Gone are the days when social media marketing tools were best suited for consumer brands. Law firms, auditors, insurance companies and countless other businesses are using social media to help achieve strategic business goals and generate ROI. Among the industries benefitting from the growth and diversification of social media is healthcare. Whether it is a primary care practice with a few physicians or a multi-discipline medical complex, social media can help to attract new patients, enhance the patient experience for current clients and share expertise that positions practitioners as go-to sources for media.
Studies from PwC Health Research Institute (2012), Pew Internet & American Life Project (2012), and Mayo Clinic (2012) show consumers are using social media to find doctors and share positive experiences:
- One-third of U.S.consumers are using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to find medical information, research and share their symptoms, and offer opinions about doctors, treatments, drugs, and health plans
- 44% of patients are willing to share a positive experience at a medical facility…42% are willing to share it about a specific doctor or provider
- One in two adults use their smartphone to look-up health information…19% have at least one health app on their phone.
With consumers demonstrating an appetite for receiving and sharing medical information via social channels, how can doctors, hospitals and medical practices leverage these communication channels to demonstrate ROI?
Facebook as a medical marketing tool
With 44% of patients willing to share a positive experience at a doctor’s office or hospital via social media, there is a significant opportunity to collect positive reviews and word-of-mouse ‘endorsements’ through Facebook. While patient-generated content will help to engage the community, practices still need a strategy to ensure a consistent stream of self-generated content.
To ensure the content appeals to a wide audience, it is important to incorporate information about the practice, demonstrate practitioners’ expertise and highlight third party information (e.g. news stories, studies, etc.). To highlight all practitioners’ expertise while maintaining a consistent brand voice, designate a point-person to maintain the Facebook page and standardize tone, language, etc.
Twitter as a patient engagement and recruitment tool
Twitter’s 140-character limit lends itself to succinct factoids, statistics and statements. It is also an ideal tool for asking questions of patients and prospective patients – What do you value most in a doctor? Why are you a patient of XYZ practice? The answers you receive to these questions can serve as fodder for future Facebook updates and blog posts.
Trends and statistics are two additional forms of Twitter-friendly content. Is the rate of flu outbreak on the decline? Are more patients booking appointments via the web? This is important data to share with followers and can help impact how patients interact with the practice and/or practitioners.
YouTube as a patient-practitioner relationship-building tool
Effective and engaging videos focus around a central character or small group of characters and drive home a consistent and compelling message. The explosive growth of smartphone usage has made it easy to shoot videos on-the-go, be it a :30 second clip from the ribbon cutting at your newest facility or a :15 second interview with an award-winning doctor in the practice. Be sure to tag videos appropriately when uploading to YouTube or other video sharing sites to maximize search value for the content. To increase reach, embed videos in news releases, e-blasts and other electronic communications to patients and affiliated practices/practitioners.
Blogs as a success-story sharing tool
Blogs afford hospitals, doctors and medical practices an opportunity to highlight patient success stories in a longer format. An on-site blog is also the single best social marketing opportunity to enhance the organic search rankings for your website. Leverage the blog as a tool to:
- Provide a local perspective on national health trends
- Showcase patient success stories, as appropriate
- Share tips for everything from avoiding the common cold to safely increasing physical activity after surgery
- Highlight how a hospital or practice is leveraging technology to improve the patient experience
Blogs are also an opportunity to showcase how hospitals, medical practices and/or doctors provide patients with a unique and superior treatment experience. When describing these attributes, be sure to include keywords and phrases that prospective patients may be looking for when choosing a new doctor.
Integrating social communication channels with existing patient communications, media relations and community relations efforts is critical to ensuring consistent messaging and a broad reach. To ensure the success of both individual channels and the integrated marketing program, internal and/or external marketing communications teams must be staffed with a broad range of expertise – ranging from the person who understands medicine to the social media savvy – and work cohesively to execute a ROI-focused strategy.
Considering social media to expand the marketing reach of your hospital or medical practice? Download our social media toolkit to get started today!