Improve patient experience by making your website content shareable

Let’s address another often overlooked need when promoting your online presence: share buttons.

Yes, share buttons – those little clickable links or buttons that make it possible for someone reading your blog post, column and/or healthcare website content to share what they see and read. Often healthcare systems ignore them or treat them with disdain. To be sure, poorly used share buttons don’t quite grab anyone’s attention like the rising costs of healthcare treatment. But healthcare systems do need to spend more time getting their share buttons in order. Why? Because share buttons, when used well, are powerful tools to make great healthcare content more visible and engaging and improve the patient experience.

Publishing useful content, such as insight into wellness care issues, is an increasingly important strategy for healthcare providers to generate awareness and to build credibility with people looking for care. But let’s face it: getting content noticed is harder and harder. Each day, content creators write two million blog posts. Amplifying that content with paid media and sound organic search practices is important, but to generate patient access locally, healthcare systems need to get the little things right, too. Promoting useful share buttons is one of those fundamental steps that can make a difference between content that everyone sees and content that no one notices. When patients visit a healthcare site and find information useful, being able to easily share it, whether it’s a blog post, physician page, specialty or services page, is essential to that user experience.

It’s alarming to see healthcare systems spend a tremendous amount of effort developing a new content area of their website promoting a new wing, event or speciality but offer no ability to share that content. Making this content easy to share should be a top consideration when a new website built or content is added - not an afterthought.

Here are common lapses I notice with share buttons on healthcare websites:

● They’re missing. Too often I read a great blog post about a topic such as managed care and want to let the world know about it. Or I come across an instructive section on, say, recent advances in orthopedics, which will be useful to a colleague. But when share buttons are missing, I have to resort to the old-fashioned method of manually creating a URL link and sharing – a clunky user experience and definitely not a good visitor experience. Why make your visitors, and ultimately your patients, jump through hoops to share this content?

● They’re hard to find. Sometimes share buttons are just too small to read. I also find share buttons published in the wrong place on the page – a good example being when share buttons are published at the top of a blog post. Why not publish them at the bottom so that when I’m done reading an article, I can easily click “Share” without having to scroll all the way up to the top of the page? Or publish share buttons that scroll with you down the page. That way, no matter how much progress you make reading an article, you always have a share button handy. If you have share buttons, make sure they are easy to locate and accessible.

● They link to the wrong social spaces. Don’t overpopulate your pages with links to irrelevant social spaces. Make it easy to link to the spaces where your audience hangs out. For most healthcare providers, the mandatory social spaces are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (because of its immediacy), and, perhaps, Google+. Linking to Google+ is useful not because Google+ is a primary social network but rather because of its value for search engine optimization and sending content signals to Google.

Healthcare systems can overcome these issues by taking these three steps:

● Do some user testing. Talk to your audience and make sure you understand how, why, and where they share content. Doing so will ensure that you don’t overlook an important social site that your audience might care about but that was not on your radar screen.

● Audit your website and your blog. Take a hard look at your share buttons and your content. Is every page of your website shareable – but especially your blog? Are share buttons easy to find, and do they link to the most important social spaces?

● Insist that website designers are in sync with your content creators and social media team. Sometimes share buttons are poorly designed simply because no one told the designer to make them a priority. Or the buttons link to irrelevant sites because the social team failed provide any guidance. Design does not happen in a vacuum.

I get it; crafting useful content that creates authority for your physician and specialty pages takes hard work, both planning and execution. Too often, content creators consider their job to be done once they publish content. It’s time to change your mentality from “publish” to “publish and share” and give patients the experience they expect when viewing your content. Make that patient’s first interaction with your site a positive experience.

Jay Hawkinson is a digital marketing professional with over 19 years in the online space focused on search marketing including SEO, paid media, local search, mobile and social media. Jay joined SIM Partners in 2006 as an equity partner developing location management solutions, mobile apps and the Velocity Health platform to improve physician location data to drive patient engagement at scale.

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