Will Changes at Twitter and Facebook Help or Hurt Your Practice?

Facebook, search, professional services

If you send a tweet (or post a Facebook update) and no one sees it, does it make a sound?

It’s not a Zen koan. It’s a recognition of the fact that the major social networks continue to roll out changes that will likely impact whether your fans and followers see your content or not. More to the point, perhaps, understanding those changes can help you determine whether the ROI of one or both are worth your time and effort. Among the latest developments:

Facebook tweaks its News Feed (again)

Earlier this month, the largest social network on the planet rejiggered the way it determines what posts make it to the top of users’ News Feeds. Instead of determining the value of posts based solely on the Likes, shares and comments it receives, the site will also consider the value of posts that don’t receive any interaction at all (based on parameters the company isn’t sharing).

What it means for doctors

Even the folks at Facebook don’t sound so sure. As the company’s blog puts it,

Pages may see some increases in referral traffic, and some Pages may see some declines in referral traffic. Pages might see some declines in referral traffic if the rate at which their stories are clicked on does not match how much people report wanting to see those stories.

Twitter tweaks its timeline

Maybe it’s something in the air. Less than two weeks after Facebook made its announcement, Twitter rolled out its own update. Instead of always showing tweets in reverse chronological order (newest ones on top), the site will now allow users to turn on a tool that reorders posts based on who they follow and whose tweets they most interact with.

What it means for doctors

Not surprisingly, Twitter suggests this is good news for brands, provided, that is, they post content that people engage with. On the other hand, if followers don’t engage with it — as often happens with subjects people don’t want to broadcast — your tweets could end up further down their timelines. In today’s mobile world, off the screen often translates into out of sight, out of mind.

Facebook unveils search for professional services

In December, Facebook quietly began testing a feature that allows users to search for local providers of professional services, ranging from ad agencies to veterinarians to, yes, plastic surgeons. Considered an effort to fight back against the likes of Yelp and Angie’s List, the product uses the information Facebook has from businesses’ Pages, including ratings and reviews, and displays what it believes to be the most relevant results.

What it means for doctors

As the image above shows, the feature provides another way for potential patients to find local doctors (while keeping them on the site longer, of course). At this point, Facebook isn’t sharing information on how it ranks providers but, considering the site’s emphasis on connections, activity and engagement are probably part of the mix.

Then again, perhaps what all of the above really means is simply that social media never stand still. Whether you choose to use this or that platform or not is a personal decision but choosing to do so requires a consistent commitment. The key to successful social media marketing is being present and available, understanding how the steady stream of changes impact your business and deciding where to invest your energies based on what platform delivers the best return.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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