The State of Social Media in the Healthcare Industry

Recently, the digital marketing agency I am lucky enough to work for – Fathom – published a whitepaper on the state of social media in the healthcare industry, accompanied by an infographic depicting the results of our findings (created by yours truly).

Some key findings of the study included:

  • 9 out of 10 consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 said they would trust health information they found on social media
  • 87% of the top 15 health systems have an official social media presence for their system as a whole
  • Only 4 of the top 15 health systems have an official Pinterest account, despite its massive growth of the past year
  • Only 2 of the top 15 health systems have an official system blog
  • Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the most commonly used social networks among the top 15 health systems, with more than 80% of the top systems having a presence on each network

Do these numbers shock your, or were you expecting a majority of healthcare systems to have a presence on three of the top social networks? A few years ago, most of these health systems wouldn’t have dreamed of taking the risks associated with engaging in social media, because the fact remains: because the healthcare industry is so highly regulated, social media is a scary, scary place for healthcare executives. However, with the right strategy, the right tools, and the right advice, social media can be an alarmingly powerful tool for health systems to have in their arsenal.

One of the most unique challenges to the healthcare industry is the fear of violating HIPAA laws and patient privacy, especially when customer service issues need addressed via a publish social media channel. In contrast, there are also some very unique opportunities. Adults between the ages of 35 and 54 represent one of the fastest growing demographics on most of the major social media channels. As a healthcare marketer most likely targeting mothers in this age group, how can you not engage on social media? It also presents healthcare brands with the opportunity to demonstrate their organizations as thought leaders and gain the trust of a community.

To begin improve the standing of an organization within the healthcare industry on social media, take the follow advice:

  • Go to where the consumers are. Clearly identify your target audience, and create a presence for your organization on the channels through which they interact. Social media is not a “one size fits all” marketing program.
  • Content is King (as if we all haven’t heard that one before). Create and curate content that is going to interest your audience. Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time boasting about your brand; consumers will infer the strength and goodness of your organization through the ways you go about improving their health from a 360 degree angle. Share content from other sources that may not promote your brand, but will improve the health and lives of your consumer and your online audiences.
  • Invest in tools to help you maintain a solid strategy. Social media management and listening tools are crucial to ensuring success. Take advantage of online tools like Sysomos and HootSuite, among so many others, that can help you monitor and maintain the presence of your healthcare organization on social media.

4 thoughts on “The State of Social Media in the Healthcare Industry

  1. Great post! I agree, content is extremely important. While I like to read original content I also do like to read relevant posts shared on twitter accounts.

  2. Great post! Health affects all of us and is a subject you probably can discuss with any age group and almost any person. The target audience is huge. Different age groups might have different topics they are interested in but the overall objectives are the same. What are my options when I have a certain illness for example, where can I find others that can relate to me and support me? Social media is a great avenue for that. The same applies to preventive care and age-related concerns we have like how to deal with puberty and age for example. So my answer is no, I am not surprised how active the health industry is in social media. They don’t have a choice!

  3. Interesting data. And yes, the numbers did shock me! I guess I expected them to be a bit behind the trends, for the exact reason you specified – privacy issues. However, I also work in an industry that must worry about privacy and regulations (banking) and that hasn’t seemed to stop banks from jumping on the social media bandwagon either. If done right, social media can be a real asset to companies and consumers alike. In regards to healthcare, the internet, in fact, is the very first place I go when a health issue arises. I like to be as informed as I can be about my own health, and that seems to be the trend nowadays. Long gone are the days where we blindly take doctor’s advice – we like to be much more informed and in control. So, it definitely makes sense that the healthcare field is taking social media seriously. You’ve piqued my interest of whether my clinic engages in social media. Off to find out…

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