Social media is in its prime. According to a 2018 report by Adobe Digital Insights, Social media is the most relevant advertising channel for 50% of Gen Z and 42% of millennials. The significance of this statistic cannot be underestimated.
For the healthcare industry in particular, social media can help engage patients, providers, and the public with relevant and timely information, as well as communicate the value and credibility of the health system.
Findings from the 2018 Sprout Social Index found that posts with links to more information are the most preferred type of content on social media. In addition, 30% of consumers said that this is the kind of content they’d like to see most from brands on social. 18% preferred graphics and images, while 17% would like to see produced video.
The wide variety of content that can be distributed via social media – from images and video to mixed-media blog posts, polls, and infographics – is a great way for healthcare brands to begin to capitalize on their mission and engage with patients through captivating, often emotionally-charged subject matter.
When executed correctly, social media campaigns are incredibly powerful. Of course, proper targeting and optimization is necessary to begin to map out your strategy. This planning is best executed with a healthcare CRM or other database in place to gauge your market opportunities.
If your organization has not yet begun to capitalize on this marketing tactic, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy:
Why is Social Media Becoming a Critical Component of Healthcare Marketing Strategy?
A recent study by PwC found that 42% of individuals viewing health information on social media look at health-related consumer reviews prior to reaching out, proving that positive feedback – even that provided by strangers – is a powerful means to building trust. The same report also found that 32% of US users post about their friends’ and family’s healthcare experiences on social media.
According to another report by PewResearch, 80% of social media users are specifically looking for health information, and nearly half of those are searching for information about a specific doctor or health professional.
If the statistics alone don’t demonstrate the value of social media for healthcare, then the opportunity to engage one-on-one with patients and providers should. As has been proven many times, individualization is key to modern marketing tactics. Social media provides an excellent opportunity for healthcare organizations to increase patient referrals and improve the overall quality of care – therefore, it’s no surprise that many health systems are jumping on the social media bandwagon.
Let’s take a look at three ways social media can improve overall healthcare marketing efforts:
1. Engage with Patients in Real-Time
One of the benefits of social media marketing in healthcare is enabling deeper and more meaningful discussions that address patient questions, concerns, and interests in real-time.
The question is: How can healthcare marketers effectively use social media to communicate and engage with existing patients?
Health systems can facilitate patient empowerment by enabling and engaging in patient forums and research networks online. For example, PatientsLikeMe allows patients to manage their own health conditions by discussing treatments with patients who have similar conditions. Hospitals and other health networks can develop their own platforms that allow patients to share their experiences and receive support from similar individuals.
Along with forums, health systems can use social networking pages to encourage patient discussions. For example, Children’s Mercy uses their Facebook page as way to showcase their reputation as a renowned care center. “Locally, Children’s Mercy wants parents to know their kids are in good hands. Social is a good way to share news and feature CMH doctors and patients,” according to PR Director Jake Jacobson.
What Social Media Tactics Best Promote Patient Engagement?
This video promotes Children’s Mercy’s Research Institute and, in particular, their cystic fibrosis research program. Posts such as these encourage members of the community to support the hospital’s research efforts while also raising awareness around disease and treatment – especially for lesser-known conditions.
According to the Journal of Health Management, “When patients tell their stories, their friends see that and the likelihood of spreading the message increases many-fold.” A video like this one tells a story that community members can easily relate to, creating a positive, trust-enforcing image for Children’s Mercy.
To successfully engage patients on social media forums or networking sites, organizations must regularly monitor these platforms to respond to patients in a timely manner, as well as ensure a variety of fresh, engaging content is uploaded regularly to keep patients interested and engaged.
2. Facilitate Physician Collaboration
Healthcare marketers can also use social media channels to encourage physician alignment and collaboration. Texas Health, a network of 25 hospitals that employs 5,500 physicians, created an enterprise social network to help physicians communicate and work with one another in overcoming challenges posed by the work environment, such as EHR requirements.
As a result of this networking initiative, the health system saw improved physician collaboration, in addition to a shorter learning period and greater acceptance of using social media tools.
Why Should Healthcare Marketers be Concerned with Improving Physician Alignment and Collaboration?
Social media is an easy way for physicians to find and connect with other health professionals, even those outside of their own health system or hospital. Physicians can also share their knowledge or research to benefit other providers and even communicate with colleagues about patient issues.
According to Master of Health Administration, 88% of physicians use the Internet and social media to research pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical devices. Social media helps doctors stay up to date in the rapidly-changing healthcare environment – not only about patients themselves, but about new research and technology that can better facilitate care.
Overall, these practices improve physicians’ knowledge and willingness to work as a team. The more informed and educated a health system’s physicians are, the happier patients will be with their experience and the quality of care provided.
Ultimately, healthcare marketers should strive to provide patients with better experiences in order to foster loyalty, retention, and positive word-of-mouth referrals. Improving physician engagement and alignment via network-driven social media networks is one way to do so.
3. Support Population & Preventative Health Initiatives
Since many social media sites are public communication platforms that can reach a wide breadth of individuals, healthcare organizations can use this marketing tactic to support broader population health and preventative health initiatives.
One way to do this is to communicate educational information about health events and crises. Lee Aase of Mayo Clinic and Shannon Dosemagen of Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, say “organizations can use social media to distribute time-sensitive health information, promote information sharing to encourage behavioral changes (including corrective changes during potential health crises), be a platform for conversation between agencies and constituents (rather than just as an information provider), and allow the public to provide useful information and feedback.”
If you’re spending time outdoors in the brush, you’re also at higher risk of brushing up against a poisonous plant. Exposure to plants like #poisonivy can cause an itchy rash that lasts for weeks. So how do you treat it?https://t.co/2LdBDCZlXy pic.twitter.com/qbP71tDoOe
— MayoChildren’sCenter (@MayoClinicKids) June 24, 2019
Healthcare organizations can also use social media as a platform to distribute information about common health conditions, diseases, and other public health issues in the hopes of preventing these occurrences.
As John Weston, CMO of Mayo Clinic notes, “We leverage the rich content we have to provide consumers with information about diseases and conditions, even when it is likely they may never become a patient. We view this as part of our moral responsibility—to share our knowledge and expertise to benefit others.”
Though social media does provide the opportunity for healthcare organizations to reach large consumer and patient populations, marketers need to be mindful of maintaining HIPAA compliance and other privacy regulations on these public platforms. Providers can maintain the trust of patient-provider relationships by staying far away from personal patient information and establishing a professional presence.
Keeping this in mind, social media marketing in healthcare has the potential to improve patient engagement, drive physician alignment, and foster a healthier society overall. Campaigns that are executed with strategic, targeted goals and that align with a multi-channel marketing strategy will see the most success.
How does your healthcare organization take advantage of social media?