Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the  intersection of Social Media and Healthcare. Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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Hospitals Finding New Ways to Use Social Media in Marketing

Hospitals Finding New Ways to Use Social Media in Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |
We’re becoming accustomed to social media campaigns. Clothing stores posting pictures of their newest, chicest clothing; promoting sales and events on Facebook and Twitter; offering digital coupons and contests online. But promotions and contests are calls to action. But this isn’t the only way to employ social media in a marketing plan.

Hospitals, in particular, have been utilizing social media in new, interesting ways to promote their good works. Why shouldn’t they? With 61 percent of adults using the web to find health information, according to Pew’s Internet and American Life Project, there’s a lot of opportunity for hospitals to engage.

r>61/100 Adults use the Internet- Case in Point

A fifteen-year-old boy listens to the beat of his mechanical Berlin heart in Montreal, Canada. Vincent is at the top of the heart transplant list and is simply waiting. Wouldn’t it be great to share Vincent’s story? Talk about the courage his courage? If you’re part of the hospital’s PR team, don’t you want to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation? Don’t you want to tell people about your hospital and the important work you do?

Well, Pamela Toman, a public relations officer at Montreal Children’s Hospital, thought the same thing. Pamela took to Twitter, creating the #AHeart4Vincent/#UncoeurpourVincent hash tags. Within days, people were talking about Vincent—hockey stars from the Montreal Canadiens paid Vincent a visit just a few days after the Twitter campaign was launched, national news broadcasts followed.

“We are so excited to see that our message is reaching people across Canada,” said Pamela. But it didn’t only reach audiences in Canada. Ronnie Magro of MTV’s Jersey Shore even showed up to support Vincent. Vincent’s successful heart transplant generated good publicity for the hospital and allowed them to highlight their talented surgeons and life-saving programs.

Montreal Children’s Hospital is not the only medical facility getting involved in social media. The Health Care Social Media List counts 967 hospitals across the U.S. using Twitter to create conversations and raise awareness about what they do.

967+ Hospitals in US using TwitterAccording to MHA’s Top 50 Most Social Media Hospitals for 2013, the Mayo Clinic won top honors based on their presence across social media platforms, their followers and amount of activity. Mayo won top rankings in Twitter, with 567,998 followers and 11,392 tweets.

11k Mayo’s tweets, 568k Mayo’s Twitter followers

Part of their success with Twitter comes from its brand of Tweets—short news clips that encourage conversation and promote education and awareness. Not only do they retweet health related news, but they also invite followers to post questions for a doc to answer on Mayo Clinic’s weekly radio show, Medical Edge Radio.

Though news and education is not as emotionally gripping as Vincent’s story, it is safer. There is a danger with emotionally charged stories—especially in medicine, where stories can take hard turns. This YouTube clip from New York Presbyterian Hospital is a good example.Though the story certainly highlights the work of New York Presbyterian Hospital and its dedication to this young child with a brain tumor, it also has a sad ending. The child ultimately loses the battle. Incorporating this case into a marketing campaign invited criticism from marketing expert Harvey Chimoff, who said: “My view is that the story is inappropriate for this usage. It feels wrong and perhaps even somewhat exploitative of the family.”

This highlights the sensitive subject matter involved in hospital marketing. But then, there are few industries that have such powerful and universal stories to share. Hospitals could feasibly share dozens of stories across social media, raising their profile and promoting their good work, but how to track it? How to control it?

Pamela Toman of Montreal Children’s used SalesForce’s Marketing Cloud—a powerful tool that allows PR officers to track social media online activity and respond to it immediately.

With Marketing Cloud, she could immediately respond to tweets about Vincent and keep the campaign on track and—more importantly—foster an online community through interaction. She could not only see who was responding to her, but who—out of the millions on there using the world wide web—were talking about Vincent and the work of Montreal Children’s.

Hospitals aren’t just promoting their services. Their methods are aimed at creating communities by consistently engaging patients and colleagues over social media. They’re creating new ways for patients to get answers, which is much more powerful than a coupon.
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Defining Buyer Personas in Healthcare Marketing

Defining Buyer Personas in Healthcare Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

s we have just concluded a series on healthcare marketing to the different generations, I thought it may be important to touch on the need to understand your buyer personas before putting any time and effort into your marketing.

What are Buyer Personas?

Though I went to school some 20 something years ago, I don't remember the terminology of "buyer personas."  More often in our marketing classes, we referred to a "target market".  Buyer Personas, as I have learned, are much more than target markets. 

According to Tony Zambito, "Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, whatthey are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.  (Today, I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy.)"

As far as healthcare marketing goes, it is more than defining a target market of "Prospective Patients ages 23- 35."  It means truly understanding what drives them to make healthcare decisions, where they shop, how they shop and how they make decisions. It involves understanding their frustrations, their pain points and their hot buttons.

Example of Buyer Personas 

We work with a Urology Group who are trying to recruit new patients to their practice.  One of their buyer personas we have named Manly Matt.  Manly Matt is a man ages 55-65 who is suffering from prostate cancer. He is well educated and though he did not grow up with computers, is very familiar in how to use them. He has a smart phone.  He searches the internet for answers to his healthcare questions, and trusts the recommendations of friends, especially his wife.  Manly Matt is not actively engaged in social media, himself, though his wife is on facebook daily.  He will read blog posts and loves to see what others before him have gone through and learn about their actual experiences. 

This Urology Group is very interested in starting a facebook page.  Is that a good idea considering this buyer persona?  Well, my first thought was no, - they are targeting men ages 55-65, the baby boomers,  and most of these men are not on social media.  Women are on facebook.  But when we really took a step back and analyzed this persona, we understood that if we created targeted content to the wives of these men, then, we could use facebook as social media outlet.  We will have to stay focused on "taking care of your spouse through prostate cancer."  We will have to focus on the women as caregivers for their husbands within this social media channel. 

Buyer Personas help us focus the content and the medical digital strategy we implement at all of our practices.  While defining them may be one of the most difficult things to do, by far, it is one of the most important things to do to kick off a well organized healthcare marketing plan. 

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3 Pinterest musts for hospital communicators

3 Pinterest musts for hospital communicators | Social Media and Healthcare |

Pinterest isn’t a passing fad. It’s here to stay—especially when it comes to hospital marketing.

At our fifth annual Health Care Social Media Summit at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., you’ll find out why during our session, “Pinterest: A powerful tool to share wellness content.”

Alexandra Tursi, social media strategist for Fletcher Allen Health Care, says Pinterest can help educate the community about relevant and important health topics.

“Pinterest is a natural fit for us,” Tursi says. “It’s a place share our expertise in nutrition, fitness, and workplace wellness. We can also reach out to niche audiences, like people with diabetes who are looking for healthy and delicious recipe ideas.”

Tursi shares her thoughts about Pinterest:

If a health care communicator asks you, “Why Pinterest?” what is your quick answer?

Two reasons: the audience and the virality factor.

The primary users of Pinterest are women between the ages of 25 and 45. For most health care organizations, this is a primary target audience. Here’s your opportunity to talk and share with them.

The primary user behavior on Pinterest is “repinning”: 80 percent of pins are repins. That means most of the content shared on Pinterest is curated versus created content—it is simply the individual browsing through their Pinterest feed and “repinning” or “liking” the content they want to collect for themselves.

There is huge potential for your health content to go viral in this kind of setting. Who doesn’t want their positive health message to spread through a social network?

How do you use Pinterest to change patient behavior—with videos, fitness tips, healthy recipes or other boards?

We use Pinterest to share health and wellness information, specifically in children’s health, diabetes, nutrition, and fitness, as well as expert commentary in areas that range from cardiology to orthopedics to cancer. 

We share videos with our chief of pediatrics, Dr. Lewis First, as well as video interviews with our providers, health infographics, and beautiful imagery from the state where we are so fortunate to live and work—Vermont.

What are the three most important things health care communicators should know about using Pinterest for their organizations?

1. Make your website pinnable. Pinterest has made it simple for Internet users to “pin” content from their favorite websites. Ensure that your website is set up for this by Verifying Your Website. You can check to see what has been pinned from your website by going here.

2. Strategically link to brand content. Think about how you can host branded photo or video content online. Pinterest is built on linking to source pages: When a user clicks on a photo or video, it brings them to the website where the content is originally hosted. You want that to be your brand website, blog, or microsite. Make sure you have images there. For example, we now ensure that we have at least one image with each blog post.

3. Follow copyright rules. Because so much of Pinterest activity is driven by “repinning,” we see users repurposing other user content. You want to be careful that you do not use content without permission. For example, you may “repin” a beautiful photograph, only to learn that the photographer requires that you have a license to share that photo. At Fletcher Allen Health Care, we ensure that we have the rights to the content that we use, and because we do “repin” we also ensure that what we repin is in the public domain. Learn more about copyright on Pinterest.

How much time should a communicator spend on Pinterest each day?

The average Pinterest user logs in for about 14 minutes per session; however, some Pinterest users may spend as much as 90 minutes in one session. As busy health care communicators, we do not have that luxury. I spend between 15 and 30 minutes per day on Pinterest. I typically log on between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., because that’s when use is highest. I’m also known to log on after 8 p.m. because that’s another high-traffic time.

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5 tips to create a strong social media presence

5 tips to create a strong social media presence | Social Media and Healthcare |

1. Focus your content. Find your niche.

We live in a world where purpose matters.

2. Create consistent themes.

If people like what they see, they'll come back for more.

3. Give your content a branded look.

If people share your image by uploading it to Facebook or another social media site, make sure you own it.

4. Have a flexible content calendar.

Follow the two-stream content method:

- One stream of content is planned.

- The second stream of content is based on listening in real-time to what's going on in your niche and around the Web.

5. Post what the audience likes-and wants to share.

Read more at:

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Healthcare Marketing: 5 Social Media Examples

Healthcare Marketing: 5 Social Media Examples | Social Media and Healthcare |

More than ever, it’s essential for hospitals and health providers to rethink their healthcare marketing mix to include social media.

The proof is in the numbers: 34% of consumers use social media to search for health information

While it’s easy to identify demand, many healthcare marketers are not exactly sure how they might tap into the social web to reach business goals. To help understand the possible applications, consider these five examples of how the social web can work for hospitals and others in the healthcare industry:

1. Tweet Live Procedures
In the past year, social media channels have helped open up an area of healthcare previously only available to a select few: the operating room.

Last February, Henry Ford Hospital became one of the first hospitals to Tweet a live procedure from an operating room. Doctors, medical students and curious non-medical personnel followed along as surgeons tweeted short updates on the kidney surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.

This healthcare marketing tactic can effectively create excitement and raise public awareness for a healthcare organization. In the case of the Henry Ford procedure, Twitter was abuzz that February day with users both re-tweeting the messages from Henry Ford and adding their own thoughts on the event. That buzz can help healthcare organizations both attract new patients and recruit medical personnel.

2. Train Medical Personnel
Some healthcare organizations are beginning to recognize the potential impact of leveraging social media channels to complement training efforts. Mayo Clinic Social Media Manager Lee Aase, for example, incorporated social media into a recent training presentation for local chapters of the American Heart Association. During the presentation, Aase leveraged Twitter to encourage participants to contribute to the discussion using the #AHAchat hashtag.

Weaving social media into healthcare training initiatives can provide multiple benefits, including:

  • Giving trainees a forum to ask questions and quickly receive answers
  • Providing presenters with immediate feedback from trainees (i.e., if trainees have mastered a concept of if more guidance is needed)
  • Enabling organizations to complement healthcare marketing efforts by sharing slideshows, video or pictures from training sessions on social sites like YouTube or Flickr

3. Reach Mainstream Media
70% of journalists now use social networks to assist reporting, compared to 41% the year before, according to a  Middleberg Communications survey. With numbers that high, it only makes sense for healthcare marketers to leverage social media channels in order to achieve coverage by both mainstream media and industry publications.

As part of healthcare marketing efforts, organizations can use social media channels – including blogs, forums and microblogs – to share success stories from out-of-the-ordinary operations or treatments, medical research or other significant achievements. For example, when Aurora Health Care tweeted a knee operation in April, it received significant media attention, both from mainstream media and industry publications including Good Morning America, the local Milwaukee public radio network and Hospital Management Magazine.

4. Communicate in Times of Crisis 
When disaster strikes – whether it be a flood, an earthquake or a terrorist attack – hospitals and healthcare providers are at the center of it all. Healthcare providers can leverage social media networks to provide real-time updates both for those directly affected by the crisis and those watching from afar.

During the November Fort Hood shooting attack, Steven Widman of Scott & White Healthcare – one of the hospitals that treated Fort Hood victims, used Twitter to provide up-to-the-minute news. Through Twitter, Widman provided updates on emergency room access and hospital operation status, re-tweeted news from Red Cross and communicated with reporters.

Widman shared with Found In Cache Blog the results of the social media crisis communication efforts:

  • Twitter followers increased 78% in just three days
  • Scott & White Healthcare was listed on the front page of Twitter as a “trending topic”
  • The hospital’s YouTube channel was ranked the 79th most viewed non-profit channel during the entire week surrounding the crisis

5. Provide Accurate Information to Patients
73% of patients search for medical information online before or after doctors visits, according to this video from the HealthCare New Media Conference. With the magnitude of health information available on the web – both accurate and inaccurate – it’s likely that these patients can easily be misinformed.

By integrating social media into the healthcare marketing mix, organizations can share accurate, timely information regarding symptoms, diseases, medications, treatments and more. Social sites like Inspire are providing a forum for patients to share their health problems and questions about treatments with other patients, as well as qualified medical personnel. Inspire, for instance, partners with trusted health nonprofit organizations to ensure information is accurate and its community is safe.


The benefits of integrating social media into healthcare marketing efforts are priceless – from improving patient care to gaining media coverage to attracting new patients and staff. If your healthcare organization hasn’t already taken advantage of social networking channels, now is the time. If you’re having challenges getting approval, check out “Social Media in Healthcare Marketing: Making the Case“.


How else can healthcare marketers leverage social media to complement their efforts?

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7 Social Media Tools and Platforms to Watch in Healthcare Marketing

7 Social Media Tools and Platforms to Watch in Healthcare Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |
Social media is hard to keep up with. Just look at Instagram; one minute it was a new kid on the block and next thing we knew it had more than 1 million users. So, where are you positioned on the healthcare social media spectrum? Are you even on board?

Don’t neglect the power of social media when it comes to connecting with patients and prospective clients. It’s great that your using Facebook and Twitter, and hopefully Pinterest, but make sure you’re staying on top of the social media revolution.

Need a little help getting familiar with the latest and greatest healthcare social media tools and platforms? Here are 7 you will want to keep your eye on.

For your eyes only. HootSuite is a tool that allows organizations, companies, and teams can communicate – and collaborate – in real time on the same page. No more endless email chains. Your company’s head in Seattle can work with the sales reps working in Tokyo. The idea is that social media has streamlined our personal lives, so it might as well streamline our professional lives as well.

Exclusivity at its finest. Does the Facebook network seem too big to manage? Maybe it’s time to create your exclusive Medium guest list. This social media site is invite only, and prides itself on promoting higher-quality content. What a great way for your healthcare social media presence to create a higher-caliber network of friends and followers.

Thumbs up or down? Thumb Pro for businesses is a way to get instant feedback from a diverse network of followers. You’ll benefit twice: you get immediate input on ideas, which can help you to make better decisions as you grow your business, and your clients will feel more connected and engaged in the meantime, helping to cultivate their loyalty.

Pheed. This is one of the newest social media networks out there, about to celebrate its 1st birthday in October. Pheed is predominantly used by celebrities, musicians, and people of that ilk, and users have to pay a subscription fee to access the photos, broadcasts, and postings. That begin said, getting in on the action early can help to solidify your presence. Consider the types of information your patients may be willing to pay a small fee for, and then develop creative content around that.

Show me the Chirps. Chirpify is the one-click-payment wonder, designed to work across multiple social media channels. It allows people to pay for goods and services or make donations, simply by replying with the word, “Buy.” So, launching a new line of nutritional supplements? Putting together an amazing physical therapy discount package? Use Chirpify so clients can buy it instantly; 5% of the payment goes to Chirpify, but you’ll profit from impulsive social media followers.

Automatic photo theme-ing. That’s right, we said, “theme-ing,” not streaming. With Flayvr, your photos of guest speakers, health fair events, or recent hires to your staff will be automatically organized into interactive collections. Then, a simple tap is all you need to post them to your website, social media networks, or an email.

Instant sharing with the masses. Ever wish you could send a single message to everyone in the room? Perhaps the doctor is running 10 minutes late, or you want to send a message reminding patients that co-pays are cash or credit card only. Use Chirp. Chirp emits a high-pitched sound. Then, any phones within range automatically begin downloading your message, photo, or links to your website. Pretty amazing.

Which of these healthcare social media tools do you think will be The Next Best Thing? We’d love to hear what you think.
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Social media in healthcare and why the doctorsaurs became extinct

Social media in healthcare and why the doctorsaurs became extinct | Social Media and Healthcare |

You see, it is rare that doctors air their views on social media (SM), and I have done a fair bit of that on this forum. If you sift out all my posts pertaining to healthcare and read them in sequence, you will have a pretty representative idea of how the average South African doctor feels about the changes and current status of our profession. It’s all there, every sorry complaint about an industry that in its state of disruption has little to cheer about.

These are issues about which you, the lay public, are generally unaware until things fall apart. I believe you should be, because they impact you directly every time your health takes a knock.

Little of what I say is new to my colleagues. There are many other doctors who write far more eloquently than I do about the challenges we face, and by proxy that you, the consumer, face, but they publish predominantly in medical journals or medical newspapers — media that are read by the medical community alone. The issues we fight about impact directly on our ability to offer good medical care to you. You don’t get to read about them. So you, the consumer, have little idea how much angst pervades the doctors you rely on to get you out of a bad health situation. Unless a few of us spill the beans in places like this.

So it is fitting that I bleed my heart out here, for the world of SM is where opinions are aired, challenged, established and changed. SM is a realm of revolt and upheaval, the domain of the common man, where every person has a voice.

You would think that the organisations that profess to recognise doctors’ rights and represent us would have a good grasp of this potential. I hoped that they would. My experience over the past two years suggests that this is not the case.

I have made a careful study of the impact SM will have on the practice of medicine in this country, based on the already remarkable changes that have taken place in the US and Europe. There are rules to be followed, things a doctor should or shouldn’t do, massive advantages of engaging with patients via SM, and equally big risks in doing so. It is an ethical minefield pocked with big rewards. Every point of the SM universe has advantages and pitfalls.

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How to Choose a Healthcare Marketing Partner

How to Choose a Healthcare Marketing Partner | Social Media and Healthcare |

Marketing has come a long way since the first time someone put a sign in a window or created a simple flyer.  Success with marketing is predicated on your understanding of what you are marketing, and the best target markets to receive and act upon your message. Gone are the days of simple marketing solutions.  Today, marketing is as varied as the industries it serves.  Niche marketing agencies are the norm today, offering specialized solutions for clients that require in-depth knowledge, understanding and marketing experience.

Each industry presents unique marketing challenges. For example, marketing a cell phone or tech product is very different from marketing professional services such as legal or accounting firms.

Marketing for medical professionals, healthcare organizations and even international hospitals and medical tourism organizations must be tailored specifically for their end users: patients seeking healthcare services.

When your medical facility or healthcare organization is looking for a marketing partner, it’s best to find a provider that offers expertise in your specific area. In other words, it’s important to work with an experienced specialist. It’s a bit like choosing a cardiologist over a general practitioner for a complex heart surgery. Experience matters.

What Are the Advantages of an Experienced Healthcare Marketing Partner?


Remember, the primary reason to engage a marketing partner is because you need someone who can help you effectively promote your services to the right target market at the right time.

Doctors are extremely dedicated to their work.  However, because of their specialization and intense commitment to medicine, they rarely have time to become experts in marketing. Hospital administrators are masters of complex healthcare management issues, but rarely have expertise in successful marketing.  In fact, most business professionals are specialists in their fields these days. This includes marketers.

Remember, experience in marketing healthcare services, both domestic and international healthcare marketing, is critical.  You may have a highly skilled web developer who feels they can build a website that will market your institution effectively. But the technical and design aspects of a website are only a fraction of the skills needed to build a quality patient-focused healthcare brand and to develop patient relationships built on credibility and trust.


Health care marketing partners already have contacts that will help you promote your services today. When working with proven medical marketing professionals, your organization will have a measurable advantage over your competitors.  Health industry marketing professionals are already immersed in the industry. They know the trade shows, key trade media vehicles, consumer media, email lists, public relations outlets and more.

An experienced healthcare marketer will help you better understand and appreciate your competitive advantages, helping you build a healthcare brand on what makes you different and what makes you better.  In the end, a good marketing partner will help you tap new markets and continually find improved ways of communicating with patients in innovative and meaningful ways.

An experienced healthcare marketing partner will know what channels are the best, what resources are attractive to people who are looking for health care and where potential patients go to find the information they need. They understand competitive price structures and how your services can be positioned to stand out and get noticed in a world of competitors.


Some healthcare marketing agencies have experience with hospital branding or design development.  Other agencies may have experience with website development and SEO services.  Others may be specialists in media planning and purchasing.  How you do know which healthcare marketing agency to choose?  Very few healthcare marketing agencies do it all.  Decide what’s important for your company and find a marketing partner that offers the services you need.  In today’s competitive healthcare marketplace, it’s important to understand which marketing tools will help distinguish and differentiate your facility from your competition.

We’ve created a healthcare marketing checklist for you to follow on your path to finding the right marketing agency for your organization.  The best marketing agencies will offer most if not all of the following services “in-house”.

We’ve developed the following checklist for your use. This may be a helpful tool to use when comparing agencies.

Traditional Marketing Services

 Branding: Corporate Identity: Logo/Tag Line/Branding Statements/Branding Book

 Marketing Plans: SWOT Analysis/Competitive Analysis/Market Analysis

 Media Research, Planning, Negotiation & Purchasing

 Public Relations: Print, Broadcast & Online Publicity, Article Development

 Print Material Development: Sales Literature & Brochures

 Print, Broadcast & Direct Mail Advertising

 Trade Show Marketing

Digital Marketing Services

 Intuitive & Interactive Website Design: Content Creation, Ecommerce, Microsites

 Social Media Marketing: Facebook, YouTube Twitter & More: Social Display Advertising

 Video Marketing: Corporate Videos/Testimonials/ Infomercials/Webinars

 Mobile Marketing & Websites: Smart Phone & Tablet Platform Compliance

 Content Marketing: Online Content/Articles/Blogging/Public Relations

 Targeted Digital Media Advertising: Development/Targeting/Purchasing

 Tracking & Analytics: Web Site Analytics/Online Advertising Tracking

 Digital Media / Traditional Media Integration: Print, Broadcast & Online Marketing

 Email Campaigns: Program Development & Execution, List/Database Development, Lead Generation

 SEO: Search Engine Optimization

 SEM: Search Engine Marketing (Paid Search)

 Bid Management & Optimization/Landing Page Optimization/Affiliate Marketing

j222's comment, April 6, 2016 9:52 PM
Thanks for the information
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How social marketing works in health care

How social marketing works in health care | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social marketing applies commercial marketing strategies to promote public health. Social marketing is effective on a population level, and healthcare providers can contribute to its effectiveness.

What is social marketing?

In the preface to Marketing Social Change, Andreasen defines social marketing as “the application of proven concepts and techniques drawn from the commercial sector to promote changes in diverse socially important behaviors such as drug use, smoking, sexual behavior... This marketing approach has an immense potential to affect major social problems if we can only learn how to harness its power.”1By “proven techniques” Andreasen meant methods drawn from behavioural theory, persuasion psychology, and marketing science with regard to health behaviour, human reactions to messages and message delivery, and the “marketing mix” or “four Ps” of marketing (place, price, product, and promotion).2 These methods include using behavioural theory to influence behaviour that affects health; assessing factors that underlie the receptivity of audiences to messages, such as the credibility and likeability of the argument; and strategic marketing of messages that aim to change the behaviour of target audiences using the four Ps.3

How is social marketing applied to health?

Social marketing is widely used to influence health behaviour. Social marketers use a wide range of health communication strategies based on mass media; they also use mediated (for example, through a healthcare provider), interpersonal, and other modes of communication; and marketing methods such as message placement (for example, in clinics), promotion, dissemination, and community level outreach. Social marketing encompasses all of these strategies.

Communication channels for health information have changed greatly in recent years. One-way dissemination of information has given way to a multimodal transactional model of communication. Social marketers face challenges such as increased numbers and types of health issues competing for the public's attention; limitations on people's time; and increased numbers and types of communication channels, including the internet.4 A multimodal approach is the most effective way to reach audiences about health issues.5

Figure 1 summarises the basic elements or stages of social marketing.6 The six basic stages are: developing plans and strategies using behavioural theory; selecting communication channels and materials based on the required behavioural change and knowledge of the target audience; developing and pretesting materials, typically using qualitative methods; implementing the communication programme or “campaign”; assessing effectiveness in terms of exposure and awareness of the audience, reactions to messages, and behavioural outcomes (such as improved diet or not smoking); and refining the materials for future communications. The last stage feeds back into the first to create a continuous loop of planning, implementation, and improvement.

Social marketing wheel
Audience segmentation

One of the key decisions in social marketing that guides the planning of most health communications is whether to deliver messages to a general audience or whether to “segment” into target audiences. Audience segmentation is usually based on sociodemographic, cultural, and behavioural characteristics that may be associated with the intended behaviour change. For example, the National Cancer Institute's “five a day for better health” campaign developed specific messages aimed at Hispanic people, because national data indicate that they eat fewer fruits and vegetables and may have cultural reasons that discourage them from eating locally available produce.6

The broadest approach to audience segmentation is targeted communications, in which information about population groups is used to prepare messages that draw attention to a generic message but are targeted using a person's name (for example, marketing by mass mail). This form of segmentation is used commercially to aim products at specific customer profiles (for example, upper middle income women who have children and live in suburban areas). It has been used effectively in health promotion to develop socially desirable images and prevention messages (fig 2).

Image used in the American Legacy Foundation's Truth antismoking campaign aimed at young people

“Tailored” communications are a more specific, individualised form of segmentation. Tailoring can generate highly customised messages on a large scale. Over the past 10-15 years, tailored health communications have been used widely for public health issues. Such communications have been defined as “any combination of information and behavior change strategies intended to reach one specific person, based on characteristics that are unique to that person, related to the outcome of interest, and derived from an individual assessment.”7 Because tailored materials consider specific cognitive and behavioural patterns as well as individual demographic characteristics, they are more precise than targeted materials but are more limited in population reach and may be more expensive to develop and implement.

Media trends and adapting commercial marketing

As digital sources of health information continue to proliferate, people with low income and low education will find it more difficult to access health information. This “digital divide” affects a large proportion of people in the United States and other Western nations. Thus, creating effective health messages and rapidly identifying and adapting them to appropriate audiences (which are themselves rapidly changing) is essential to achieving the Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing health disparity within the US population.8

In response, social marketers have adapted commercial marketing for health purposes. Social marketing now uses commercial marketing techniques—such as analysing target audiences, identifying the objectives of targeted behaviour changes, tailoring messages, and adapting strategies like branding—to promote the adoption and maintenance of health behaviours. Key trends include the recognition that messages on health behaviour vary along a continuum from prevention to promotion and maintenance, as reflected by theories such as the “transtheoretical model”9; the need for unified message strategies and methods of measuring reactions and outcomes10; and competition between health messages and messages that promote unhealthy behaviour from product marketers and others.11

Prevention versus promotion

Social marketing messages can aim to prevent risky health behaviour through education or the promotion of behavioural alternatives. Early anti-drug messages in the US sought to prevent, whereas the antismoking campaigns of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Legacy Foundation offered socially desirable lifestyle alternatives (be “cool” by not smoking).12,13 The challenge for social marketing is how best to compete against product advertisers with bigger budgets and more ways to reach consumers.

Competing for attention

Social marketing aimed at changing health behaviour encounters external and internal competition. Digital communications proffer countless unhealthy eating messages along with seductive lifestyle images associated with cigarette brands. Cable television, the web, and video games offer endless opportunities for comorbid behaviour. At the same time, product marketers add to the confusion by marketing “reduced risk” cigarettes or obscure benefits of foods (such as low salt content in foods high in saturated fat).

How is social marketing used to change health behaviour?

Social marketing uses behavioural, persuasion, and exposure theories to target changes in health risk behaviour. Social cognitive theory based on response consequences (of individual behaviour), observational learning, and behavioural modelling is widely used.14 Persuasion theory indicates that people must engage in message “elaboration” (developing favourable thoughts about a message's arguments) for long term persuasion to occur.3 Exposure theorists study how the intensity of and length of exposure to a message affects behaviour.10

Social marketers use theory to identify behavioural determinants that can be modified. For example, social marketing aimed at obesity might use behavioural theory to identify connections between behavioural determinants of poor nutrition, such as eating habits within the family, availability of food with high calorie and low nutrient density (junk food) in the community, and the glamorisation of fast food in advertising. Social marketers use such factors to construct conceptual frameworks that model complex pathways from messages to changes in behaviour (fig 3).

Example of social marketing conceptual framework

In applying theory based conceptual models, social marketers again use commercial marketing strategies based on the marketing mix.2 For example, they develop brands on the basis of health behaviour and lifestyles, as commercial marketers would with products. Targeted and tailored message strategies have been used in antismoking campaigns to build “brand equity”—a set of attributes that a consumer has for a product, service, or (in the case health campaigns) set of behaviours.13 Brands underlying the VERB campaign (which encourages young people to be physically active) and Truth campaigns were based on alternative healthy behaviours, marketed using socially appealing images that portrayed healthy lifestyles as preferable to junk food or fast food and cigarettes.14,15

Can social marketing change health behaviour?

The best evidence that social marketing is effective comes from studies of mass communication campaigns. The lessons learned from these campaigns can be applied to other modes of communication, such as communication mediated by healthcare providers and interpersonal communication (for example, mass nutrition messages can be used in interactions between doctors and patients).

Social marketing campaigns can change health behaviour and behavioural mediators, but the effects are often small.5 For example, antismoking campaigns, such as the American Legacy Foundation's Truth campaign, can reduce the number of people who start smoking and progress to established smoking.16 From 1999 to 2002, the prevalence of smoking in young people in the US decreased from 25.3% to 18%, and the Truth campaign was responsible for about 22% of that decrease.16

Summary points

Social marketing uses commercial marketing strategies such as audience segmentation and branding to change health behaviour

Social marketing is an effective way to change health behaviour in many areas of health risk

Doctors can reinforce these messages during their direct and indirect contact with patients

This is a small effect by clinical standards, but it shows that social marketing can have a big impact at the population level. For example, if the number of young people in the US was 40 million, 10.1 million would have smoked in 1999, and this would be reduced to 7.2 million by 2002. In this example, the Truth campaign would be responsible for nearly 640 000 young people not starting to smoke; this would result in millions of added life years and reductions in healthcare costs and other social costs.

In a study of 48 social marketing campaigns in the US based on the mass media, the average campaign accounted for about 9% of the favourable changes in health risk behaviour, but the results were variable.17 “Non-coercive” campaigns (those that simply delivered health information) accounted for about 5% of the observed variation.17

A study of 17 recent European health campaigns on a range of topics including promotion of testing for HIV, admissions for myocardial infarction, immunisations, and cancer screening also found small but positive effects.18 This study showed that behaviours that need to be changed once or only a few times are easier to promote than those that must be repeated and maintained over time.19 Some examples (such as breast feeding, taking vitamin A supplements, and switching to skimmed milk) have shown greater effect sizes, and they seem to have higher rates of success.19,20

Implications for healthcare practitioners

This brief overview indicates that social marketing practices can be useful in healthcare practice. Firstly, during social marketing campaigns, such as antismoking campaigns, practitioners should reinforce media messages through brief counselling. Secondly, practitioners can make a valuable contribution by providing another communication channel to reach the target audience. Finally, because practitioners are a trusted source of health information, their reinforcement of social marketing messages adds value beyond the effects of mass communication.


Contributors and sources: WDE's research focuses on behaviour change and public education intervention programmes designed to communicate science based information. He has published extensively on the influence of the media on health behaviour, including the effects of social marketing on changes in behaviour. This article arose from his presentation at and discussions after a recent conference on diet and communication.

Competing interests: None declared.

AACS Atlanta's comment, October 18, 2019 2:24 AM
If you have been charged with a DUI, or if the DUI charge was reduced to reckless driving, the state of Georgia will most likely require you to attend a 20-hour Risk Reduction Program. For detail for directions
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6 Creative Ways to Use Twitter Vine for Healthcare Marketing

6 Creative Ways to Use Twitter Vine for Healthcare Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Video can make a major impact and leave a lasting impression. When that power is paired with the strength of social media, the results can be truly remarkable. Now, that mighty marketing combination is available via Vine, the mobile app from Twitter that can be used to record and share brief videos.

Despite its six-second limit, content creators are already getting creative and producing video snippets that inspire, promote, educate, and entertain. In fact, their brief length makes people more likely to watch them since they know they’ll be short and sweet. To help healthcare marketers create the most compelling and beneficial videos, offered the following savvy suggestions.

1. Spotlight Your Supporters – Satisfied patients and passionate employees can be a powerful form of advertising, so let these advocates sing the praises of your brand on video. Help each of them create a personal video and attach it to the brand’s #hashtag for the world to see and share.

2. Exhibit New Technology – Give the facility a competitive advantage by highlighting new medical equipment via video. Show how the facility prides itself on having the latest advances in treatment and testing, and then briefly show how it works—and works wonders.

3. Celebrate Special Occasions – There are an abundance of special days, weeks, and months devoted to different health issues and Vine is a great way to show the organization’s support for these occasions. Healthcare videos can feature inspiring messages to encourage support, personal stories of hope and survival, and interesting facts that grab attention.

4. Hype Up the Hospital – If the organization is about to unveil a new building or a renovated area, create a teaser video as a way to promote the debut and spark buzz about the event.

5. Offer a Virtual Tour – Introduce potential patients to your facility by offering a virtual video tour. Show off the high-tech features and beautiful surroundings, as well as the friendly faces that staff the facility to leave a likeable and lasting impression.

6. Promote Upcoming Events – Spread the word about fundraising, health classes, blood drives, and other events by creating brief teaser videos. Make the videos upbeat and promote the benefits of the event to encourage attendance.

Vine is an outstanding way to leverage video and social media all at once. It offers enormous potential to healthcare marketers as they strive to connect with consumers in the most convenient and contemporary ways.

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Medical Marketing on Pinterest: The Safest Place to Start Health Care Social Media

Medical Marketing on Pinterest: The Safest Place to Start Health Care Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |


Health care companies are not getting involved in Social Media because they’re scared. If you look at the hoops medical marketing directors have to jump through with their legal department, and then combine that with the pressures all marketers face, such as justifying marketing spend, it’s no wonder health care companies have chosen to stay on the sidelines.


Many businesses are finding that it’s possible to engage with patients, customers, and other stakeholders without running into legal problems. If you’re still feeling hesitant, that’s okay. Take one step at a time. Not ready for all of the conversational aspects of Facebook? Try a less conversational network. Here’s where Pinterest comes in.


According to Simply Measured, 69 of the world’s top 100 brands are on Pinterest. Pinterest is driving more traffic to websites and blogs than Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or YouTube.


You can also gain positive brand exposure when people see pins about your company, the people who work there, and the products and services that are changing lives.

You can teach patients about a new product you are launching so they understand how it works and how it benefits them.

Give patients a look inside your company and what makes your organization great. This is an opportunity for you to humanize your company. After all, your team probably got involved in health care because at least some part of you wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.

Now is your chance to show consumers the side of your company that feels their emotions, shares their desire to find the cure, wants to effectively treat a medical condition, dreams of ending suffering, and will do whatever it takes to save lives.

Driving referral traffic to a website from Pinterest is incredibly valuable for medical marketing. Why? This is a golden opportunity for health care marketers to ride the social wave without getting tangled in the legal complication. You get the benefits of social media: brand exposure and awareness, positive corporate PR, patient education, exposure for new product launches, and referral traffic to your health care website without the risks that are inherent in the more conversational social networks.


Pinterest is primarily a visual network. People look at images, share images, pin images, like images, and on occasion, maybe comment on an image. But Pinterest is no Facebook. Facebook is the water cooler where people really start talking about things. When people start talking, legal and regulatory departments get nervous. Breathe a sigh of relief. People don’t usually get too involved in conversations on Pinterest. Many people have probably never commented on a pin in their whole Pinterest history.


If you’re worried about people talking, start on Pinterest. It’s not a huge drain on resources because it doesn’t require you to monitor and respond to conversations all day. While I would recommend always having a plan in place before starting any social media campaign, I don’t think a detailed response matrix for responding to various situations is necessary like it is on Facebook.

Posting pictures of patient education materials and other images you already have visible to the public in your existing marketing mediums isn’t likely to elicit lots of comments. This means you aren’t likely to deal with complaints, negative reviews, potential adverse event reports, or off-label discussions. People just don’t use Pinterest in that way.


It doesn’t require as many resources for content creation. You don’t need to post 3-5 carefully crafted messages a day and then be ready to respond to them. As the Marketing Communications Manager, you don’t have to worry about a flood of content you have to oversee for legal risks. Pinterest doesn’t move as fast as the other social networks. You don’t necessarily have to post every day. The work flow is manageable.


You just have to provide your agency with the visual materials you already have and they organize and repurpose the imagery for Pinterest. It’s that easy.

Yes, you, Director of Marketing for a healthcare company. I know you already have Pinterest content, even if you don’t think you do. Chances are, you already have images on your website that can be pinned. I would go as far as to venture that if you really surveyed existing marketing material, you would find a lot of images that can be repurposed for Pinterest. Did you know that you can pin video, too? Pinterest is a great way to get more exposure for your medical marketing videos, which can be a great way to showcase your technology and help customers to understand the benefits of your product in an easy-to-understand format.

Still need some Pinspiration? Here’s a list of 40 ideas for Pinterest that can help you get started.


I know this is a lot to process, but if you think about it, this is an exciting, low-risk way to enter social media. With the help of an agency, all you have to do is provide some of your existing visual material, and they will do the rest. You don’t have to go through pages and pages of written material with the legal team. You just need a willingness to be open-minded about social media. Once you decide your ready, trust your agency as the social media experts and your legal department as the legal experts. If everybody does their job, you’ll be just fine.

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Characteristics of a Healthcare Marketing Team in 2013

Characteristics of a Healthcare Marketing Team in 2013 | Social Media and Healthcare |

According to a Gartner study on digital marketing, many industries are increasing their marketing budgets this year. However, some industries – Healthcare included – are continuing to dump significantly higher funds into traditional marketing methods, which can’t be measured as effectively as digital efforts. In a world where consumers are increasingly transitioning their news and research mediums from television and radio to online sources, a lack of digital marketing is a gross misstep by any industry – especially healthcare.

Along with adhering to the growing trend of researching healthcare information online, the benefit of digital marketing is the ability to track potential and current patients’ behavior and conversions, illuminating which format and tone of messaging is effective.


Three-quarters of U.S. citizens prefer researching topics regarding their personal health before seeking professional, in-person medical advice. In order to capture the attention of this burgeoning self-searching consumer, it is vital for pharmaceutical and healthcare providers to invest not simply in digital marketing, but also in a great digital marketing team.

Effective healthcare marketing teams will develop and implement a plan that educates and engages current or potential patients in a cost-effective, measurable way. To build a great digital marketing team for your healthcare brand, focus on developing the following characteristics:

1. Able to plan in months – not just years

A hospital’s digital marketing team needs to begin with a solid plan that addresses short and long-term goals. Because data is available to us online instantly, there is no reason to not generate monthly or quarterly plans in lieu of locked-in, stagnant annual plans. This opportunity for frequent measuring and flexibility is vital to capitalize on new opportunities and react to market performance changes. If a paid search campaign isn’t delivering leads, there is no need to wait several months to make adjustments – that’s the beauty of search. And that’s just one way healthcare brands can ensure their budgeting dollars are being spent wisely.

2.  Cognizent of multiple marketing channels

A sufficient digital team features members who have experience marketing through multiple channels, such as email marketing, paid advertising, mobile apps, and local search. Often this means using a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. In healthcare, a CRM tool allows hospitals to comply with critical healthcare reform demands, such as sending appointment follow-ups and delivering literature for procedure preparation or recovery.

3. Proficient in social media

Healthcare marketing teams need to have a thorough understanding of how to use social media for the overall brand development. Along with allowing brands to reach new patients, social channels provide a way to signal to Google that a brand is relevant and committed to its audience. We especially want to emphasize the importance of using Google+ as a hub for sharing news, engaging in conversation, and encouraging online reviews.

4. Willing to rely on analytical thinking

From email marketing to website behavior, every aspect of an online business can be tracked. Team members who understand the digital trends and can draw insights from analytics will be able to communicate what impacts sales and why a web page sees an increase (or lack thereof) in traffic. Effective digital healthcare marketers will then be able to incorporate the data into creating even more successful marketing strategies – starting with sharing digital wins across all service lines. This application takes practice – and in many instances, training from outside resources – but the investment will change the way your organization measures success.

5. Eager to invest in content creation

Digital marketing hinges on website content – but this doesn’t just refer to an influx of words on new pages. Rather, this strategy refers to the creation of engaging, educational content that transforms the visitor into a patient and inspires him or her to share content across social networks, further expanding the potential audience. By referring to keyword research as an indication of what questions your organization can answer for patients, as well as what topics have significant search volume and opportunity for patient acquisition, a content strategy will enhance the quality of your hospital’s website while simultaneously catering to potential patients.


Times have changed for the healthcare industry. Now it is the patient who is in charge. This awareness should fuel all marketing efforts, especially inbound. It is critical to realize that a website without sufficient content will struggle to retain – much less convert – traffic coming in from paid ads, organic search rankings, or social media avenues. A digital marketing team must not only understand the evolving online marketplace, but also be able to educate, engage, and empower the audience with quality content and task-oriented websites.

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Healthcare Marketing: Humanizing Hospitals and Physicians Through Social Media

Healthcare Marketing: Humanizing Hospitals and Physicians Through Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Compared to other areas of business, healthcare marketers tend to fall behind in the realm of social media. Part of this problem is figuring out how to walk the fine line between the casual nature of social media, the seriousness of healthcare and the well-being of patients.

It is important for hospitals to be reputable, but not all content shared through a social media account needs to be formal. Think of social media as a place to promote a lifestyle and attract people with similar interests, rather than as a daily newsletter for your hospital or physician group.

It’s important to mix up content with interesting articles you find on other blogs, infographics, recipes and funny pictures. It’s okay to make people laugh; you need to come across as human, rather than a robot churning out posts that were preloaded months in advance.

Showing your human side is especially relevant in healthcare to make patients more comfortable and feel like they have a deeper connection with their doctors and nurses. It will also encourage patients to take more responsibility in managing their health.

If you need help convincing your CEO that social marketing is worth the time and money, check out the new Health Care Social Media List from The Mayo Clinic. It is a compilation of hospitals, physician practices and other health-related organizations in the United States that are actively using social media. You can use this list to see how you stack up against the competition.

However, it’s important to note that the marketing department isn’t the only staff group at a hospital that needs an online presence. Physicians are now using social media to connect with patients professionally, although some have reservations about this new medium.

Many physicians shy away from using social media to communicate with patients because they are afraid of violating HIPAA. Although this is a valid concern, the truth is that the odds of a physician violating HIPAA on social media are the same as in any other environment, including within the hospital and at a social event.

Nicola Ziady explains that HIPAA (in relation to marketing) simply restricts hospitals or physician groups from using private patient information to promote products or services without written permission, and that a patient may “revoke a written authorization at any time.”

Keeping that in mind, Leigh McMillan advises physicians not to talk about patients, even without stating their names, on social networks. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get inspiration for a post from one of your patients, but make the illness or condition the subject rather than featuring the patient.

Once a post or tweet is complete, McMillan recommends applying the “elevator test” before submitting. This means that you should read the post out loud, and if there is any part that you would not be comfortable saying in public, you should not publish it online.

There are two main reasons physicians should take the time to develop an online presence through social media, websites and blogs. The first is to build relationships with patients, and the second is for reputation management.

According to a survey conducted by Avvo, 73 percent of patients research physicians online, and a survey conducted by the National Research Corporation showed that 41 percent of patients search for medical information on social media sites. \

These e-patients search for and read patient reviews, disciplinary history, physicians’ resumes and published articles in order to make an informed decision rather than relying on referrals or word-of-mouth.

Dr. Howard Luks, a member of the External Advisory Board for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, said: “The most meaningful reason to establish a presence is that patients can find you and perhaps learn a bit more about your perspective, approach and rapport with your patient base.”

Another advantage to establishing an online presence is reputation management. Creating content on a blog, Facebook page or Twitter account won’t prevent patients from making negative comments, but it will “drown out or dilute content or comments that exist on many of these physician grading platforms when a patient performs a Google search of your name,” Dr. Luks said. If you have a website that generates content, you can control your messages and ensure that a lot of quality information will pop up in the first page of your Google search.

While healthcare marketers still have some catching up to do, a lot of progress has been made. In the Mayo Clinic’s Health Care Social Media List there are 1,500 hospitals alone that actively use social media accounts to improve brand reputation and retain patients. As an industry, we are on our way to developing best practices through exploration of new platforms and shared successes (and failures).

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6 Tips for Healthcare Marketers: Using Social Media Conversations in Content Marketing

Over the summer, Wendy’s turned customer tweets into lyrics for burger-inspired love songs. As tempting as it is (ha, ha) for healthcare marketers to drape bear rugs over white pianos and serenade their audiences, there are far less, uh, cheesy ways to utilize social media conversations in your content marketing.

People use social media to talk about healthcare not only on a large, national scale as states and businesses implement changes related to the Affordable Care Act, but also on a small, personal scale as they share with friends experiences of their doctors and local hospitals. As a healthcare marketer, you should carefully monitor these conversations as they relate both to your own services, providers and facilities and to your competitors.

Undoubtedly, you’ll hear comments your organization will want to address from the perspectives of customer service (and patient experience), employee training and policy/procedure reviews. However, you can also mine information for use in marketing – specifically in the creation of content.

Here are six ideas to get you started:

  1. In the moment, your replies to comments and tweets amount to “real time” content marketing. Your words do more than show that you’re responsive in the literal sense: they demonstrate you’re engaged with (concerned about, interested in, etc.) your audiences… an important element in the branding of every hospital, insurer and provider.
  2. If you’re seeing similar confusions repeated or seeing misconceptions perpetuated, be proactive and write about those topics for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s), blogs and newsletters.
  3. When you hear serious criticism of your competitors, you’ll want to take steps internally (of course) to avoid the same pitfalls. There may also be opportunities to create content (television and radio spots, online ads or videos) showcasing your organization as the answer to these specific pain points.
  4. If you’re hearing praise, be sure to say thank you… and share the testimonial as a piece of content wherever you think appropriate. In addition, take a closer look. It’s possible that the positive patient/consumer experience referenced in the social conversation could make a more in-depth story. And if you’re noticing specific aspects of your business or individual employees that social media users seem especially happy and excited about? Follow their lead and create related content about that service/provider. (Bonus tip: Be agile enough that you can do this quickly… while the energy and momentum are strongest.)
  5. And what about complaints and criticisms – can those lead to content beyond the customer service-type response? Absolutely! There’s this relatively quick fix: “We heard from our patients/customers, and we’ve made the following changes as a result.” And this slightly more introspective approach: “What we learned from an issue with x” or “How we’re meeting the challenge of y.”
  6. In addition to monitoring for mentions of your organization and your competitors, listen in on conversations on other topics related to your industry and your consumers. These may include specific keywords around health, wellness, disease, injury, treatment, cost, etc. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to community events and business and political developments in your region. Once you know what people are talking about and what interests them about it, you have a list of ideas for new material that’s interesting… not just to you, but to the social audience.
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Social Media Best Practices for Your Healthcare Business

Social Media Best Practices for Your Healthcare Business | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare providers have a lot of competition, so standing out is critical. A recent article on Media Post discussed social media best practices for organizations looking to optimize their social media presence.

Here are the key points to building, and maintaining, a successful social media presence:

  • Go where your audience is. Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to start due to their large base of users.
  • Focus your purpose. Knowing what objectives you are working toward through your social media presence helps keep your social media presence relevant.
  • Choose your measurements. Your objectives will determine how you measure success.
  • Understand social media tools. Make sure you know what tools are available to you and how to use them to your advantage.
  • Data, data, data. Use the data you gather to integrate social media with your other efforts.
  • Quantity vs. quality. Keep track of what is being said about you on social media and how many people are saying it. Remember to follow up on your findings and handle any issues quickly.
  • Mutual followers. Following your associates, partners, vendors, patients and other important people and having them follow you will help spread the word about your healthcare brand.
  • Employee participation. Your employees can often be valuable resources for providing relevant and timely content to keep your social media interesting.
  • Lessen your risks. Social media comes with a risk, but beginning with a comprehensive policy and training for your employees can help minimize your risk.

Using social media to your fullest advantage can launch your healthcare business to top of mind for your consumers. How do you keep your social media relevant and focused? Let us know in the comments.

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Surgery Videos as an Online Medical Marketing Technique

Surgery Videos as an Online Medical Marketing Technique | Social Media and Healthcare |

Medical marketing services have been undergoing some major changes lately. As social media claims an increasingly larger percentage of marketing spend, healthcare providers are seeking ways to expand their presence in this important new sector. Social media marketing is based on providing content that is appealing enough to attract the attention of website visitors, and valuable enough that these users will want to share it with others.

Taking that goal as the basis for their new ventures into medical internet advertising, healthcare providers are beginning to post videos of medical procedures online.

Surgery Videos as an Online Medical Marketing Technique

A video heart-surgery tutorial

Memorial Health Care System in Chattanooga, Tennessee has posted a free webcast on their site, which allows visitors virtual access to the operating room. This webcast contained two compelling elements: An edited, narrated video of a patient’s open-heart surgery, and an opportunity for live chat with the lead surgeon who performed the operation. The practice of medicine has traditionally held a certain mystique, where no one but the service providers themselves really have the full story on what’s happening. Opening the doors and giving a full view and discussion of such a major procedure results in physician practice marketing content that’s terrifically appealing. The thousands of viewers who signed up for this webcast and told all their friends about it are a great demonstration of this appeal.

Live streaming surgery and the hospital tweeting team

In Orlando, Florida, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children took virtual access to their operating room one step further as they provided 46 live updates (via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) of a dramatic surgical procedure in which a 3-year-old received a Goretex graft on her heart. The hospital’s social media team included commentary on these images, which were released about once every 10 minutes.

Future possibilities

According to the Chattanooga Times, Memorial Health Care plans to live stream a surgical procedure in the near future. While live footage of surgeries is commonly used for physician training, it’s a new idea to use this video material to engage interested website visitors. Furthermore, surgeons are beginning to use Google Glass as a non-intrusive method of capturing and sharing live video of procedures, and it is only a matter of time before these videos make the leap from physician training material to hospital marketing content.

Multi-target marketing

When a hospital posts video of surgical procedures, they are creating marketing material with an eye to more than just the pool of prospective patients. They are also demonstrating to physicians that the institution has a high level of professional confidence and technological know-how. This can affect the choice that these physicians make when deciding where to refer patients.

Sharing surgery videos as a form of online medical marketing is probably still in its earliest days. It’s likely that, in the future, hospitals and doctors will use such transparency to build credibility and establish a reputation for doing excellent work. Prospective patients and their families are likely to share video of similar operations with each other before undergoing those procedures themselves, and the possibilities for marketing are almost unlimited.

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4 Essential Steps to Healthcare Social Media Marketing Success

4 Essential Steps to Healthcare Social Media Marketing Success | Social Media and Healthcare |

As the Internet increasingly becomes the medium of choice for researching health information, social media has become an important channel for healthcare marketing.  In today’s social media-connected, content marketing rich environment, healthcare marketeers who are not using social media as part of their strategy are missing out.  In today’s post,  I will outline the four essential steps required for successful healthcare  social media marketing.

The first step is to gain a clearer image of who your audience is and what they are saying about you. Only then will you be able to create compelling, relevant and valuable content to fuel the social media engine.

(1) Identify and segment your online audience

Your healthcare marketing efforts will be much stronger if you can identify your target market and segment it so that you can tailor your content more specifically for them. Unless you take this first step, your social media marketing activities will remain unfocused. If you can clearly identify your target market, then you can plan the best combination of email marketing, social networking strategies, SEO, Pay Per Click, Banner ads, etc. You are looking to drill down deeper to discover their geographic location, their gender, level of education, family status, which social media sites they use, what conversations they are having online, how they are engaging with you, your competition and your online partners.

(2) Plan your social and digital media channels

Armed with this information you will now be able to plan which social media channels are most suited to your target market and direct your efforts accordingly. For example, if you identify that your audience is predominately female, you might direct some of your healthcare marketing efforts to Pinterest, a site whose rapid growth and success has been driven by women.

(3) Join in the online conversation

There is a support and community group for just about any medical condition or interest online.  To further expand their reach and focus on patient care, these groups need the input of qualified healthcare practitioners to help validate the information discussed on their sites and to ensure balanced views that are in the best interest of patients. Participating in these communities by providing advice, educational podcasts, guest contributions to widely read blogs and websites can help you broadcast your brand and build your reputation, while providing valuable support to the group.

(4) Monitor your online reputation

Consistency, credibility and connection are the cornerstones of maintaining your healthcare brand’s integrity.  It is important to listen to what is being said about your brand, not just to know what is going on and whether you are receiving any negative publicity or comments that need to be addressed, but also to know what you are doing right, so that you can do more of it. At a minimum keep an eye on tweets, comments and messages on your Twitter, blog and Facebook accounts. You should also set up Google Alerts for your brand and industry.

There’s no question that social media is growing in importance in the healthcare field and it is no longer an optional marketing strategy.  The conversation is happening online with or without you, so for the sake of your healthcare brand, join it!

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Social media best practices for hospitals

Social media best practices for hospitals | Social Media and Healthcare |
Here are 5 excellent suggestions offered by Marianne Aiello in an article for HealthcareLeaders Media. It’s republished in its entirety.

In 2013 the new millennium officially became a teenager. And like all teenagers, it is seriously addicted to social media. Really, mom and dad should consider limiting its data plan.

Hospitals, however, are still playing catch up in the social media space. There are plenty of excuses, from staffing problems to technical ditziness. But none is acceptable anymore. MySpace, the granddaddy of social media, was created ten years ago. It’s time the healthcare industry got with it.

 An infographic by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group highlights just where hospitals stand in the social space. Only 26% use social media. No, that is not a typo—just one-quarter of hospitals in the US use any type of social media. Of those,

84% are on Facebook64% are on Twitter46% are on YouTube12% blog

So that’s where we stand. Now let’s look at healthcare consumers.

About one-third of consumers use social sites for health-related matters. And these patients are sharing their experiences, with 44% of respondents saying they were likely or very likely to share a positive experience they had with a hospital.

More notably, 40% said they were likely or very likely to share a negative experience they had with a hospital.

So like it or not, patients are talking about your organization on social media sites. It’s a hospital marketer’s duty to be there to listen, share successes, and respond to complaints. Let’s take a tip from the newly pimple-faced millennium and get social.

Here are five resolutions all hospital marketers should make for the coming year.

1. Tell powerful patient stories.

Perhaps the greatest value of social media is the ability to quickly and easily connect with patients. From there, it’s up to the marketer to make this connection meaningful.

Often, the best way to accomplish this is by telling meaningful, powerful patient stories. Luckily for us, these stories already exist out there. We just have to find them. 

To do this, track any keyword or hashtag that relates to your organization. A third party platform such as HootSuite can facilitate this. If you don’t find much, start soliciting patient stories.

From there, you can share them on Facebook, re-tweet them on Twitter, or write up a blog post, which you can then link to on Facebook and Twitter. In some cases, YouTube may be the best storytelling medium. 

There are countless ways to share positive patient experiences through social media. And the more often you do it, the easier the process will become.

2. Do something innovative.

Another benefit of social media campaigns versus traditional marketing campaigns is that you can afford to take more risks. 

If a marketing campaign bombs, you’ve wasted money on print materials and advertising space. But, in most cases, if a social media campaign misses the mark you’re only real cost is the time it took to execute it. 

Besides, in social media taking a risk can pay off big.

Here are some ideas to get your gears turning:

Live-tweet a surgery to highlight a service lineExperiment with fundraising through FacebookSet up a weekly doc Q&A time on TwitterUse social media to attract new physicians and staffAsk a patient to live-tweet a “day in the life” at your organizationGet creative and see what sticks. As a bonus, local press love to cover innovative hospital social marketing efforts.

3. Take a hard look at risk management.

Of course, using social media to promote your organization has its risks. As much as people enjoy sharing positive feedback online, they seem to enjoy sharing negative feedback even more. It’s the nature of the beast. But this is absolutely not a reason to avoid social media altogether.

Like I said before, social media is about 10 years old. Most people using social media aren’t new. Therefore, most people using social media know that the anonymity users have on some sites turn people into hate-filled harping conspiracy theorists. 

You can just tell when a commenter has taken a couple crazy pills. Most internet users put everything they read online through a filter and, for marketers, this acts as a barrier of sorts. 

That said, there are some steps you should take to mitigate your social media risk. Make sure that you have a comprehensive social media policy for employees and that the policy is up to date. 

Employees should sign a document stating that they understand they are not to post any patient information or any negative comments about the organization. 

I’m amazed at how often I see a high school classmate post on Facebook about how much they hate their nursing job and mentioning the hospital by name. 

It’s also important to make sure all providers understand where the boundary lies when communicating with patients on social media. While you’re at it, ask physicians if they have a public Twitter account or blog where they postulate about anything healthcare related. 

Doctors represent your organization, so it’s critical to know what they’re putting out there. Social media savvy docs can also be great allies when formulating a new campaign

4. Keep an eye on your peers.

The healthcare industry as a whole is behind the curve, but many hospitals are true social media standouts. Keep an eye on these organizations to see how they launch campaigns, respond to criticism, and deal with employees. 

The Mayo Clinic tops the list of social media trailblazers and provides helpful information to other organizations through its Center for Social Media.

 UPMC is also a top organization to go to for social media tips, especially it’s well maintained Facebook page.

And if you’re looking for Twitter inspiration, check out Brigham and Women’s account. They tweet a variety of posts on anything from health topics to hospital rankings to volunteer opportunities.

5. Track everything.

None of this counts if you can’t view the statistics that tell you which efforts are working, which fell flat, which are tapering off, and which have found a second life. Keep count of your followers and likes, of how many people clicked your links, of how long visitors stayed on that blog post. 

This information will help you better tailor future social campaigns and give you solid numbers to report to your superiors.

With these five resolutions, hospital marketers should be able to commit to having a strong presence in the social media world now and for years to come—or at least until the millennium gets its braces off.
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The 7 Social Media Need-to Knows for Healthcare Marketers

The 7 Social Media Need-to Knows for Healthcare Marketers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Whether you already have an effort underway, or are contemplating dipping your toe into the social media pond, here are Manifeste Medical’s 7 “Need to Knows” for this dynamic and growing channel.

It matters who’s posting

Doctors, nurses and hospitals are respected most for being impartial and only sharing information for the sake of benefiting patients. if your medical personnel are too busy to post (not unusual), work with content providers or your agency to develop themes to help them get started, or even finished written posts for them to approve.

Start with Facebook

Your patients are on Facebook. It’s where they talk about their health issues and reach out to others with their thoughts and concerns. The infographic below shows that 84% of hospitals with a social media presence use Facebook.

Get the word out for a cause

People love spreading the word on a good cause using social media. If you’re spearheading fund raising activity or your institution is supporting a local or national cause, social media is a great way to spread the word. We’ve gotten some great viral action offering $1 for each new Like for a good cause.

Make a plan

“Let’s do a Facebook page” is not a plan. Pick your platforms, define who will run your effort, establish a content schedule, map out approval processes and posting permissions, and decide who will monitor and respond to comments. Social media is, well, social! It’s an ongoing conversation with your patients. Plan it as as an ongoing project. No, not even a project. Rather, a process.

Think patient utility

Simply put, provide your followers with information they find useful. You gain valuable traction by sponsoring varied and appropriate messaging, not by talking about yourself. Think about it this way, you are competing for attention not just within your category, but against every other post on your patient’s Facebook page.

Think visual

Photos, infographics, charts and now video. We are a visual information society so include visuals in your posts. Pinterest continues to grow fast and it is only visual.

Here comes video

Healthcare is stories. Healthcare is emotional. Video does both of these better than any other form of communications. Post videos and you will see immediate increases in engagement times on your site, your blog and any social media platform. Facebook now lets you post videos quickly to your pages so what are you waiting for?

Getting started

Social media can sound intimidating to the uninitiated, so it makes sense to engage an expert if you don’t have in-house resources. Once your plan is set you’ll find it’s like any other business process; ongoing and easily managed. Who’s doing it well? The Mayo Clinic has a phenomenal effort worth emulating. Keep in mind their program has been years in the making. Check out healthcare institutions in your area and see what they’re doing to get some ideas.

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If Some of the Largest Hospitals in the U.S. are Using Social Media, Why Aren't You?

If Some of the Largest Hospitals in the U.S. are Using Social Media, Why Aren't You? | Social Media and Healthcare |

How important is social media to healthcare marketing? Ask the professionals at the University of Michigan Health System, or the Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, or the Cleveland Clinic, or a host of other large medical organizations and they’ll tell you that social media is at the root of their patient outreach. Learning from these remarkable organizations and understanding their social media methods can help you to grow your own physician social media outreach.

According to the Wall Street Journal…


The efforts are part of a larger movement to engage patients and families in care and enhance the hospital experience. The federal Medicare program is basing some hospital payments on patient satisfaction surveys, including questions about how responsive a hospital is to concerns. Similar surveys are being developed for pediatric hospitals.


With social media, a hospital can cast a wider net for more feedback than it can expect from a traditional patient and family council composed of a small group of appointees who meet once a month or so.


Patient Satisfaction with Social Media Outreach

Social media outreach has broken down barriers, so that parents who want to get involved or patients who want to stay connected but have limited time or abilities, can still connect, become educated, stay involved and assist in making hospital procedure better through social media.


There have been amazing benefits to both patients and hospitals through these social outreach programs, including an improved checklist of ways to console families at the C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital, appointment reminders via text message at Nemours Children’s Hospital, and complex scheduling.


With social media outreach to patients, parents and families, the possibilities for improved care and enhanced hospital procedures is limitless. These strategies can easily be transformed and integrated into your own small practice social media outreach.


Local Physician Social Media Outreach

Just as these large medical organizations utilize social media to better the patient experience, so to can your practice, no matter what the size.


1. Break Down Barriers – One of the greatest benefits of social media patient outreach is the ability to break down all barriers. Your patients have access to your staff, or your social media agency, at all times for questions and concerns. Give them the resources to ask the questions they need, whether that’s an open-platform Facebook Wall, an app, or direct messaging. Make it easy for your patients to voice their concerns, or praise, when they need to.


2. Questionnaires and Surveys – You probably notice that after an online purchase, no matter what the e-commerce company, you receive a questionnaire asking how the process went and if you were satisfied. Your medical practice should instill the same type of process not only to determine if the patient was satisfied, but to gain some insight into how that patient was treated, and what suggestions that patient has for future success. And, most importantly, use that information to make your practice a better place – improve patient satisfaction!


3. Be Proactive – Engaging with patients on social media is one thing, but actually putting their suggestions and advice into action is a totally different story. As the remarkable teams at C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Nemours Children’s Hospital have done, take what your patients are telling you and find a way to improve the patient experience based on what they’re saying.


Social media has opened the doors for so many possibilities!

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How to Influence and Persuade Patients with Social Proof

How to Influence and Persuade Patients with Social Proof | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social proof is a principle of influence and persuasion that can be highly effective in healthcare marketing. People want validation that they are making the right choice or proper decision and the actions of others like themselves is compelling guidance. Here’s how it works and ways to use it.

There was an interesting item about the compelling power of social proof in FastCompany recently, written by an Australian bloke, Ruslan Kogan.[The Secret Power Behind Why We Pick Crowded Restaurants Over Empty Ones]

Part of his post is a story about selling remote-control helicopters in a busy shopping center during the run-up to Christmas. With only 30 days to sell literally a ton of these amazing toys, his initial efforts were a bust:

“Even though I had an awesome product that would make a perfect Christmas gift for a crazy price, there was close to no interest in it. I sold two or three helicopters a day for the first few days. I was screwed. I had about 10,000 of them to sell.”

His turnaround occurred almost by accident when a teenage cousin and friends started playing with the helicopters at his shopping center stall. (Kids and toys…what a combination.)

“All of a sudden, there was a stampede of people around my stall. I was making sales left, right, and center. When my cousin and his mates went back to school, the crowd of people disappeared. I called my cousin that evening and offered him $50 a day to come down with his mates and play with the helicopters. My cousin and his mates came every lunchtime and spent their entire weekends at the stall. I ended up selling all the helicopters by December 10.”

It was the power of social proof—people learning from others is a form of collective validation.  People will do those things they see others like themselves doing because it’s an implied testimonial.

In healthcare, prospective patients and caregivers are guided by knowing what others have decided or are doing when faced with questions or uncertainty. Patient referrals and word-of-mouth are often delivered one-to-one or in-person. But the greater power is online. The popularity of various social media platforms, such as Facebook, is due in part to social proof.

Over 70 percent of Internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year, with the most commonly researched topics being specific diseases or conditions; treatments or procedures; and doctors or other health professionals. About 26 percent of Internet users have read or watched someone else’s experience about health or medical issues in the last 12 months.

Healthcare marketing and social proof…

Among the many ways to harness social proof online is first to be mindful of the technique. On one hand, it’s easily overlooked. But it’s also fairly easy to apply the validation of others to your Internet presence. Here are several idea starters. Your situation may require adaptation, and some ideas can be applied to your website, blog, social pages or used in conjunction with related colleagues or organizations. Be flexible and demonstrate social proof using:

  • Testimonials and endorsements: Mindful, of course, of professional restrictions and confidentiality issues, the positive comments of satisfied customers can be collected and circulated in many ways. In addition to posting on your website, blog and Facebook page, video comments can be used in the office, at community events and via newsletters.
  • Active social media engagement: Experienced communicators understand that the value of social media tools is in its ability to provide a voice of the customer and to engage the audience in a multi-faceted conversation. In short, social media is highway, but in order to travel, you need the fuel of fans, followers, Likes, visitor comments, recommendations, sharing, forwarding, re-tweets, etc. And the greater the positive activity, the greater the social proof.
  • Display the score with social media counters: Website pages, individual blog posts and other public-facing pages can display activity counters. In addition to the marketing data reports, these counters provide evidence to the visitor that others have been to the same page. It’s also a reminder to share or comment.
  • Present photographic evidence: Employ pictures of real people and activities that are involved with or using your products/services. These can range form informal or candid “snapshots” (with permission of course), to documented case studies and presentations. SlideShare and Pinterest are two visually-driven platforms.
  • Take pride in your history: Explain your background, business past and community roots as an indication of your strength and stability. Perhaps include number of people served, products sold, or family generations participating.
  • Refer to awards, recognitions and leadership: With an appropriate dash of modesty, inform the universe of professional recognitions, community and civic awards or leadership activities, as well as media quotes or spotlights.

These are only a few of the many ways that social proof can be applied effectively. Although it’s around us constantly—we are all influenced by it daily—its place and useful power in healthcare marketing is often neglected.

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Driving Engagement through Social Media for Healthcare Providers

Driving Engagement through Social Media for Healthcare Providers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Historically, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt digital marketing practices. However, social media provides a great way for healthcare companies to engage their audience with interesting and meaningful content.  And more and more healthcare marketers are getting up to speed.


Platforms like Facebook and Twitter let patients have conversations with real doctors and healthcare workers, and the ability to share such conversations help spark interest and get more people involved.  People love to share their opinions and win competitions, and healthcare companies can take advantage of this by creating surveys and contests to be deployed through social media.

In fact, many healthcare companies are starting to become more involved in social media. 

But which healthcare providers are taking advantage of social media? Check out some innovative examples of healthcare institutions that are really engaging through social media. 

Lexington Medical Center

The Lexington Medical Center made great use of the 2012 Pink Glove Dance, a video competition where the prizes are awarded as donations to breast cancer charities, to attract attention to itself, engaging practically the entire state of South Carolina. They used social media, content marketing, and YouTube to ramp up their efforts and get the community involved–and all for a good cause. This is also a great example of a healthcare facility going outside of the box and having some fun with their marketing.

Henry Ford Hospital

Social networks give businesses a place to be innovative.  Take, for example, the fascinating idea of using Twitter to share live broadcasts of surgical procedures.  The first was a tumor removal operation that took place in 2009 at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and many have followed.  These live broadcasts fascinate audiences and can showcase the facilities and level of care given by a healthcare facility. They also show transparency and create trust with patients.

Seattle Children’s Hospital

Seattle Children’s Hospital is also quite active on social channels. They have 71,794 likes on Facebook and their posts all average about 1,000 likes, which is great engagement. Seattle Children’s hospital excels on Facebook through their highly visual cover image and posts. They also encourage active blogging and have 4 separate blogs that appeal to different audiences including a blog for autism, teens, and medical reports.

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Social Media Today recently posted an article applauding the social media efforts of Johns Hopkins.  One of the campaigns that the social media manager Stacy Poliseo talked about in the article was one they did for Sheikh Zayed Tower and The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center. The buildings were under construction and the social media team created an interactive Facebook tab to learn about the buildings, take a video tour, and even take a quiz about the building’s construction. According to Stacy, “that page drove over 20% of new Facebook likes”, which is a great metric.

Even though many healthcare institutions are slow to adopt digital marketing, clearly there are some stand-outs who have truly embraced social media and engagement. 

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Research finds health care content marketing lags two years behind

Research finds health care content marketing lags two years behind | Social Media and Healthcare |

This is nothing against our wonderful marketers in the health care space, but just take a look at our content marketing research from two years ago. What you’ll notice is that the health care content marketing findings from this year look a lot like the overall findings from two years ago. And this makes sense – health care is a highly-regulated industry, and fear is rampant. But it also means there are significant opportunities for growth in this space.

In particular, some major findings include:

  • Forty-three percent of health care marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend over the next 12 months, compared to 54 percent for all industries.
  • On average, health care marketers spend 23 percent of their total marketing budget on content marketing activities, compared to 31 percent for all marketers.
  • Brand awareness is the most popular content marketing objective (81 percent).
  • The biggest content marketing challenge isproducing enough content.


Here are a few additional highlights of how this highly-regulated vertical is using content marketing:

Health care marketers use print more often

For the most part, health care marketers have similar rates of adoption for most tactics, but there are some notable differences:

Health care marketers tend to use print at higher rates than their peers:

  • Print magazines:47 percent of health care marketers use them, versus 35 percent of all marketers.
  • Print newsletters:43 percent of health care marketers use them, versus 28 percent of all marketers.
  • Annual reports:36 percent of health care marketers use them, versus 26 percent of all marketers.

There are also tactics health care marketers use less often than their peers:

  • Blogs:58 percent of health care marketers use blogs, versus 74 percent of all marketers.
  • Case studies:53 percent of health care marketers use case studies, versus 63 percent of all marketers. (This makes sense… just think of the challenges in the Pharma industry.)

Health care marketers use social media less often

Below you will see the average rates for using social media for content distribution. With the exception of YouTube, health care marketers use all social media channels less often than their peers in other industries do. Yet, it’s interesting to note that health care marketers use video (75 percent) slightly more often than their peers (71 percent).

Health care marketers outsource more content than their peers

Compared to their peers, health care marketers outsource content far more often: 63 percent versus 45 percent of marketers overall. Printed content marketing vehicles have been a mainstay in the industry for a long time, often outsourced to content agencies. In addition, adding outside consult is always helpful, as fear of HIPAA violations is always a concern for marketers.

A brief look at the health care demographic

While it is noteworthy to understand how marketers in the health care industry are using content marketing, it’s important to understand how other demographics may play a role in these research findings. Here are a few notes about the demographics of this research:

  • Out of 2,404 total respondents, 118 respondents identified themselves as working in the health care industry.
  • About half of the respondents work for companies with 1,000 or more employees, and 23 percent of total respondents work for companies with more than 10,000 employees.

Do you work in health care? Are these trends consistent with what you are seeing?

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