Marketing responsibilities for a health care institution or hospital often do not include “Social Media Management” at the top of the to-do list. This is for good reason, since hospitals, pharmaceutical and biotech companies are highly regulated, concerned with product privacy and consumer trust. Often people use medical and health care services not out of desire, but out of necessity. Social media marketing therefore can be tricky for healthcare or hospitals as they struggle with understanding consumers’ psychographics and what really makes them tick. However, this does not mean that social media and their varying channels should not be prioritized. It’s time to find out how your firm can thrive in the expansive social media marketing landscape!
Staying active on social media allows brands to serve your customers in innovative ways, build trust, listen to their needs, and keep your name top of mind. Your customers can include partners, patients, the public, and even your staff. The platform enables social listening, which is important for monitoring brand health, discovering issues important to patients, assisting in enrollment for trials, and discovering patient communities.
Creating a strong and consistent social media marketing plan is not only necessary for today’s firms, it can be a fun way for your health care organization to stay engaged with your audience. Here are six tips for launching social media marketing methods into your health care firm’s marketing mix.
- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Knowing the demographics and psychographics of your target audience is an essential place to start in building out buyer personas. Not sure who your target audience is? Start with some research, talk to your current customers and learn about their needs and desires. This allows you to figure out how your product or service fits naturally into their lives so your social media posts are more valuable.
User researcher can be done using a variety of methods. The most common and easily deployed are quantitative research surveys, using such free survey platforms as Survey Monkey, Google Forms, or Zoho Survey. These are useful when you need a wide range of customer reactions, or when you need to report on status, progress and check in with customer satisfaction. Their answers can give insight into valuable content ideas for social campaigns and learning more about your current customer landscape. The best time to send surveys is right after a customer has purchased something from your site, completed an appointment, or completed some other type of conversion. Keep surveys short, test on friends and colleagues before sending, and yes/no and multiple choice questions are best.
Another common tactic similar to surveys are user interviews, either via phone or email, which capture customer’s response to targeted questions. This can uncover aspects of your product or service that people are unclear on, which you can expand upon in your social media strategy, or topics they are interested in that relates to your offerings. These interviews are more in-depth than surveys, so it’s best to offer an incentive for completion.
Focus groups allow you to explore reactions, opinions, and perceptions of your customers using an open-ended exploration of specific topics. Discovering emotional reactions, your customer’s passions, and interests of each demographic segment are extremely helpful in building out personas. Focus groups are useful early in the course of a project or campaign to establish an initial direction for marketing initiatives, so if your firm has the resources, start here.
Ethnography or contextual inquiry is when you literally go with your customers to see how they use your product or service. If you have a product marketing team, get in touch with them as they likely know some of this information. User interviews, either via phone or email can capture customer’s response to targeted questions that can uncover aspects of your product or service.
A final, less expensive option is guerrilla methods, where you can dig through digital artifacts to uncover audience personas. For example, look at the people that follow you on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn and that seem to post a lot or re-share related content often. Boil down their age, possible interests and what type of content they engage the best with. You can also use A/B testing methods to discover what copy or creative works well in other channels (such as email or paid search), and incorporate the winners into your social media strategy.
- BUILD VARIOUS AUDIENCE PERSONAS.
After all your research it’s time to build out your personas, which are an essential communication tool and useful for summarizing what you know about your customer. They help to highlight opportunities to tailor your marketing to your key customers, instead of wasting time and content tailored to the wrong group.
What should personas include? Be sure to root them to reality, based on the data you’ve gathered. What are their goals, needs, behaviors, pain points, scenarios, biographic information (age, gender, location, income), hobbies, occupation, and online habits? You need your personas to seem like a real person! Creating short stories about a person using your service or product to achieve a goal is also a good place to start. Describe what they would do and why they would do it. The seven top things to include in a marketing persona:
- Demographics: Gender, age, profession, education, and other relevant information
- Current financial situation
- Purpose: why would they use your product or service?
- Story telling: for example, what do they do in their free time?
- Buying decisions: what factors are most important to them when shopping for your products or services?
- Shopping habits: what other products do they buy that are related to yours? Other services?
- Online habits: what channels are your customers using the most? Which channel is most appropriate? For example, Snap Chat and Instagram might not be the best for medical device companies, yet these channels could do well for acupuncture or chiropractic services.
- TAKE IT FROM THE PROS, OR EVEN YOUR COMPETITORS
Look at your competitor feeds, or other industry related firms to see what they are doing in their social media landscape. You can even follow them on your personal pages to see what they’re posting daily. Copy cats are not always welcomed however. If your content is too similar to your competitors, switch it up and create a unique space on your channels. Need some inspiration? Check out these institutions social feeds!
- Twitter feed for Mayo Clinic: blogs, doctor interviews, upcoming research.
- YouTube feed for Novartis: scientists sharing views, executives on financial results, and even patients discussing their conditions.
- Twitter feed for Mercy Health System: blogs, exercise regimes, related news stories.
- Facebook posts for Merck: campaign Merck for Mothers was more edgy than their usual corporate tone and thrived in comparison to their previous social media strategy
- Twitter feed for Lilly Diabetes: personal stories, health-living tips, helpful resources.
- Facebook feed for recent diabetes start up Virta Health: doctor testimonials and research.
- KEEP INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL STAKEHOLDERS UP-TO-DATE
Social media channels make the perfect news resource for your audience, which can include both internal stakeholders (staff and stockholders), and external stakeholders (vendors, customers, and patients). Health care is a highly regulated environment, so keep your followers up-to-date about relevant issues or changes in any related laws. This also builds trust as it demonstrates your firm is competent and an established leader in the industry.
Post relevant news articles, recently released research summaries, press releases, highly engaging blog posts, or internal company happenings. Creating posts that are focused on a related specific holiday or observance with hashtags can help your name seen by others using the same hashtag. Below is an example from Merck using this strategy well.
- SHARE CREATIVE PHOTOS, VIDEOS OR INFOGRAPHICS
People love social media because it is an easily digestible medium with visuals. Of course, you don’t have as much freedom as other businesses when it comes to sharing pictures of customers because of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws, but there is still a wealth of creative assets to share! (Understanding HIPAA thoroughly is extremely important and we advise you review those laws and regulations before starting with social media. As a starter, you need to get written consent from all people in posted photos.)
Pictures of in-office fun, such as work anniversaries, birthdays or accomplishment celebrations are all great ways to humanize your practice or firm. Pictures from conferences, events, educational seminars, or community/volunteer outings help patients get a sense of what community means at your firm. You can — with written consent — post photos or videos of happy patients or end-users, with a story about their benefits. If you want to promote the comfortable, clean, or recently re-done space that patients would visit, share videos or photos inside of your office or clinic without the patients.
- CREATE UNIQUE CAMPAIGNS THAT KEEP CONTENT UNIQUE
Staying current with news and press releases is very important in the sciences, however, if that is all you post, things will grow stale fast. Create unique campaigns that are run on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis to keep your fans coming back, and looking forward to the next campaign post. For example, you can create a Healthcare Podcast of the Week and exhibit different radio hosts; or a Monday Funny and share fun or relaxing cartoons. Campaigns can also include fun facts or trivia surveys, such as testing people’s knowledge on the best foods for fighting cancer, or proven methods for better sleep without prescriptions. Check out Buzzworthy as an example, people love their trivia!
We hope these 6 tips for social media marketing in the healthcare industry will benefit your social media strategy and overall growth of your firm. The healthcare field is a very rewarding profession to be working in, and keeping all stakeholders engaged in your mission should be the first and foremost task. If you can get across your firms value proposition to a relevant audience through your now carefully curated and researched social media content, you will grow followers, build brand awareness, and ultimately dominate your competitors in this space!
Author: Stella Howard https://www.linkedin.com/in/stella-leigh-howard/