook in terms of posting – once a day is fine – but great visual content is hugely important.

So, for many doctors and clinics, it’s just not feasible to run an Instagram account due to the nature of the specialty. There will be differences between clinics and private doctors – cosmetic surgeons and clinics providing beauty treatments could find an audience on Instagram, for example – but it’s more unlikely that knee surgeons would.

Instagram as a platform is unlike the others because you can follow, like and comment relatively privately compared to Twitter and Facebook. Use of Instagram is limited by the lack of a retweet facility or the inclusion of links. You will see many posts stating ‘link in bio’ to try to overcome this weakness.

Instagram does provide a paid advertising option and you will see these paid posts in your feed labelled as ‘Sponsored’. If Insta­gram is the right platform for you, then this can be very effective.

Instagram is a great marketing tool for those of us who offer a visually appealing service. ‘Before’ and ‘after’ shots of cosmetic treatment and weight-loss programmes are numerous. But for many of us, producing appealing images daily may be prohibitive.


Pinterest is quite different to the other platforms and is used more as a personal tool rather than a social media tool. It has less than 15m UK users and less than 15% log in daily. A key difference is that Pinterest has a strong female bias.

The content on Pinterest, like Instagram, needs to be very appeal­ing. Users choose their interests and are fed posts that are likely to appeal to them.
It is hard to see how this platform would be used in a private medical setting.


At this point in time, Facebook is our number-one recommended platform for private doctors and clinics. It gives greatest reach through all demographics and users view the content daily. But remember that paid advertising is essential.

It’s vital to be present on LinkedIn and to have a very professional personal and business profile. LinkedIn can be used to share good-quality content, but we would not advise investing in paid advertising.

Twitter can be a great way to create a community, to engage with others and potentially to drive more visitors to your website if it’s used properly. It’s harder to use effectively than the other platform, so getting some expert advice is essential.

Instagram is best used to build brand awareness and will only suit those of us who can continually produce appealing content.

Pinterest may be relevant to a small group of doctors or practices but, in our opinion, holds narrow appeal.

Finally, once you have decided which platforms will work for you, ask yourself this question: ‘Why would someone follow me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram?’


Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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