“Word of mouth” (WOM) is, by far, the most effective form of advertising. It is based on a phenomenon that causes individuals to follow the actions of others due to social influence. However, word of mouth is not new; individuals have always talked about and shared their experiences, opinions, needs, and emotions on certain products and services. With the advancement of social media, the role of word of mouth has simply evolved. This, in turn, has changed the way businesses use word of mouth advertising, as well as how the power of word of mouth affects businesses.
In the age of social media, word of mouth can travel extremely fast and can be either positive or negative. For instance, Uber is an example of a balanced relationship between drivers and passengers; they rate one another, each either helping or hurting each other’s profile for future references. The world has reached a point where more than 80% of individuals trust customer recommendations. In fact, the power of word of mouth is one of the main reasons why businesses get involved in social media marketing in the first place. They listen for feedback spoken about them, their competition, and the market as a whole. In a way, word of mouth is listening and joining in on the conversation.
Putting aside word of mouth for advertising purposes, it is a highly effective concept that occurs anytime individuals get together. Think about it this way: for word of mouth to occur, an individual needs to talk and others around them need to listen. You have been in a situation yourself when you have spoken about your thoughts and opinions on the latest news, health, the weather, recent events, past experiences, and more. Word of mouth is exactly this. It is voicing your opinions, experiences, and emotions to those around you.
New features in search engines and social media websites are allowing users to look to their network for a doctor recommendation in their area. For this reason, doctors are beginning to rely more and more on word-of-mouth recommendations in order to appeal to prospective patients. Survey reports show that, on a worldwide level, word-of-mouth recommendations from family members and friends are the most trusted and influential source of information. What’s more, online reviews are also considered a reliable source due to the reach and frequency magnified by the internet. Now, more than ever, word-of-mouth references are being amplified on social media channels. As the healthcare industry continues to grow and competition intensifies, it is important for doctors, such as you, to inspire word-of-mouth advertising. However, this does not simply happen overnight.
First and foremost, you have to be able to understand a patient’s motivation for recommending you and your medical practice to others. In general, patients spread the word when you have done something remarkable, when they trust and value what you have to say, or even when they want to associate your name with your brand. Below are some of the ways in which you can inspire word-of-mouth advertising:
- Go beyond exceeding your patients’ expectations and offer high-quality customer service
- Make physical, nonverbal statements that are generous, unique, and unexpected
- Build a face-to-face relationship with every patient
- Connect with each patient on a personal level and establish your genuine concern for their well-being
- Create a budget for word-of-mouth marketing approaches and seek out referral sources
- Set up several profiles on multiple review websites and make it easy for patients to leave reviews
- Stress your goals and offer patients constant feedback opportunities
- Work together with your staff members as a team in order to deliver exceptional patient experience and ensure patient satisfaction
- Provide follow-up calls and emails
- Create a positive atmosphere within the workplace
- Stay on top of patients’ radar
- Be able to identify influencers and positive voices around you
- Ask for feedback from patients, colleagues, family members, and friends
- Provide every patient with a memorable and shareable story
- Let patients know that their comments, recommendations, and reviews are always welcome
Online reviews and recommendations offer insight into your practice, including your knowledge, time spent with your patients, and the cleanliness and comfort of your practice. They measure the quality of care you provide based on your expertise and overall patient satisfaction. However, it is important to stress that online patient reviews are individual and based on each patient’s experience. Opinions vary widely, and they can take a positive or negative turn. You may even begin to notice patterns, which can help you to make more informed decisions about the services you have to offer.
Perhaps the most important element when it comes to online reviews and recommendations is sharing feedback so that others can benefit. Patients create a dialogue and, nowadays, they have more freedom in what type of doctor they choose to see or what type of healthcare plan they wish to follow. Many patients may decide to seek you out due to one of the following reasons: you have a remarkable and neat website; your office is nearby; your picture looks nice; or you speak a certain desired language. However, none of these reasons truly represent the “real you.” If you want to provide patient experiences that are memorable, you need to be able to determine how you can go beyond meeting a patient’s expectations.
Positive word-of-mouth advertising and patient referrals go hand in hand. When a patient is motivated to share their experience with others, they risk their reputation in making a referral to a family member, friend, or colleague. It is your job to make a positive impression and show them that their risk was not made in vain. The bottom line is more than 70% of patients believe positive reviews are crucial in determining whether or not to make an appointment with you versus the competition. What’s more, nine out of ten patients stress that they determine the quality of a medical practice based on the positive reviews they read online.
According to recently conducted surveys, patients revealed the following:
- More than 40% of patients stated that content found on social media influences their decisions regarding healthcare providers, medical practices, and hospitals.
- Over 45% of patients stated they would share a positive experience they had with their doctor online, while over 35% of patients stated they would share a negative experience they had with their doctor online.
- Over 45% of patients stated they trust health-related content shared on social media channels by individuals they know, while over 25% of patients stated they trust health-related content shared on social media channels by individuals they do not know.
The internet is the largest mass-communication medium by far, and it will only continue to evolve. Today, word of mouth on social media is simply an opportunity for patients to speed up their decision-making process. They want context and they will go online to find it—from your website to reviews about you on social media channels. Moreover, when it comes to choosing a healthcare provider, recommendations, online reviews, and other methods of word of mouth are powerful channels of influence that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Online reviews are just as influential as personal recommendations, so it is up to you to determine how you wish to increase your visibility, improve your communication strategy, and boost your professional credibility. If you know how to effectively use social media, you can join in on the conversation. Word of mouth is an opportunity that is limited only by your imagination, but if it is put into practice, it can lead to valuable doctor-patient relationships.