Health care marketing professionals face the challenge of growing a messaging base in this age of proliferating media. Roughly 43% of Americans use the Internet as a source for gathering health and wellness information (according to the 2013 c2b Consumer Diagnostic) which has created both an opportunity and a dilemma for marketing departments.
There is, simultaneously, an increased number of potential health care consumers yet a decrease in the ability of a single organization to be “noticed” in social media feeds and search engine listings.
Facebook and Google aren’t as open as you think.
The free, unrestricted, organic growth that marketers knew in the early days of Google, Facebook and Twitter has been played out.
It used to be that a person or organization five years ago could post a fan page on Facebook, watch the “likes” roll in and be assured that every post would be present in the newsfeed of the majority of those engaged “fans.” But the rules have changed— in a move that one blogger has called “the greatest bait ‘n’ switch in history.”
Beginning in spring of 2012, with their IPO rolling and large investors clamoring for the company to shore up its revenue model, Facebook changed its algorithm to make posts in newsfeeds less organic. A post that would have previously been visible to the majority of a fan base is now visible, immediately after publication, to less than 10% of a given page’s viewing base.
To become visible to more people, the content must generate “likes,” shares, or (most valuable to Facebook) comments. Otherwise it is relegated to the nether regions of the archive, unseen and unsung.
Simultaneously, though, Facebook offered a solution: marketers could pay to promote content, so it could be seen by a greater number of fans, regardless of its ability to generate comments. A strategy that quickly becomes very expensive.
To promote just one post to a page’s entire fan base costs $200, and as we know, a post’s efficacy isn’t solely dependent on its being visible, but visible at the right time.
To tap into the true reach potential of any social media platform, organizations need to generate a steady stream of content, catching people at various times of the day, over their changing moods. And it must be done in a way that stands out against every other person or organization trying to do the same thing.
At $200 per post, 4 posts a day– just one every 4 hours from sunrise through prime time– would cost your organization $292,000.
A significant chunk of your annual budget for just one website.
And that doesn’t include expenditures to produce content— strategy development, ad concepting, photo shoots, video production, graphic design, web coding— nor backend expenditures like search engine optimization, bandwidth and hosting.
Still, new media cannot be ignored.
The American consumer has become accustomed to, and indeed expects, instant gratification. Have a question? Pull out a smartphone or laptop and get answer. And those answers are usually to unsophisticated questions. Ask any professional provider in your organization how many times a day he or she hears a patient say, “I was looking around on WebMD and I think I might have…”
Yet even as more consumers turn to the Internet for answers, they recognize medical professionals as an important source of information.
61% of respondents to the 2013 c2b Consumer Diagnostic report that they get healthcare information from their doctors, and over half list doctors among the “top three” most influential sources, with the Internet being the second most common.
So how can you leverage the two? Choose your paid promotions carefully and concentrate your efforts on producing engaging content. In addition, if you are a hospital or medical group, keep your health care professionals aware of this engaging content; in appropriate situations, a patient can be “hit in stereo” with the two most influential information sources.
What makes content engaging? How will it help visibility?
Think about posts that have provoked the most comments and shares.
Are they simple health factoids or pithy ad slogans with clickable banners? No. People are looking for information, for discussion, for opportunities to ask questions and find answers.
- Image is everything. It’s easy for a text post to get lost in the buzz on a social network feed. Interesting pictures that support your text (and your brand equity) will help you stand out. Videos are even better.
- Ask a thought-provoking question and encourage your “fans” to answer in the comments section. This can take a bit of policing, but Facebook’s algorithm gives heavy weight to those posts that are receiving the most comments and shares.
- Integrate your social network presence. If you post to Instagram or Vine, make sure that those accounts are linked to your Facebook page and Twitter account. There are various applications that can help you manage posts across multiple platforms.
- Know your audience. Speak with your audience, not at them. Psychographic analysis and segmentation is a powerful tool for helping tailor marketing strategy to your target health care consumer.
- Find a way to measure response, and keep track of results. You can’t afford to throw things at your Facebook wall and see what sticks. Work with your web team to develop methods for tracking which posts generate the most shares, comments and traffic.