Healthcare and social media marketing management: Health goes social

Healthcare and social media marketing management? Are there any rules for social when it comes to health? Yes, because communication, like health care, cannot be improvised. On the contrary, you need attention, foresight, and good mix of the human element and the machine.

The healthcare sector, like many other sectors, has also been revolutionized by the advent of new digital solutions. As already mentioned in other articles, this revolution has affected several aspects of the sector: from the doctor-patient relationship to the new types of treatment of pathologies, which push patients-users to be more and more autonomous and independent.

What has changed in a particular way is also the way professionals communicate—or should communicate—with individuals has also changed. This is because digitization has now given even non-experts access to information about health protection and prevention. It is not by chance that we have begun to delineate, at least in Italy, the existence of a new digital subject, the so-called health “internaut,” a young person who has surfed the internet at least once to collect information on health, and who considers search engines as valid substitutes for a more traditional medical consultation.

 

Connected to health 

On the internet, users who are interested in learning more about healthcare have the opportunity to meet their needs in a variety of ways. They apparently take full advantage of it, as demonstrated by the fact that around 70,000 health-related web searches are carried out every minute, which represents 7% of all daily Google searches.

Most of these searches are for the purpose of self-diagnosis based on the different symptoms found on the internet. Secondly, users go to the Internet to deepen knowledge about new treatments or specific therapies, according to research carried out by Confindustria Medical Devices. Finally, users consult the internet to keep up to date with new technologies and devices to monitor one’s own health.

Therefore, for one reason or another, more and more patients are connected; for this reason, being effectively networked is fundamental for all companies in the sector.

 

Social Health

So, how to make health “social?” One way is to provide relevant content, intercepting users’ needs and research, in the wider context of a healthcare content strategy. Such an approach allows companies to become a point of reference for those who want safe and authoritative information on health topics.

Among other things, this allows companies to effectively counter the abundant “fake news” that can be found on the web that often misleads users to the detriment of their health and their wallets. Another way to take advantage of the above trend is to oversee social networks.

A truly effective healthcare content strategy must include one or more social channels in order to spread content and reach the most relevant users. Also, social networks play an increasingly important role when it comes to health. An interesting study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that almost 90% of adults use social media to search and share health-related information.

And that’s not all. According to another study carried out by WeGoHealth, about 90% of respondents said that communities have played a key role in their decisions about healthcare and prevention. Also, according to this study, 87% of respondents said they shared health information more than once through Facebook posts, while 81% said they did the same thing using Facebook Messenger.

It is clear that social networks have become a formidable way to give and receive information related to one’s own health and, at the same time, they represent a preferential channel to connect patients, doctors, and healthcare professionals. In addition, social networks are an extremely effective tool that companies can use to reach users with their content, commercial or otherwise.

The above is all the more true when we talk about younger generations. A 2018 report by Adobe Digital Insights demonstrates this: social platforms are the most relevant advertising channel for 50% of generation Z and for 42% of millennials. To be relevant, therefore, every company must be on social networks, especially to intercept younger user groups, which are especially important since they represent the consumers of the future. Obviously, this is easier said than done.

 

The right way to be social    

The presence of a company or a professional on a social platform is not something that can be improvised. Every piece of content, every action, every choice, in general, must be part of a clear strategic framework and must be aimed at pursuing clear and precise objectives.

The risk, otherwise, is that of being damaged and also irreversibly compromising one’s consideration among users and professionals, given the ease with which the domino effect on social networks manifests itself. Let’s start, therefore, to list some of the most important rules to keep in mind in building a social strategy in healthcare.

 

To each audience its channel  

When it comes to social networks, the first “rule” is to carefully choose the social channel, depending on its characteristics and the objectives you intend to pursue. Each social channel differs from the others in a remarkable way and these differences should not only be known but also exploited. For example, Facebook is a widely popular social channel with a  different and varied audience.

On the one hand, the user base is very large and heterogeneous, but at the same time the targeting functions are increasingly granular, which allows companies to convey their content in a precise and efficient way. Beyond this, the language must be simple, direct, clear. Posts should be easy to understand, and they must take into account the fact that those who use Facebook often do so distractedly, paying little attention to what they see.

For this reason, the visual component is fundamental, as it serves to attract users and to push them to stop and learn more. Another interesting social channel is Twitter, although in Italy it is certainly not among the most popular, since “only” 32% of the population uses it. It is the social network of immediacy, of the here and now, where people tweet mainly to comment on current events. It’s no coincidence that users on this platform, more than others, like to interact and share their opinions on different topics.

A company can use Twitter to provide quick and relevant information, perhaps related to emerging situations, or it can be used to create live coverage of a company event. In addition, it can also be used to launch a hashtag or follow an existing one in order to ride the wave of current news or events. In any case, the content must be short, concise, and extremely clear in the summary, also because the platform limits the number of characters that may be used.  

The third social channel that should be covered is LinkedIn. Compared to Facebook and Twitter, this social network has a specific function, since it mainly connects professionals interested in networking and provides news and updates on their area of expertise.  For this reason, the content must be business-oriented and the language can be a bit more formal or technical. An interesting feature of the platform is the ability to create thematic groups to connect interested professionals. 

This tool can be strategic because it puts the company in a position to become a “connector” between different professional areas, which improves its relevance among experts in the field. To ensure effective coverage of your content, it is not necessary to activate all three. However, companies must be able to understand which one can be the most “useful” at the time, to create the content that best suits the channel, and then to measure performance in order to ensure the effectiveness of their investment. 

 

The right dose

Another golden rule of social media marketing is to make your content easy to share. The more a single post generates sharing, the farther the message can go. To guarantee all this, the content you offer must be relevant and contain elements that are mostly informational and only partially promotional.

There is a great hunger for information on the web that companies can satisfy by becoming a reliable and authoritative reference points for all users.

 

Listen, understand, act 

An important aspect of social media management is listening to your community. Being close to users gives companies the opportunity take advantage of social listening, i.e. activities aimed at finding and tracking the most interesting online conversations, related to specific keywords, phrases, events, or your brand itself.

Starting from this, the company can then develop content that is in line with users’ expectations. However, listening is not a passive action. On the contrary, most of the time it must be active. Often, in fact, health is an issue that can generate questions, doubts, and comparisons, even tough ones, on the net.

The worst thing to do is to stay still. Instead, you need to be reactive and able to respond quickly and effectively to the issues raised by users. A dissatisfied user, if well attended, can become a real ambassador of the brand.

 

Alternate engagement and education 

Another rule is to create content that is as varied as possible, alternating posts that involve users with posts that have a more educational function.

As far as the former are concerned, it is essential to be creative, experimenting with different formats, attractive visual approaches, or engaging headlines. As for the latter, it is essential to constantly produce relevant and authoritative content. In this way, the company not only improves its reputation among users, but it also “educates” its community, providing individuals with the necessary tools to recognize false information and to distinguish valuable content from content that is not grounded in science.

In both cases, what counts is to modify the language used, adapting it from time to time to the channel and the audience you want to reach: for example, you’ll address professionals in a different way than you would address a consumer.

 

Create empathy   

Social networks, in general, are about relationships, where you have the opportunity to meet people who share certain things in common. This has also been seen in the healthcare field since there are many groups where people meet to exchange opinions and personal stories.

The human element, in essence, is fundamental and must be included in order to create the empathy that plays such an important role in creating a lasting relationship of trust between company and user.

Again, more than the choice of channel, it is essential to choose an effective format that can reach users’ hearts. For example, videos are undoubtedly a winning communication tool when it comes to telling a story.  

Think of all the stories that can concern a patient, for example, a video content that also focuses on the role of the professional who followed him/her in the healing process or during the various treatments, has much greater communicative power. In this way, the user will empathize with the story they are seeing and will be more inclined to rely on that particular practitioner.

 

A robot helper  

Although the human component is fundamental, it is obviously not enough. Users, especially on social media, require constant attention, precision, and responsiveness from the company, which should be able to respond to their needs immediately, 24 hours a day. This is obviously not possible, as it would mean having a social media manager who is constantly moderating the channel. Instead,.we need to take advantage of the solutions that the digital revolution has to offer.

Among these, one of the most promising tools is the chatbot, i.e. artificial intelligence technology applied to social networks that are able to interact with users in a fluid way, without giving the impression of conversing with a machine. They’re able to provide consistent and immediate output to the requests that arrive directly, guiding the individual towards the best solution.

And that’s not all. Thanks to further innovations, chatbots can gain experience and learn from previous interactions in order to anticipate subsequent user requests. This is also part of the service that a company can offer and it’s a way to improve brand positioning, both online and in the real world.