Thursday, November 19, 2009

Twitter and Chiropractic Ambulance Chasing: Chiropractic Social Media Marketing Gone Wrong

Let me start by saying I'm probably going to offend some of you. That being said, I want to discuss what I consider to be the Chiropractic equivalent of ambulance chasing. I've noticed this for a while and it seems to be increasing in popularity. This mistake isn't illegal, it isn't really unethical, but I do feel it's bad for the reputation of the doctor and the chiropractic profession as a whole.

So what is chiropractic ambulance chasing? I see it most often on Twitter. The situation plays out like this. Two people are exchanging tweets. One of the friends mentions to the other that they were in a car accident and are experiencing back or neck pain. Boom! Out of nowhere comes a reply to this conversation. It usually looks similar to this, "Hello I'm Dr. SoandSo, your local chiropractor. I may be able to help you with your pain. Call 555-555-5555." Now this isn't terrible. Even though Dr. SoandSo wasn't invited into the conversation he was just trying to help, right? Well after we click on the doctor's profile we see the last 15 tweets he sent were all pretty much the same way.

I have issues with this type of advertising. Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying a Chiropractor should never speak up and say they might be able to help someone in pain on Twitter. What I'm saying is none of us should be sitting around and focusing on mass tweeting to anyone and everyone in our area that hints of being in pain. If one of your followers mentions their neck hurts, by all means personally suggest you may be able to help them. If someone in your area mentions they are looking for a good chiropractor, by all means jump in and offer your services. This can even be done via a direct message. We should not be searching for ALL people who use the word pain. So what's the harm in advertising our services this way? After all we should all be promoting chiropractic right?

In my opinion, tweeting uninvited to anyone and everyone in pain is NOT promoting yourself or the chiropractic profession. Sure it seems like a decent way to generate some new patients for free, but do the benefits outweigh the risks? How many patients actually respond positively to this type of advertising? My guess is not many. You may generate a few new patients or new patient leads but I doubt this type of advertising is effective.

I do think this type of social media advertising actually works against the doctor and the Chiropractic profession. Most people who are approached by a Chiropractor on Twitter because they mentioned pain are going to view it as an intrusion. After all, the doctor wasn't even part of the conversation until he butted in. This may make the doctor look like a fool but how in the world does this negatively impact the entire profession?

One isolated incident probably doesn't hurt the profession at all. Now consider if this happens to a person on more than one occasion by more than one chiropractor. Now consider this is happening to other people in other areas around the globe. The habits and questionable marketing tactics are generalized to our entire profession. Instead of being viewed as legitimate health care providers who genuinely care about helping people, we become viewed as money hungry ambulance chasers!

Am I being paranoid? Maybe. Ask yourself this question. Suppose you are approached out of the blue on Twitter by an unknown orthopedic surgeon offering to operate on your knee. This happened right after you tweeted to your friend that your knee hurt. How would you view the surgeon? Suppose you mention on Twitter that you have a headache. Next thing you know a neurologist replies that he can help. What are your thoughts of this unknown neurosurgeon who jumped in uninvited on a conversation he was virtually eavesdropping on?

I'm not saying you shouldn't use Twitter to directly offer your services. I'm saying it should be done with discretion, common sense, and a clear understanding of how it affects you and our wonderful profession. One of the best ways to keep your chiropractic marketing effective is to put yourself in the shoes of someone in the general public who knows little to nothing about chiropractic care. Taking this view from the outside in can highlight many trouble issues and weed out those bad ideas!

-Dr. James

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