How to use social media in healthcare marketing
When it comes to healthcare marketing, the value of putting budget resources into social media campaigns is still a bit hazy. For some healthcare organizations, social media efforts just haven’t gained the expected traction. The strict regulatory and compliance requirements that govern healthcare communications also add an extra layer of complication.
So what’s the best way for a healthcare marketer to engage in social media without feeling like you’re throwing budget resources away?
Who do you want to reach?
Well, first let’s look at who you want to reach, and how they’re using social media.
For members of the general population, searching for information on health and medical conditions is a very popular pastime. Eighty percent of internet users in the US have searched for medical information, according to the Pew Research Center. For teens and young adults, it’s even higher: 87% say they have searched online for health information.[i]
This ties in with the growing trend towards people managing their own Patient Health Records, and the increased use of patient self-monitoring tools. In fact, this was cited as a top trend to watch over the next two to three years in the Annual European eHealth Survey[ii].
But what about clinicians? What do they want from the internet and social media? It turns out they want information too, plus a chance to network with their peers. In a study on “How Health Care Professionals Use Social Media to Create Virtual Communities,”[iii] researchers from the UK and Australia found that the top reason to seek out an online community was the chance to talk with others about relevant professional and academic issues, and share information.
Using social media to build communities
When it comes to communicating with their patients using social media, though, the numbers are low. For example, a survey of 700 physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the US [iv] on their communication preferences found that less than 4% use social media to communicate with their patients.
This 4% finding is in sharp contrast to how some of the biggest pharma companies are using social media to communicate with consumers. By focusing on the diseases that their products address and the affected patients, rather than the medications, these companies are providing support and community along with education. A leading diabetes care company, for example, created a Facebook community which operates as a place for diabetes patients to share their experiences and suggestions, such as how to manage diabetes in order to run a marathon, as well as scientific information.
A major pharma company offers another example, with a health marketing campaign intended to generate a new, more positive attitude towards aging. The campaign includes a website, video, articles, blog posts, and more, focusing on health and wellness as we age – but doesn’t mention the company’s products. By avoiding any direct advertising or claims, these types of social media programs build awareness and strengthen relationships, all while keeping clear of any regulatory concerns.
But what if you fall somewhere in the middle?
You don’t want to launch a major awareness/goodwill campaign, but you still want to maximize your social media efforts?
Start simple by using social media to promote your organization in three areas, without having to launch a major campaign or navigate through any regulatory questions:
Recruiting – Social media offers a great way to promote your organization to potential recruits. You can highlight the achievements of your employees, showcase your company activities and give people an inside look at your workplace.
Promote your charitable activities – You can also use social media to promote any charitable partnerships you are involved in, again without having to worry about the regulatory aspects. If your charitable partner is holding a fundraiser or event, promote it on your social media channels to help build awareness and spotlight your role as a supporter.
Promote your own content – Every time you post a new customer case studies, blog posts, videos, etc., promote it widely on all your social media channels. Encourage reshares and comments.
Then, consider a more in-depth approach for LinkedIn.
A marketing platform for healthcare professionals: LinkedIn
For healthcare marketers who want to reach out to clinicians and the hospital C-suite, LinkedIn has emerged as a very effective platform. You might never find these healthcare professionals on Twitter or Facebook, but chances are very high that they are active on LinkedIn. It offers them the chance to network and share information, in a professional and secure online environment.
From a healthcare marketing perspective, the targeting tools offered by LinkedIn allow you to search by job titles, geographic locations, memberships in professional organizations, and a lot more, making this one of the best sources for the information you need for account-based marketing.
Try some of these suggestions to maximize your healthcare marketing activities on LinkedIn:
First, make sure your company’s LinkedIn page is built out fully. Don’t just put a link to your corporate web page. Include all the information that’s suggested by LinkedIn, including company and executive profiles, etc. Make sure your key execs, sales and marketing people are active on LinkedIn, with fully completed profiles.
Then, start exploring. It’s easy to find different types of clinicians, for example, as well as the groups they participate in. Options to reach out to them include direct sponsored content (which will be shown to your selected targets, but it won’t clutter up your company page as an update.) This content should be helpful and informative, never sales-y. A customer reference case is about as far as you should go in promoting your company. Other types of content to try: blogposts about trends/challenges in your industry, tips and tricks, etc. The easy-to-use metrics in LinkedIn will show you exactly how well each piece of content performs, so you can create more or less of that type. Consider an InMail campaign, and join and participate in LinkedIn groups that your targets belong to.