Social media might have become part and parcel of our everyday lives, yet some industries - such as the healthcare industry - are slow to adopt it as their main means of communication.
Why is that?
Well, health-related conversations are always sensitive in nature - whether we’re talking medical advice, news, diagnostics or treatments - so the information that’s being shared needs to be fact-checked, up-to-date and most of all, it needs to come from a trusted source.
Leveraging social media in this industry can be a challenge, but it also comes with its fair share of benefits. Let’s explore the role of social media in healthcare, its strong points and limitations, and how big healthcare brands are making it work in their favor (and that of their audience).
How to use social media in healthcare
- Why should healthcare organizations be on social media?
- How to use social media in healthcare
- Social media in healthcare: top tips and examples
- How can healthcare brands know they’re on the right track?
1. Why should healthcare organizations be on social media?
Much like in the banking sector, brands in healthcare might find it hard to find their place on social media. Even though they’re very much aware of the benefits of social media in healthcare and the value it could bring to their business, some of them struggle to navigate the challenges of the social media world.
So what are the strengths of using social media in healthcare, anyway?
Well, let’s outline some of them down below:
The issue of brand awareness, conversions or customer acquisition is a delicate topic when it comes to the healthcare industry. Ideally, nobody should be in need of medical services, advice or treatment, but that's a utopian scenario.
At the end of the day, healthcare organizations - whether they are pharmaceutical companies, local hospitals with a social media presence or the WHO (World Health Organization), are businesses and they need customers in order to survive. Just like their customers need them.
Still, better brand awareness doesn’t just equate profit. It also means more opportunities to educate people on important public health matters, draw attention to health crises and drive action.
New audience segments
One of the biggest benefits of the internet is its interconnectedness. That means everything that’s being shared can reach anyone in the world - provided they have a good internet connection. Of course, health-related information should not be an exception to this.
Social media helps brands in the healthcare sector to reach new audience segments - such as teenagers - who are otherwise less likely to be interested in health-related marketing campaigns. By making their content more easily digestible and even fun, healthcare brands can win over younger generations (such as Gen Z).
@who Did you know that #penicillin was discovered by accident❓ #WHO75 #HealthForAll #FunFact ♬ original sound - World Health Organization (WHO)
Authentic relationships with potential customers or patients
In the healthcare industry, trust is huge. For any piece of information to be taken seriously, the audience needs to trust the person or company who is sharing it.
Social media makes this easy - it enables brands to shake off their cold, corporate feel and become more friendly and relatable, all of which breeds trust in the minds of the audience.
2. How to use social media in healthcare: best practices
If you’re a healthcare brand of any kind and you want to venture into the social media world, you will most likely need some best practices to guide you through the maze.
Likewise, if you’ve been posting on social media for a while but you’re not seeing the results you expected or meeting the social media goals you’ve set for your brand, you need to readjust your strategy based on the best practices for social media in healthcare.
Have a strategy.
It should go without saying but it’s worth mentioning regardless - formulate a strategy for your social media content in the healthcare industry. If you have no idea what to start, your best bet is to look at your competitors.
For example, if you’re a medical center like Cleveland Clinic, then you might benefit from checking in on what your competitor Mayo Clinic is doing on social, what platforms they’re active on, what type of content is performing best for them, what’s their tone of voice etc.
This competitive analysis will give you a starting point, a foundation for your future strategy.
Once you start posting and tracking your performance with an analytics and benchmarking tool like Socialinsider, you will start to understand what works best and build from there.
Implement a rigurous content approval system.
In the healthcare industry, every piece of information that goes out to the public needs to be 100% factual, so a content approval system is much needed in this case.
Diya Banerjee, the Global Head of Social Media for WHO, has shared with us some insights on this topic in an episode of our podcast.
Share educational content.
When it comes to social media in healthcare, there’s a surefire way to offer value to your audience: share valuable content that educates and keeps them informed.
Since it’s been proven that visual content is more engaging, many brands are choosing to organize the information in infographics, carousels or even flow charts, to make it easier for the audience to visualize and understand it.
Educational content is, for all intents and purposes, the bread and butter of most social media strategies in the healthcare industry. It’s the one content pillar that will never “go out of style” as it were, because people will always benefit from being informed and understanding more about the medical world.
Healthcare brands usually take this opportunity to address common myths or misconceptions, destigmatize sensitive topics and encourage conversations, raise awareness for early diagnosis and prevention of illnesses and promote healthy lifestyle choices:
The downside to a free flow of information around the internet is that some of it can be inaccurate, misleading or downright false. As a healthcare organization, one of your “unwritten” duties is to have an active role in combating misinformation and setting the record straight for important health matters.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent and most appropriate example here. During the early days (months, even) a lot of false information was circulating on the internet, which led to many people not trusting the advice of medical professionals or healthcare organizations.
That meant that healthcare organizations had to step and leverage social media to combat misinformation.
Inspire and motivate your audience.
The healthcare industry is not the happiest industry there is. The content you share through social media should not only inform and educate but also provide hope and inspiration for those struggling with medical conditions as well as those who are healthy but could benefit from some motivation to live a healthy life.
That’s why a lot of healthcare organizations take to social media to share inspirational content, whether that’s success stories of patients overcoming a certain illness, new scientific breakthroughs that leads to better treatments or just people achieving wonderful things despite of their illness.
Shape the public perception of healthcare.
Sometimes, the work of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel gets taken for granted, no matter if we’re talking about a pediatrician at your local clinic or a nurse taking care of patients in a war zone.
Social media is, in many ways, the perfect medium to share this type of content due to its massive reach. It helps the audience take a peek behind the scenes and gain trust in the healthcare system, in other words shape the public perception of healthcare.
3. Social media in healthcare: top tips and examples
We’ve explored a handful of ideas that can help guide your social media strategy in healthcare. Now let’s move on to some practical tips and examples.
Celebrate global events.
One handy tip I can give you is to keep an eye on global hashtag events. They are a great way to improve your account’s reach and engagement and of course, a good opportunity as any to draw attention to important health matters.
Here’s an example from WHO sharing a post on World Hand Hygiene Day, using the corresponding hashtag:
Don't push product promotion.
One thing you will NOT see often in healthcare social media content is a lot of product promotion. That’s because it tends to reduce credibility. In other words, if you’re a pharmaceutical company developing a new drug, social media is not the right place to promote it.
Instead, focus your efforts on educating and inspiring your audience, giving voice to important people in the industry and growing your brand awareness.
In healthcare, perhaps more than in any other industry, people have a lot of questions. The difference here is that their questions are more often born out of necessity not curiosity. The COVID-19 outbreak, for instance, was a time of great uncertainty where people had a lot of questions about the disease, the outcome, treatment, etc.
In response, WHO organized a weekly Q&A sessions that addressed these topics and helped restore some sense of hope to the public:
Integrate user-generated content.
In the healthcare industry, first-person accounts and personal stories are crucial for building trust and relatability and promoting higher engagement. So don’t shy away from adopting and sharing user-generated content such as testimonials, as it sets you on the path to more impactful content.
4. How can healthcare brands know they’re on the right track?
Easy - by using an advanced social media analytics and benchmarking tool like Socialinsider! Since healthcare companies usually prioritize brand awareness and user engagement on social media, it’s worth tracking these metrics using a unified dashboard that shows their evolution over time.
Let’s take the example of Pfizer, a global pharmaceutical company.
For the purposes of this analysis, we’ll just look at Instagram analytics, but you can do the same with any social media channel you’re interested in. And the right place to start is at the top, in the key metrics section.
Here you see all the important metrics at a glance, and notice instantly if your performance is improving or declining in the selected timeframe. For Pfizer, we can see that even though they’re posting more often, their engagement (in all its variations) is declining.
To improve engagement stats, they should be posting more of what earns them the highest amount of engagement right now. In this case, Reels.
Another way for healthcare brands to check if they’re on the right track is to compare themselves with competitors.
For this we have the Compare function:
In this case, we can see that even though Johnson & Johnson has an overall smaller audience, they managed to earn more engagement and more followers over the last 12 months than Pfizer.
When it comes to best performing posts, Pfizer’s post is one that highlights a celebrity’s (Lady Gaga) struggle with migraines - a common health affliction - while Johnson & Johnson’s top post is a carousel that highlights the company’s innovations that “helped drive medicine forward”.
If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it is that social media and healthcare can be a very powerful duo if they cooperate properly. Healthcare companies may find it challenging, but leveraging social media in healthcare pays off in more ways than one, and ends up benefiting everyone involved.
At the end of the day, free, valuable social media health content promotes an important principle: that healthcare should be available for all, regardless of age, location, culture or demographics.