How Healthcare Organizations Use Social Media Marketing

Social media can play a major role in acquiring new patients.

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn – these social media channels are growing in popularity among U.S. consumers. In fact, 73 percent of online adults utilize social networking outlets, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet Project. Many of those social media participants use it for health-related reasons, as it helps them make informed decisions. For example, more than 40 percent of customers said information they find through social media influences the way they approach their health, Media Bistro reported. Given this trend, healthcare marketers can use these platforms to spur a dialogue with prospective and existing patients, earn people's trust, provide educational material and increase patient acquisition and retention numbers.

Identify the Target Audience Using a Comprehensive Database
Before creating accounts and posting content, HubSpot recommended healthcare marketing professionals identify the target market. One way to identify a promising demographic is tapping into a multisource database that contains information from thousands of county records, surveys and warranty cards, magazine subscription updates and retail transactions. Based on this knowledge, healthcare organizations can determine who lives in close proximity to the office, what their interests and preferences are and their possible behaviors.

Understand Patients on a Deeper Level
HubSpot suggested getting to know current patients by finding out where they get their information, what problems they experience, their habits and what they do on a daily basis. These nuggets of knowledge will help marketers understand prospective patients. Instead of just obtaining information about people on a basic level, it's vital for healthcare organizations to delve deeper into patients' lifestyles. That way, marketers can empathize with patients' needs and create more effective marketing campaigns that will appeal to specific target audiences. 

Establish the Message Before Utilizing the Medium
After pinpointing promising prospects, marketers should craft messaging that will resonate with them. Figure out what information people are seeking and tailor content to align with their concerns and questions. Perhaps people are searching for treatment options for a chronic condition or a specialist in their area. In fact, 42 percent of online adults search for reviews about health providers, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet Project.

Given these trends, it's crucial for healthcare providers to customize their content. They can give patients valuable information, suggest treatment options and explain their services. It's also helpful for doctors to beef up their biographies, physician videos and credentials on their websites to stand out among other doctors who have an online presence.  

Doctors Improve Quality of Care with Social Media
With a lucrative target audience and a strong message in mind, marketers can then engage in various social media channels. Many healthcare facilities are already catching on to this trend, as approximately 5,000 U.S. care-providing organizations have social media accounts, Media Bistro reported, and they are using a range of channels. For example, 26 percent use Facebook, 20 percent turn to Twitter and 23 percent rely on Foursquare.

Doctors can provide a link to their websites on Facebook or Twitter to increase exposure of their services. Many are also providing valuable health-related information via social media, as 24 percent of doctors use social media outlets at least once a day to post or find content. These contributions to the social media sites are not only helpful for attracting new patients and retaining current patients, but also for improving the quality of care delivered. Of those who use social media to target patients, 60 percent believe this marketing strategy enhances the quality of care they provide, Media Bistro reported.

Healthcare Marketers Should Employ a Variety of Strategies
Healthcare marketers may consider using photos customized to their target audience. Images resonate the most with digital audiences. Video is also important in engaging individuals. All posts should incorporate a human element and be informative by linking to valuable information. Take this time to tell human interest stories and pull at people's heart strings.

Safeguarding Patient Information Comes First
There are some risks involved with social media that marketers should be aware of when posting content. Marketers should be careful about revealing too much information. Healthcare organizations should not use social media channels to communicate with patients regarding sensitive topics. Ultimately, it's important to be wary of not violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

To address these possible issues, 31 percent of healthcare organizations have social media guidelines in place, according to The Institute for Health Technology Transformation. Staff should be aware of all limitations and how the strategy impacts social media posts. It's best to assign one person this duty so there is no miscommunication.

Measure Results to Ensure Social Media Strategies Are Effective
After implementing social media tactics, marketers should find out whether they are making a difference in converting followers to patients. Marketers can learn if the strategies are working by using analytical tools. Healthcare organizations will know what groups responded best and when people decided to book appointments. With this insight, healthcare providers can make informed social media marketing decisions in the future.

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