Social media is no longer a marketing afterthought for companies and organizations. Every major brand is present across the major social media platforms, and they are actively planning strategic campaigns around social activity. Companies from every industry have made the leap into social media, but healthcare has lagged behind. Why is this?
Part of it is a lack of understanding about what social media is and how it integrates with current healthcare marketing efforts. Part of it is a fear of how it affects patient privacy and compliance with regulations such as HIPAA. What many healthcare organizations don't realize is that these obstacles are all easily overcome and shouldn't stand in the way of building up social media strategies.
While many businesses cut back on advertising during a recession, plenty of research suggests that businesses should actually spend more on advertising during those times because consumers continue to watch ads. Thus, there's this lovely void of which businesses can take advantage. Why am I telling you this? Because right now, the social media landscape in the healthcare industry is a bit like a recession—there aren't very many players in the game and, quite frankly, the bar for doing it well is set pretty darn low.
Of course, before you begin any social media campaign, always remember that in order to comply with HIPAA regulations, as well as medical ethics codes, you must protect the privacy of your patients at all times. Don't share any information about patients, or information that could potentially identify patients, such as physical descriptions or mannerisms, etc. With that in mind, here are four ways that healthcare organizations - from patient-facing to B2B - should be using social media.
1) Give Your Organization a Voice
Healthcare companies can come across as a bit sterile, which is great when they're talking about about the cleanliness of the equipment, but not so great when communicating with patients and the public.
Use social media as a way to interact and engage with your patients or customers. Show a bit of personality. Humanize your organization. Respond to reviews and inquiries.
2) Educate Your Audience
Social media is a great way to spread the word about public health issues. Think about unique campaigns that you can run to raise awareness of an issue, such as last year's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. You want to limit self-promotional posts and instead focus on ways that you can help your audience, since this is not about selling a produc or a service.
Remember, there's a lot of misinformation on the Internet about health and fitness—think about ways in which your organization can combat this and use social media to positively impact patients and the public.
Apparently, Americans spend more time online than we do sleeping each day. It's kind of a no brainer, then, that advertising online is a good way to reach your audience. Plus, as I mentioned above, not too many healthcare organizations are buying up ads, so the cost to play may be lower than it is in other industries.
Use social media advertising to raise brand awareness for your organization, or to drive leads towards premium content downloads so that you can nurture them into becoming patients or customers. Your social media ads need to be relevant, well-written and accompanied by an image that will grab your audience's attention.
4) Give Your Audience Content They Can't Get Elsewhere
The sky is the limit here - video tutorials for how to use at-home healthcare monitoring devices, product demos for equipment that you're selling to hospitals and infographics with tips and fitness exercises for wheelchair-bound patients.
No matter which industry segment your healthcare organization is in, whether it's patient-facing or B2B, whether you're a company selling state-of-the-art stethoscopes or a hospital performing cutting-edge surgeries, you have something unique to offer your audience. When it comes down to it, this is what will get you shares, likes, retweets and favorites.
Social media isn't so scary once you get started. If it helps, monitor other healthcare companies on social for a month or two first. See what they post. Make notes of what resonates with you and what feels a bit off.
From there, you can build your own voice and start engaging with your audience on social media. Trust me, like those businesses who run ads during recessions, your healthcare organization will be reaping the rewards for years to come.