Social media is the most important—and iterative—tool in a healthcare marketer’s playbook. This is especially true during the COVID-19 era. Here are seven best practices for using social media marketing in healthcare to engage your communities and elevate performance.
As we’re social distancing, social media is filling the gaps for connecting with the people and brands we value. This substitution of malls and coffee shops for screens is forcing a rapid evolution of social media strategies. Now, these apps represent much more than a channel for staying current on our favorite shows and viewing family photos. Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms are the source for timely, accessible and actionable information. Healthcare marketers must adapt their social strategy, tools and content to these realities.
Based on our work in helping health systems implement social strategies and hosting conversations around lessons learned during the COVID-19 era, we’ve compiled a few best practices for social media marketing in healthcare.
Here are seven ways we recommend that healthcare marketers use social media in 2020 and beyond.
Create a conversion path for priority service lines.
Whether actively followed or shared by a friend or loved one, a hospital’s Facebook content is often a first step in a healthcare decision cycle that could last weeks, months or even years depending on the condition. Make this path as clear as possible by posting organic content and targeted ads that align with each step on the journey.
Here’s an example: Altru Health System offers engaging Facebook posts and access points for orthopedic candidates who are at the awareness stage (building the relationship), the evaluation stage (sharing resources that support research) and through to the decision stage (creating opportunities to connect with a healthcare provider). This approach is part of an integrated service line growth campaign that generated more than $10 million in downstream revenue in the first year—for an ROI of $227 to $1.
Drive traffic to your website for a more in-depth conversation and conversion opportunities.
Social content is designed to spark conversations and inspire behaviour change. Your website is where specific clinical questions are answered and where consumers can convert to service line revenue. Bridge social media with your website by promoting topics featured on the blog or content hub, where you can offer more in-depth information that advances the dialogue and nurtures leads through the funnel.
Here’s an example: Methodist Health System features topics like the dangers of low-dose aspirin and relevant COVID-19 stories on the SHINE Online blog that are actively promoted on social media—a strategy that has helped drive 1,000% growth in site traffic.
Build the case for an increased ad budget.
At the same time that social media is becoming the #1 channel for engaging consumers, competition for paid placements are lower than pre-COVID levels and social media ads, particularly on Facebook, are relatively inexpensive right now.
It’s the trifecta of positive trends for social media strategists.
Leverage these trends to increase ad spending on the social channels where building audience and engagement are a priority for your organization. Make sure to measure engagement, conversion and other metrics against your goals and optimize based on performance.
Encourage your audience to take the best next step through calls to action.
Your communities are actively seeking guidance on how to stay healthy—and they trust healthcare providers now more than ever. Anticipate their questions and help followers on their path by asking, “Now what?” while crafting calls to action.
Here’s an example: Beaufort Memorial Hospital advises followers to bring multiple copies of their completed examination form when seeking free COVID-19 testing.
Experiment with new content formats like video.
With social media activity skyrocketing while organic reach continues to decline, now is the time to try new things that can boost your signal. One of the effective ways to engage your community is live video. Most phones offer ample streaming quality so you don’t have to invest in highly polished video production. Healthcare marketers are leveraging this format to feature physicians on content related to COVID-19, seasonal health issues and other critical topics.
Here’s an example: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center hosted a Facebook Live event featuring members of their neuro team describing how COVID-19 can impact the risk for stroke.
Use your voice in the community to amplify social issues in an authentic way.
Hospitals are often among the largest employers in the area. Their impact often has a halo effect on virtually every business, civic organization and household. This reach often comes with a responsibility to address key issues like diversity and inclusion, the importance of social distancing and why wearing masks is important. Many healthcare organizations are embracing the role to guide their communities and advocate for all of their constituents. The key is making sure your tone and message match your brand values and organizational culture.
Here are examples: Vanderbilt Health infectious disease experts discuss why wearing a mask in public helps reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. Adventist HealthCare shared a statement on the significance of this era titled “Our Time in History,” signed by the leadership team.
Invest in the right tools to boost engagement and efficiency.
A hallmark of digital maturity is leveraging tools that enrich the user experience while making life easier for marketers. From planning and collaboration to content creation and tracking, technology is making a marketer’s job a lot less manual and much more effective. For example, many clients use tools like Hootsuite to manage social media marketing across multiple local hospital or system division pages. There are also channel-specific applications that augment the content you're already planning, creating and sharing on social media. The challenge is finding the right tool for your social media strategy and budget with thousands of options. This is where strategic partners can guide decisions on the right tools for your organization.
Here’s an example: At True North Custom, we’re using a LinkInBio tool for Instagram that allows followers to learn more about the people and ideas we’re sharing with current team members, job candidates and the healthcare marketing community.
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