Healthcare Marketing: More Focus on Search, Less on Social

In the rush to do social media, healthcare marketers have neglected what may be more important – SEO.  It’s time to correct that.

180435502Writing for Search Engine Watch, Jay Taylor wrote a very interesting article about today’s emphasis on social media at the expense of search engine marketing.  It was very stimulating and thought provoking.  The article was directed to small and medium sized businesses, but it’s very appropriate for healthcare marketers.  The article is reprinted here but I’ve taken the liberty to make a few changes directing it specifically to hospital and healthcare marketing:

Social media is all the rave, and for good reason.

Fortune 500 companies are showing that social can be a very effective marketing tool, particularly when it comes to brand awareness and engagement.

But how effective is social media when it comes to customer acquisition for hospitals?

Hospitals and healthcare organizations are increasingly placing emphasis on social media marketing as a customer acquisition tool, while placing less emphasis on search marketing. Here are five reasons why this is a mistake, and why hospitals should focus on search, not social when it comes to acquiring patients.

1. Search Gets Hospitals in Front of Prospective Customers Who Aren’t Already Familiar With Their Brand

Unlike Fortune 500 companies, most hospitals don’t have the resources to invest in brand awareness campaigns that can take months or years to pay dividends. New patient acquisition is the primary objective, and search allows hospitals to get in front of prospective customers who aren’t already familiar with their brand, but are in need of their products or services.

While organic search takes time, paid search allows hospitals to get in front of prospective patients immediately with ads that are contextually relevant to their search query. So, even if the prospective customer isn’t familiar with the hospital serving the ad, that’s OK, because that hospital is advertising a solution intended to meet that prospective patient’s immediate needs.

2. Searchers are More Likely to Convert Into Customers

People use social media to, well, socialize. People use search engines when they want to find something.

When was the last time you went on Twitter to look for the nearest hamburger joint? Now, when was the last time you used Google to find a local restaurant?

The fact that searchers are actively searching for the products or services your hospital offers makes them much more likely to become a customer than someone who simply likes your Facebook page. The person who likes your Facebook page may eventually become a customer, but chances are they did not like your page because of their intent to purchase.

3. Search Allows Customers to Easily Find Your Business on the Go

Search engines make it easy to find information such as phone numbers and directions to local businesses on mobile devices. In fact, 88 percent of people who search for local information with a smartphone take action within a day, such as calling or visiting a local business, according to Google.

Additionally, 77 percent of smartphone users use their device for search. So, even if you do not target a local customer base specifically, mobile search provides an excellent opportunity to get in front of prospective customers.

4. Social Media Marketing Isn’t Easy

Some hospitals tend to gravitate to social media because they perceive it as being easy and inexpensive, while perceiving search marketing as just the opposite. However, a well-executed social media campaign is no easy task, particularly if the goal is new patient acquisition.

On the other hand, if a hospitals is using their company’s Twitter page to tweet about how good the cafeteria food was today, then yes, that is easy and inexpensive, and also ineffective.

5. Search is a Proven Customer Acquisition Tool

Whether organic search or paid search, there is little argument that search marketing is an effective customer acquisition tool, and mobile search has only enhanced its effectiveness.

Conversely, there is still much debate regarding the relationship between “likes” and purchase intent, and social media’s effectiveness in general when it comes to customer acquisition. When working with a limited marketing budget, as most hospitals do, it makes sense to utilize a proven patient acquisition method.

Conclusion

The truth is that search and social are not mutually exclusive. The lines are blurring between them.

The most effective digital marketing strategy would utilize both search and social to their maximum potential. Yet, the reality is that most hospitals don’t have the necessary resources to do both effectively. So, when the primary goal is patient acquisition, hospitals should focus on search, not social.

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