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.

Facebook FAQ: Is Facebook right for my brand?

Many brands struggle with whether to invest valuable time and effort into Facebook, and it is not a decision any marketer or business owner should make lightly.

The fact of the matter is: creating and maintaining a Facebook page that will be beneficial to your brand if it is, in fact, a good fit, will take work – a lot of work! Many people create a page willy-nilly and get frustrated when spending 1 hour a week maintaining it is not getting the results they had promised their superiors. So before creating a page, ask yourself the following questions:

How will a Facebook page satisfy my business goals?

Facebook can be instrumental in driving website traffic, increasing brand awareness and providing exceptional customer service among many other goals. But what are you trying to achieve, and how will you achieve it? If you’re goal is to drive more traffic to your website where users will sign up for a free demo of your product, Facebook is certainly a tool to help you reach your numbers… IF you enact the right strategies. Make sure Facebook offers a unique incentive to prospective leads (like a discount of 20% if they choose to buy your product after your demo) to entice them to sign up.

Is my audience on Facebook?

There are two key components to discerning whether your target audience is on Facebook.

  • Check out the data. Pew Internet research details precise demographics of users for various social networks and outlines which networks are best for reaching which audiences.
  • Put on your listening ears. There are many great social listening tools out there that can help you evaluate whether your brand is already being talked about on Facebook (or other networks) – even tools at no cost to you!

Does your brand have a Facebook page? How did you decide if it was the right network for your business?