Online Content Strategies and Paid Promotions in Healthcare Social Media

Welcome back to my three part series on creating a best in class healthcare social media strategy.  Part one discussed the building blocks of a social media strategy, and important questions that all brand managers and communications professionals should ask before sending that first post.  Part two focuses on content strategies for Facebook and Twitter and some how to’s on leveraging paid promotions in Facebook and Twitter.

As a review, your brand voice should be consistent across all platforms.  This holds true whether you have 140 characters to work with or unlimited characters at your disposal.  This is not to say that a brand will message everything the same way on each platform. In fact, I would encourage brands to message differently on Facebook vs. Twitter.

Personalization and emotional connection to healthcare brands is more important than ever. Broadcast, push it out, jam it down your throat marketing is no longer a successful strategy. Healthcare social media represents the perfect platform for sharing the real stories behind the people and place where patients seek care.  Choosing online content carefully and purposefully must be a key strategy for any healthcare social media team.

Patients of today are educated and making more informed, active decisions about their health. That means healthcare organizations must recognize and embrace the patient perspective. Patients want to know more about their healthcare organizations than ever, and that doesn’t mean how many beds a hospital has and how many awards a physician has won.

Great healthcare brands are not great by accident on social media.

Most patients will avoid thinking about health related issues until they have to.  No one sits around fantasizing about the joys of long term care or choosing a cancer center because it is an enjoyable experience.  As such, the times when patients are interacting with a healthcare brand are often emotionally charged, stressful periods during their life. However, great healthcare brands keep their patients engaged even after the period of immediate need is completed.  Great healthcare brands are not great by accident on social media.

Consider the following facts related to healthcare and the Internet from Pew Research Center:

  1. 59% of adults in the U.S. have looked online for health information in the last year
  2. 35% of adults in the U.S. have used the Internet to confirm a diagnosis or figure out what medical condition they have
  3. 53% discussed what they found on the Internet with their healthcare provider
  4. 41% of “online diagnosers” had their diagnosis confirmed by their healthcare provider

Understanding your target market is key to becoming a successful online healthcare brand.  Before posting content on social, it is critical to perform market research to understand how your brand is perceived in the market, to discover areas of strength and to identify areas of weakness.  Conducting this type of research on your competitors is also a good idea, as well. Hopefully, your marketing and public relations team completes this type of research at least yearly. As a social team, you should be looking at it all, very carefully, before starting a social campaign. For a really great, in depth look at the detailed, purposeful work that must go into creating online patient communities, head on over to Dan Dunlop’s blog “The Healthcare Marketer,” and read as much as you can. Also watch this great video presentation, “Launching Online Patient Communities: look before you leap,” by Dan and Dan Hinman of Hive Strategies, which is the best guide to building online patient communities that I have found to date.

Online Content Strategies for Facebook and Twitter, and leveraging paid promotions

Online content strategy on social is a four part package, in my opinion.

  1. Creating/curating/qualifying content
  2. Determining time to respond to audience for positive, negative and neutral comments
  3. Buying paid promotions
  4. Evaluating success of each piece of content and promotion

Quality online content is key to a successful healthcare social media strategy.  In healthcare, many brands find the greatest success using patient stories, provider stories and telling the real story of the people behind the care.

Remember, there is no magic bullet for success on social media, but there are best practices that are worth implementing, and worst practices that are worth avoiding.

PUGTATO’s nine recommendations for Facebook content strategy:

  1. No more than two posts per day.
  2. Keep it positive.
  3. Provide a link or a picture for readers to click on.
  4. Always include a call to action, e.g., read this, take a look, please share, go here, tell us what you think etc.
  5. Use pictures and videos. Research has demonstrated that posts with pictures and videos have dramatically more user engagement than non-picture posts.
  6. Decide on set schedule for posting.
  7. Monitor Daily.
  8. Decide on agreed upon response time.
  9. Get friendly with automated software

None of these are set in stone and are general recommendations that have worked really well for us at Breast Care for Washington.  Remember, there is no magic bullet for success on social media, but there are best practices that are worth implementing, and worst practices that are worth avoiding. As you engage with your audience you will learn what they respond to, and that will help you learn how to develop meaningful content.

Facebook remains the most popular social media platform available, and has increasing numbers of seniors joining. As of December 2014, Facebook reports 890 million daily active users, 745 million mobile daily active users and 1.39 billion monthly active users. 70% of Facebook users engage daily, and 45% of users engage more than once a day.

Pew Research Center reports that 52% of online adults use multiple social media sites, but that Facebook remains users go-to platform if they only use one. Facebook is non-negotiable.  Any healthcare brand seeking to appear credible and approachable must be on Facebook.

PUGTATO’s six recommendations for Twitter:

  1. Post at least once a day.
  2. Favorite, Retweet and respond to followers and users daily.
  3. Schedule at least one tweet a day with a link to an industry article unrelated to your organization/brand
  4. Check context of hashtags before use! You don’t want to end up in the company of DiGiorno Pizza and other corporate hashtag disasters, believe me.
  5. Use no more than three hashtags per tweet.
  6. Get friendly with automation software.

Twitter is different from Facebook.  You are less likely to hit as many people in your audience with a single tweet as you are with a single Facebook post.  As such, tweeting 10 times a day will be better received by your audience than posting to Facebook 10 times a day.

When tweeting multiple times a day be sure to space tweets out- rapid fire tweeting within a five minute time period will 1) annoy your followers, 2) defeat the purpose of using multiple tweets, 3) probably get you unfollowed or muted.  This of course does not hold true if you are participating in something like a TwitterStorm, which was used this past February to educate the public about measles, using the hashtag #MeaslesTruth.  The idea was to “dump 10 minutes of the truth.” The #MeaslesTruth Twitterstorm resulted in  5.7 million impressions in 10 minutes. (See the analytics here.) Here’s a great article from Symplur that describes the strategy and idea behind using a #MeaslesTruth TwitterStorm to educate about important health issues. The full #MeaslesTruth TwitterStorm transcript is available here.

Response time to audience:

Responding to your audience is very important to building engagement on social media.  Hopefully, this is not a foreign concept. What may be a new concept, however, is the idea of carefully choosing response times. Setting guidelines that are realistic for your organization will help to build structure into your social media monitoring and evaluation.

For example, let’s pretend a patient comments on your picture with a question and you respond within 5 minutes.  This happens a few more times and you respond almost immediately.  By doing so, you are setting a precedent that consumers can expect a nearly instantaneous response from your brand.  While this may be realistic on a certain day, most likely, an instant response is not sustainable long term.

This is why I recommend sitting with your social team and determining:

  1. What is a realistic timeframe for responding to your audience? Will the goal be the same for positive, negate and neutral comments/questions? How will response times differ on each platform?
  2. What type of comments will not be responded to?  What type of comments will be deleted- if any?
  3. Who will respond? Who needs to approve responses to patients?

In my opinion, waiting 24 hours to respond is unacceptable. Having an engaged social team means responding to your audience in a timely manner.  This means that your social accounts need to be monitored throughout the work day, and a brand should always attempt to respond same day. Additionally, always attempt to take negative responses off-line or into a private message if possible. Getting friendly with social automation tools like HootSuite, HubSpot,, and can all help with content curation and community monitoring.

In a healthcare setting, sometimes responses will need to be approved by your PR department or executive management due to HIPAA or other issues. There may be set messaging that is required, and the conversation may be better held offline.  Comments that violate your community’s standards should be removed, e.g., hateful comments, bullying, etc.  Stating your community’s standards clearly will help to define what is and what is not an approved topic for your page.

Timely monitoring of social accounts will allow your social media team to aggregate comments and to share the trends they find with marketing and PR and also the managers in relevant departments.  If someone is doing a great job on the oncology floor and multiple patients have commented about it- share it with the department and that employee!  Same goes for repeatedly negative comments.  Lots can be learned from patients in this setting.

PUGTATO’s Recommended Daily Social Media Check List

Daily Social Media Check list

  1. Check for tweets, comments, messages and mentions from followers. Refer questions to appropriate person before responding.
  2. Like, favorite, comment and retweet where appropriate.
  3. Check for friend requests and new followers. Follow back where appropriate.
  4. Double check tweets/posts from yesterday to ensure they are still relevant with today, e.g., have you posted accidentally in relation to an unexpected crisis, has your messaging somehow been linked to a negative event?
  5. Double check all posts from yesterday have working links to the intended content.
  6. Double check all posts from yesterday for typos.
  7. Review social media requests from different departments.
  8. Check paid promotions to ensure they are on budget and performing.
  9. Check editorial calendar, check with team to confirm events and industry news that may be relevant to audience.
  10. Schedule tomorrow’s posts/tweets. Check links, check for typos and check to ensure messaging is inline with decided brand voice.

Paid Promotions on Facebook and Twitter

Paid promotions on Facebook and Twitter are a great way to use marketing budget to target your desired audience.  In fact, paid promotions have become increasingly important for brands on Facebook, as the new algorithms for Facebook news feeds have dramatically increased the need for brands to “pay to play,” so to say.  While engagement will always be a driver of who sees your posts, in order to be placed into a friend or followers newsfeed, brands are now required to purchase that prime real-estate to ensure posts are seen by a larger proportion of a target market.  Keep in mind, the larger proportion is still quite small even with a purchased promotion, (e.g., 20,000 out of 300,000 targeted) but promotions work. Facebook advertising allows for numerous promotion opportunities in terms of ad placement, type of ad and cost.

Before purchasing an ad placement:

  1. Decide on the goal of your advertisement: engagement, page likes, website visits, etc.
  2. Decide on your budget.
  3. Choose target audience.
  4. Build messaging and imagery.
  5. Complete an A/B test on imagery and messaging using a small ad spend to help determine what message/image has the most impact with your audience. You might be surprised!
  6. Review ads weekly to track performance and make tweaks to messaging or imagery. Performance indicators to track include: impressions, click through rate, conversions. If these indicators are decreasing quickly then a change to the ad should be made.
  7. Update Facebook promotions roughly every 1-3 months, Twitter every 1-2 weeks.

Ad choices in Facebook:

  1. Right hand column ad– Desktop only, not visible in mobile app.
  2. Sponsored ads in newsfeed– The larger the budget the better these advertisements will do. Newsfeed placement is prime retail, and larger brands can afford to price out small companies. Think of these ads as you would buying a house- the cost is relative to how much someone is willing to pay for it.
  3. Post boosting– For as little as $5 a Facebook post can be boosted. You can determine a budget and timeframe to “boost” your post, allowing it to be seen by more people and more frequently.

In general, we found at BCW, our mobile advertising social placements did better than desktop view placements. Less than 1% of our views/clicks were from desktop users. Take a look at your analytics to determine which distribution channel makes the most sense for your brand.

Ad choices in Twitter:

  1. Promoted Tweets – Regular tweets that a brand wants to be seen by a larger audiences or to increase engagement. These are shown in users timelines.
  2. Promoted Accounts – User accounts that a user does not follow but may find interesting based on what they tweet and who they are connected with. This type of ad is useful for increasing followers. These advertisements are featured in users Home timeline, search results and who to follow suggestions.
  3. Promoted Trends – Time, context and event sensitive trends. These ads show in the trending tab on Twitter and occasionally in users timeline.

For more info on Twitter advertising go here.

Healthcare consumers want and need social proof from brands. They will look online to learn about your organization or product before going or using. Taking the time to carefully plan and strategize your social media efforts will pay off in the long run by increasing brand awareness and positive brand associations, all while driving revenue growth for your organization.  See you next time for Social Media Crisis Management and the release of my Social Media Content Strategy Template!

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