Social media and healthcare go hand in hand these days.
More and more of the public are taking to social media for healthcare news and resources. Meanwhile, the idea of following doctors on Facebook is totally normal.
And with the latest boom of the healthcare industry and the need for up-to-date news, it’s no surprise that healthcare accounts represent some of the most followed and engaged-with today.
Just look at the CDC’s 1.9+ million followers on Facebook alone.
However, social media and healthcare are about so much more than follower-count. Practices and organizations have specific duties that go beyond vanity metrics, such as:
- Keeping the public informed on treatments and trends
- Reassuring patients (both current and prospective)
- Staying in line with HIPAA when it comes to social interactions
Doing all of the above while trying to engage and grow your audience is a tall order. That said, our guide to social media and healthcare can help.
But what is the role of social media and healthcare?
Healthcare providers are in a unique position when it comes to social media.
Because you’re responsible for marketing a human necessity, not a traditional product or impulse buy.
Couple that with rising healthcare premiums and general anxiety about our well-being as a society. It’s important for healthcare marketers to understand their accounts’ roles and responsibilities in the big picture.
From your content strategy to communicating with followers, below is a breakdown of your priorities when dealing with social media and healthcare.
Navigating healthcare crises
This is obviously the big one, especially in the wake of COVID-19.
If you’re looking for evidence of the importance of social media in healthcare, look no further than the current moment. The likes of Twitter and Facebook have become ground zero for real-time news and discussions regarding COVID-19. Since the virus’ spread, Twitter, in particular, has become a dedicated hub for coronavirus updates.
Although this is a prime example of how social media as a force for good, misinformation regarding COVID-19 is also running rampant. Providers are responsible not only to help guide the public through an actual crisis but also fact-check users as well.
As of July 14: In the last 7 days, #COVID19 cases increased nationally with 3 states each reporting more than 50,000 new cases. Help slow the spread by taking steps like wearing cloth face coverings. See more COVID-19 data here: https://t.co/4Ku7nKLZCq pic.twitter.com/x4fmtcabcc
— CDC (@CDCgov) July 16, 2020
Educating the public
No surprises here. Fact: a staggering two-thirds of people use the Internet to self-diagnose conditions.
Much like with COVID-19, providers are responsible for boosting timely, factual information for patients in need of guidance. This includes:
- Recommendations for those experiencing symptoms
- Self-help and external resources to navigate a diagnosis
- Links to new studies and treatment options
You're not alone. Find support for yourself or those who may be at risk for suicide: https://t.co/q40rOjBEvP
— American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (@afspnational) June 8, 2020
Helping patients feel more comfortable
Spoiler alert: most people aren’t exactly wild about going to the doctor.
Beyond white coat syndrome, consider that approximately 20% of Americans haven’t been to the doctor within the past year.
Something as seemingly simple as a check-up can be daunting on a prospective patient. For those facing a potentially tough diagnosis, that anxiety is even greater.
And so you can imagine the need for practices to be empathetic when it comes to easing patients’ concerns. Social media represents a great avenue to both show off the measures you take to make patients feel at home in their time of need.
Making yourself a staple in the community
The concept of competition in the health sector is a touchy one. Even so, any given speciality is full of providers and it’s only natural for prospective patients to “shop around.”
It only makes sense for healthcare marketers to present their practices as leaders in their respective specialties. From showing off employees in action to local advocacy efforts, social media allows practices to be more transparent and personable to prospective patients.
Social media and healthcare marketing: 6 best practices to guide your content strategy
With the role of social media and healthcare in mind, where do you even start in terms of content?
Good question! Based on our industry benchmarks, healthcare accounts are unique in that they’re primarily focused on publishing content as opposed to juggling messages or obsessing over engagement rates.
In short, healthcare accounts aren’t flooded with DMs and comments versus retail brands.
Given that your responsibility lies in primarily educating followers, you’re afforded the opportunity to focus on meaningful, compelling content first and foremost. Let’s look at some examples below.
1. Publish educational content to keep patients in the loop
The growing phenomenon of self-diagnosis and “Dr. Google” once again signals the need for practices to educate the public.
Whether it’s blog posts, videos or general health tips, anything you can do to provide your followers with bite-sized information is a plus.
— Harvard Health (@HarvardHealth) July 10, 2020
Health tips and “Did you know?”-style content are also popular for encouraging interactions and debate among your followers. Whether it’s busting myths or quizzing your followers, posts like this one are prime for healthy (pun intended) discussion.
And although not related to content directly, educating potential patients about your practice is a vital piece of social customer care. If someone has a question about treatment options or what your practice can do to help, strive to respond ASAP.
2. Use inspirational content to motivate your followers
Social media and healthcare don’t have to be boring, heartless or totally “matter of fact.”
Especially in the face of progressive diseases or risky surgeries, patients and their family members could often use a dose of inspiration.
View this post on Instagram
To close out #HeartMonth, we celebrate Brad, who underwent #OpenHeartSurgery back in December. After a few weeks of recovery at #NorthwesternMedicine, he was glad to not only return home, but to resume grandpa duty as well. Wishing you and your family health and happiness, Brad! #ThrowbackThursday #TBT #NMHeart #NMBetter 💜 📸: Hillary
Beyond patient success stories, you can promote your own marketing videos to highlight how you make a difference and help patients.
Thank you to everyone who has helped the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic so far. Whether you’re a bus driver getting us to work, a teacher looking after our children, or a supermarket worker making sure we can get essentials — thank you. #NHSBirthday #ThankYouTogether 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/kUmfYnrX64
— NHS England and NHS Improvement (@NHSEngland) July 5, 2020
3. Post infographics for increased engagement
Mastering infographic marketing is a must-do for those working in social media and healthcare.
— Athira Pharma (@athirapharma) July 14, 2020
After all, infographics are among the most popular and shared-worthy types of content on social media. This makes them prime for healthcare accounts looking to quickly educate patients at a glance.
4. Harness the power of health-related hashtags
Hashtags are a staple of social media at large. Healthcare companies have plenty of opportunities to use them, too.
Whether it’s your own organizational hashtags (Northwestern Medicine’s #NMBetter, for example) or healthcare-specific tags (#cancersucks), promoting a tag does double duty of extending your content’s reach while also making it easier for followers to share that content.
View this post on Instagram
Things may look a little different at MD Anderson right now as we continue to take extra precautions to protect our cancer patients from #COVID19, but our goal remains the same: to #endcancer. Thank you to our Child Life and Arts in Medicine teams from MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital for writing this, along with other encouraging messages, in front of our Proton Therapy Center earlier this week. #mdanderson #mdanderson #COVID #coronavirus #chalkart #art #houston #hospital
Even holiday hashtags are fair game for your content calendar (see the American Heart Association’s #StarWarsDay post for reference).
Whatever you do, just make sure that your use of hashtags is tasteful.
5. Take patients behind-the-scenes
Highlighting your human side helps your social presence feel more personal.
For example, posts like this one from Johns Hopkins serve as both wholesome content and a positive spin on working in healthcare during tough times.
— Billy Ward (@BillyWard3) April 16, 2020
Instagram Stories are awesome for behind-the-scenes content, such as John Hopkins’ virtual match day for their medical students. These small glimpses of your practice’s day-to-day life are crucial for making a connection with followers.
Congratulations to all the JHSOM students that are matching today. #Match2020 is very different this year due to #COVID19. We encourage our students to tag @HopkinsMedicine as you participate in #VirtualMatchDay. pic.twitter.com/VOluBxNFXe
— Johns Hopkins Medicine (@HopkinsMedicine) March 20, 2020
6. Publish patient shout-outs to spread positivity
Sometimes the best way to highlight your practice is by letting others do the talking.
Through user-generated content (think: customers and reviews) you can provide an unfiltered view of how you’re helping patients and supporters.
— Alzheimer's Association (@alzassociation) June 20, 2020
This speaks to the importance of social listening to track mentions, messages and hashtags usages to ensure that you share your patients’ messages in a timely manner.
Important: social media, healthcare and HIPAA
To wrap things up, we need to talk about HIPAA.
Beyond the best practices of social media in healthcare in terms of your content, the importance of patient confidentiality can’t be overstated.
In short, you need to take special care when publishing patient content which would potentially reveal sensitive information or otherwise violate HIPAA. For example, did you know that using your patients as part of your marketing materials requires explicit written consent?
There’s a lot that goes into HIPAA compliance on social media, but here are some of the basics:
- You’re allowed to engage with clients via social, but doing so means being sensitive about health information over messaging
- Publishing patient stories or photos requires written consent
- Posting sensitive or identifying information publicly can land you in trouble
With all of this in mind, we really urge you to check out our HIPAA and social media cheat sheet for more information.
And with that, we wrap up our guide!
How are you bringing social media and healthcare together?
Healthcare marketers face a distinct set of challenges; there’s no doubt about it.
But you also have a ton of opportunities to make a meaningful, positive impact on your followers. From educating the public to creating a sense of community, consider how healthcare social media marketing can make a difference when it’s done with care.
Oh and, if you haven’t already, make sure to download the most recent Sprout Social Index to ensure that your overall marketing strategy sticks to the best practices of social media latest trends.