It’s safe to say that social media is here to stay. Facebook recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and there’s no end in sight. Countless other interactive platforms are sprouting up on a regular basis, making it nearly impossible to determine where your time should be spent developing content and connecting with healthcare consumers.
The American Marketing Association’s Marketing News journal even refers to social media as “old-school.” Social engagement has transitioned from being a shiny, new object to a customer service and healthcare marketing necessity.
Many brands — particularly in healthcare — find social media to be intriguing, yet illusive. Valuable, but not quite sure how to successfully utilize the social networking websites. And how exactly do you measure success anyway? Algorithms are constantly changing. New Apps are developed at lightning speed. The rules of engagement are being rewritten every year.
It goes without saying that your brand should be utilizing this invaluable space to build relationships with your community, solidify your position as a thought leader, and reinforce what your organization stands for.
We all know that no one wants to think of a hospital when they don’t have to. That’s why it’s critical to have a page that people want to engage with, and find useful, valuable information along the way. So when the need eventually arises and a follower of your hospital page is deciding where to look for a provider, that person has a pre-determined positive connection with your brand.
With that said, we won’t try to convince you why the opportunity is a no brainer, we’ll simply tell you how to use it most effectively.
Here are 13 Best Practices for Healthcare Brands on Social Media:
1. A common rule of thumb that’s now universal among brand marketers is the “rule of thirds.” This rule states that tweets, posts, and status updates should fall into one of three categories and be spread more or less evenly between each. Additionally, keep a balanced level of sharing – 1-2 posts per day is plenty, no more, no less.
- 1/3 of posts should be about you or your brand
- 1/3 of posts should be about your industry, with content from an outside source
- 1/3 of your posts should be personal interactions
“When you shift away from solicitation as a primary focus of social media usage, you can begin to build an authentic community around your brand.” Steven Shattuck, writing at HubSpot.com
2. Photos. Use them. A lot. Time and time again analytics show that people are most engaged with images. Put time and effort into header images that are eye catching.
3. Don’t ignore complaints, and definitely do not delete them — unless the comment is extremely offensive (e.g. racist). Be transparent, be authentic, and acknowledge the commenter. Consumers just want to be heard, and research shows that people will turn against the brand if they’re ignored. Social media has created a 24/7 culture and people expect businesses to always be on, and respond quickly.
4. Ensure your post has a hook and a call-to-action: Try asking a question and “Click for more.”
5. Encourage comments and then reply to them.
6. Edit for grammar, spelling and broken links. Keep your posts short on all platforms; shorter posts get higher engagement. Use link shorteners like bitly.
7. If your hospital has a blog, brainstorm two blog titles: one that is optimized for SEO and another that is more appealing on social media (short, intriguing, eye-catching). Use the first title on your site and the other on social media when promoting.
8. A benefit to having a strong social media platform is you’ll increase search engine optimization through Google rankings; consumers do not want to click past the first page of search results so it’s important to have your page show up organically.
Since Google’s integration of the Hummingbird algorithm update, there’s been a new focus on optimizing your content for social media. Traditional SEO has historically been focused on link building (the more links to and from your content, the higher it ranked on Google search). Links to your site are basically votes in favor of your content. Although links are still very important, equally important are social endorsements such as Facebook likes and shares, LinkedIn shares, tweets and Pinterest pins. This is yet another reason why you can’t ignore the magnitude of a social media presence.
9. Dialogue. Social media is not a one-way street. The fundamental purpose of this platform is to mutually engage and interact. Show interest, ask questions and listen.
10. BE HELPFUL. This might be the most important practice of all. Too many brands use their voice to sell. Offer content that is useful, not just sales pitches.
11. Humanize your organization. Tell stories about your employees, volunteers or brand advocates (with their permission). Bring your mission, vision and values to life through sharing real people with real experiences. It can get tricky with HIPAA compliance so if you’d like to feature patients, be sure to take the appropriate steps.
12. Don’t repeat the exact same thing in multiple platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.) or else people will not follow everywhere you are.
13. Create a content calendar in advance, but don’t “schedule” timed delivery; the essence of social media is genuine engagement and there’s no way you can effectively engage if you’re not a live participant. Also, be sure to sync up your service line campaigns with social media content; relevant postings should complement what is in market. For example, if your first quarter is dedicated to promoting cardiac services, be sure to weave in supporting messages on social sites.
And one comment on contests. They can be excellent tools to garner excitement and increase your viral following. The entry requirements can be as simple as entering an email address for a chance to win, accept nominations for Mother of the Year in the month of May, or ask for a 200 word essay on why they’re committed to making healthy choices during February (Heart Health month). For prizes, can you offer a free comprehensive health screening? Or maybe a spa package certificate to a neighboring business? Get creative.