The legend goes that when asked why he robs banks, infamous 20th-century bank robber Willie Sutton said, "Because that's where the money is."
The same maxim applies to social media, said Cape Medical President and CEO Gary Sheehan, an avid blogger and user of Facebook and Twitter.
"You have to go where the people are," he said. "People won't go to your website every day, but they are on Facebook every day."
Many HME providers are resistant to trying social media, "because they think it's a waste of time, or they wouldn't know what to do with it," said Sheehan.
"But they're overcomplicating things," he said. "It's a good way to raise awareness, but it also helps with search engine rankings."
Sheehan spends 15 minutes a week managing Cape Medical's social media. When he posts a news release, event or blog entry, it is automatically pushed out to Facebook and Twitter. His followers include patients, referral sources, community leaders and local reporters.
It's easy, it's free, and it's something you can quickly do on your own with just a few Google searches, Sheehan said.
"Don't go hire a (social media) consultant," he said. "Take an hour some night and figure out how to do it."
Not sure what to post? Start by looking at how other organizations are using social media and borrow their approach, recommended Jay Williams, Western regional national sales manager for HME technology provider QS/1, who speaks about social media at conferences.
Williams' suggestions include posting photos from your latest open house, videos showing proper use of a breast prosthesis, or recipes for patients with diabetes. Best of all, social media offers your patients a supportive connection to each other that not be otherwise possible.
"Unless they happen to run into each other at your shop, this gives them a chance to interact with like-minded people who face the same healthcare issues," Williams said.
Ready to delve into social media? Start with realistic expectations of its ROI, Sheehan said
"It's not a game changer," he said, "but it's an incremental improvement to our marketing strategy."