Social Media has been around for at least 18 years now. LinkedIn was founded in 2002, Facebook in 2004, and then Twitter joined the party in 2006. At the beginning, there was a lot of hype about the marketing opportunities which social media present to businesses. However, I was always very skeptical. It always seemed to me that social media was a blackhole for time and with very little benefits. Not a great return of income, in other words. However, when I started helping doctors and medical providers to get to the top of Google's search results, then I discovered just how useful social media can be.
No one (except Google employees) know the exact algorithm which Google uses to decide the order of search results. However, it is generally agreed that one of the factors is the quality, frequency, and relevance of links pointing towards your site. In terms of quality, there is a big difference between a well-respected Washington Post article pointing towards your site vs. a link from a friend's website which has only 100 visits per month. The key difference here is something called "Page Authority" (PA). This is basically a measurement of who respected and 'powerful' a site is. For example, The Washington Post has a Page Authority of 96, whereas a brand new website will probably have a page authority of 0 or 1. You can check a site's PA, but You can using either Open Site Explorer or the MozBar. And here is the interesting thing: Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have very high Page Authorities (97, 92, and 97 respectively).
In terms of SEO, links from sites with high Page Authorities are worth more than links from sites with low Page Authorities. Therefore, links from sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are very valuable. So when posting on social media - and linking back to your site - you are creating valuable links which will likely be included in the criteria which Google uses to determine how high to place your website in its search results. This, in essence, is why social media is useful. NOT because of the direct marketing you can do to followers and fans (although patients can potentially be attracted in this way too), BUT mainly because it's good for SEO.
Medical services are NOT the same as products like a new TV or a holiday. New TVs or holidays can be impulse buys. Medical services, on the other hand, are something you (usually) only buy when you NEED them. And what do most people do these days when they need a service? They Google where to find it. Therefore, it's vital that your website comes close to the top of their Google search results. Furthermore, these services are often needed while someone is away from home, so having a website which is mobile friendly - and showing up on applications like Google Maps - becomes all the more important. As a doctor, you need to make yourself as easy-to-find as possible, so that patients who need your services can find you quickly and easily. Yes, it wouldn't hurt to have 5000 followers on Twitter or 5000 Fans on Facebook too, as perhaps then they would remember your services when they need them, but if you had to pick one thing to focus on, then I would recommend SEO. Contact Red Castle Services or Read a Case Study about a client of ours.