Healthcare Marketing: 25 Interesting Facts about Social Media

In her social media and PR blog, “Commentz“, Sarah Evans and her staff compile a lot of interesting stats. She cherry-picked the most relevant for marketers and recently shared them with Ad Age. They can be quite useful to healthcare marketers.

1. “Social media accounts for one out of every six minutes spent online in US.”

2. “Seventy-seven percent report that they use social media to share their love of a show; 65% use it as a platform to help save their favorite shows; and 35% use it to try to introduce new shows to their friends.”

3. “Facebook users are overall more trusting than non-internet others. Pew reported, 43% of survey participants were more likely than other internet users to feel that most people can be trusted.”

4. “22% of all grandparents in the UK are using social networks, according to Mashable. The study, which collected results from 1,341 grandparents from the UK, showed that 71% of grandparents who use a social network use Facebook, 34% are on Twitter and 9% use the business social network LinkedIn.”

5. “In the first four months after its January 2010 launch in Russia, Facebook use grew by 376%, and today more than 4.5 million people use the site regularly.”

6. “The ‘Weinergate’ scandal caused a significant drop in tweeting politicians. According to VentureBeat, after the scandal ‘the number of tweets by Republican members of Congress dropped by 27 percent, while those of Democrats dropped by 29 percent.'”

7. Instagram “currently has a user base of 4.25 million in only seven months, with ten photos being posted a second.”

8. “It only takes 20 people to bring an online community to a significant level of activity and connectivity.”

9. “Nearly twice as many men (63%) as women (37%) use LinkedIn.”

10. “In the last election Google was the largest player — the Obama campaign directed 45% of its online campaign dollars to the search site.”

11. “59% of adult Facebook users had “liked” a brand as of April, up from 47% the previous September. Uptake among the oldest users appears to have been a major factor in this rise.”

12. “In 2010, 29.3 million readers read some 270 million pages of Post journalism each month, a record for The Washington Post. Of that, 28.1 million did so online and, while [Washington Post] brought in 4.2 million new readers on average each month compared to the previous year, [they] also lost some 35,000 print subscribers in 2010 alone.”

13. “25% of hotels [are] still ignoring social media.”

14. “Businesses are paying Twitter $120,000 to sponsor a promoted trending topic for a day. […] That’s up from $25,000 to $30,000 when the feature was launched in April 2010.”

15. “AOL’s newsroom is now bigger than The New York Times’.”

16. “Mobile is one of the fastest-growing platforms in the world. With 40% of U.S. mobile subscribers regularly browsing the internet on their phone and a projected 12.5% of all e-commerce transactions going mobile by the end of the year, it’s a channel that you need to be aware of. According to Google, mobile web traffic will surpass PC traffic by 2013.”

17. “Twitter is 6-7 times smaller than Facebook.”

18. “There are now 54 million active Mac users around the world.”

19. “130 million books have been downloaded from iBooks.”

20. “Users say they’re more likely to buy if a business answers their questions on Twitter.”

21. “Nearly half (42%) indicated that if they’ve already allocated a portion of their marketing spend to social media, they would increase this spend over the course of the year. Only 8% of those surveyed indicated that they would decrease social media spend.”

22. “13% of online adults use the status update service Twitter, which represents a significant increase from the 8% of online adults who identified themselves as Twitter users in November 2010. 95% of Twitter users own a mobile phone, and half of these users access the service on their handheld device.”

23. “According to HubSpot, small businesses plan to spend 19 percent of budgets on social media vs. only 6 percent in larger businesses. A similar gap is shown for blogging with 10 percent of budgets for small business vs. just 3 percent for large.”

24. “33 percent of its worldwide traffic is inside the United States.”

25. “Facebook has three times as many accounts as Twitter, and 20 percent of Twitter’s users produce at least 80 percent of the site’s content.”



Hospital Advertising: Creative and Effective Ads are Not the Same

The ultimate goal of our advertising efforts is to provide information that will ultimately lead to more sells.  

The results are in.  It’s the talk of the advertising community.  The most liked spot in this year’s Super Bowl was a spot featuring a little Darth Vader.   You know the spot.  The five-year-old boy who’s dressed like Darth Vader wanders around the house trying to conjure up The Force to help him.  He has no success until he goes outside and calls on The Force to affect his dad’s car.  And to his surprise The Force is finally with him and the car comes to life.  Of course the viewer sees The Force is actually his dad using the car’s remote ignition button.

It’s a great commercial.  It was ranked as the most liked by Nielsen research.  It has created a tremendous viral following having been viewed on YouTube over 10 million times.   And it has been one of the hottest topics on Twitter and Facebook.  What a success!  But was it?

Do you remember the brand of the car?  The model?  Did it impart any information?  Did it sell anything?  Bob Garfield pointed out in an article in Ad Age that the vast majority of the conversation in social media was about the ad but not about the car.  So was it a great commercial for the brand?

David Ogilvy said, “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.  If it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative.” And there has to be some truth to that principle.  What did we learn about the car in the adorable spot?  That it has a remote ignition system?  Now that’s old news in the car industry.  That is hardly an advantage.  What else did the spot tell us?

We have to be careful we don’t make the same mistake in hospital advertising.  We need to communicate information.  Useful information.  Information that heightens the brand.   Selling is not a bad thing.  After all it is what all our advertising and marketing must ultimately accomplish. It’s not enough to be adorable.  We must sell.

The spot most liked in the latest Super Bowl could have been for any product.  Insert any brand you like.  Yes it’s well liked.  It has become a viral success.  But is that really what Volkswagen wanted to accomplish for its Passat?  If the American consumer remembers who the spot was for maybe they will rush out and buy one.  But then again probably not.


Hospital Marketing: Strategy First, Social Media Second

Social media is not the answer to marketing woes. But a strong, strategic plan is.    

“TGIF” – that’s Twitter, Google, the Internet and Facebook. And listening to some people you might get the impression the answer to every marketing problem is one or all of the above.  We just need to use these four tools, use them more often, invest more money and resources in them and we will become the market leader.  There is no doubt these four revolutionary developments have forever changed how we market products and services.  But are they the answer to all our marketing issues?

I think not!  As powerful and effective as these mediums can be, they are not at the core of what makes brands strong.  The most important thing is an effective marketing strategy. Without it, no combination of TGIF can resurrect a bad brand or sustain a good one.  Al Ries, chairman of Ries & Ries effectively made this very point in an article in Ad Age.  He emphasized that better strategies, not better weapons, win wars. And he gave some compelling examples.

Linen N Things didn’t go bankrupt because it didn’t effectively use Twitter. It went bankrupt because it was a knock off of Bed Bath & Beyond and never differentiated itself from the market leader.

DHL didn’t pull out of the U.S. market because it didn’t buy enough AdWords from Google but because it was the No. 3 brand in a category dominated by UPS and FedEx.

Kmart didn’t go bankrupt because it couldn’t figure out how to use the internet to promote the brand. Rather it went bankrupt because it was caught in no man’s land between low cost Wal-Mart and the high end Target.

Coca-Cola didn’t fail in 3 attempts to build a leading energy drink brand (KMX, Full Throttle and Tab) because it didn’t have a Facebook page but because it waited too long after the launch of Red Bull.

The point is obvious.  While TGIF are useful, effective and should be important elements in most marketing campaigns, they will not compensate for a bad marketing strategy. As Ries states, “what wins wars are better strategies.”   We sometimes spend a lot of time analyzing and utilizing Twitter, Google, the Internet and Facebook and not nearly enough time developing a strong effective strategy.  Without a good strategy, no medium will be effective.  With an effective strategy, just about every medium can be effective.

Let’s do the hard work.  Let’s focus on our brand strategy.  Then we will be prepared to choose the appropriate tactics to win the brand wars.


Healthcare Marketing: Facebook Surpasses Google

Facebook has surpassed Google as the most visited site in the US.

Facebook had flirted with it on several previous occasions.  Facebook was the most visited site on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.  And Facebook took the top spot during the weekend of March 6th and 7th.  But according to Hitwise, the week ending on March 13 was the first full week Facebook was the most visited website.

And to indicate Facebook’s rapid growth, the marketshare of visits to Facebook.com increased 185% over the same week in 2009. While Google’s increase was only 9%. Facebook.com and Google.com accounted for 14% of all US internet visits during the week.

Until recently no one could conceive of any site taking over the top spot from Google.  It is quite remarkable that Facebook has done just that. It is yet additional proof of the popularity and power of social networking.

And it emphasizes that any healthcare marketing strategy must include serious consideration of social media. Despite the fears, pitfalls, worries and concerns healthcare marketers have for social media, it cannot be ignored. There is just too much traffic and too much engagement on Facebook to dismiss.

Of course participation on Facebook by a brand is not necessarily easy.  Just to be there is not sufficient. The nature and use of the social media site requires marketers to use different strategies. It requires engagement, conversation and participation.  It also requires brand confidence and perhaps some courage too.

But when done right, the rewards can be significant. Marketers are trained to go to the marketplace…where the consumers are.  And they are certainly gathering on Facebook.


Healthcare Marketing: 75% of Americans Engage in Social Media – Is Your Hospital?

Research indicates that social media is beginning to rival traditional media in reach.

In a survey of 1700 internet users in the US, Nielsen Online found that 73% engage in social media at least once a week.  That makes the total social media audience consist of 127 million people.   Brian Morrissey reported the findings in a recent article in  AdWeek.

In addition to the total number of Americans engaged in social media, the survey rendered the following results:

  • 47% visit Facebook daily
  • 32.7 million play social games daily
  • Twitter has 105 million registered users but only 11.4 million or 6% use it daily
  • 11% read blogs daily

The number of users of social media is extremely significant.  The numbers rival and even outpace some forms of traditional media.  The 47% of internet users who visit Facebook daily compares to:

  • 55% who watch television daily
  • 37% who listen to radio daily
  • 22% who read newspaper daily
  • 11% who read magazines daily

The use of social media is continuing to increase.  As seen in this study by Nielsen, the percentages that are actively engaged in social media are comparable or greater than most traditional media consumers.

This creates new challenges for healthcare marketers.  How do we effectively reach this growing audience?   The answers are not easy.  And implementation is sometimes even more difficult.  But it is important to develop strategies to engage this burgeoning audience.

Traditional media is not dead.  It can still be very effective.  But social media has become pervasive and we must be creative and increasingly proactive in taking advantage of its growing popularity.


Hospital Marketers Should Learn From Retailers: Holidays are Social (Media)

Over half of national retail advertisers embraced social media as part of their media mix for the 2009 holidays.

Just two years ago, only 4% of national retail advertisers utilized social media in their marketing strategies.  But in 2009 more than half  embraced social media.   According to a survey by BDO Seidman, of those retailers using social media, 76% are focusing on Facebook, 50% on Twitter, 14% on MySpace and 14% on YouTube.

Natalie Zmuda and Kunur Patel wrote in the December 7th issue of Advertising Age that Facebook was the second most visited site in the US on Black Friday.  And on that day “4.3% of Facebook users and 2.3% Twitter users visited the website of a top 500 retailer immediately after perusing the social-network site.”

Some of the retailers Zmuda and Patel cited as successfully using social network sites were Best Buy, ebay, JC Penney, Toy ‘R ‘Us and Wal-Mart.  These retailers used a combination of giveaways, support for traditional advertising, customer service, charitable donations and promotion of online specials.  Amazon, Abercrombie and Fitch, Kohl’s, Old Navy and Target were listed as retailers who did not do such a great job utilizing social media.  Their various sins were lack of coordination with traditional media, lack of holiday specials, unanswered consumer complaints and unchecked pages.

This gives a microcosm of how extensive social media is used both successfully and poorly by retailers.  Lessons are abundant for healthcare marketers:


  • Social media is a viable option and should be included in a hospital’s marketing strategy.   As can be seen by the dramatic growth in the use of social media, retailers are way ahead in recognizing the value and importance of social networking.
  • When done right, social media can be very effective.  It can create and enhance relationships with consumers.  It can create an ongoing conversation with consumers. 
  • When done poorly, social media can damage a brand.  When a brand isn’t active and engaged and doesn’t respond to consumer comments it sends a message that it’s not consumer-focused.

Social media is growing.  Brands are recognizing the value and benefits of engaging in social media.  Hospital marketers can learn valuable lessons.  Retailers have taught us that indeed the holidays are very social.   


Hospital Marketing: Facebook is Growing Up and Getting Older

facebook logo 2 

Teens and students are abandoning their use of Facebook – Privacy Is the Issue

Between January and July of this year about 900,000 high school students and 1.6 million college students have gone missing from Facebook, according to a recent article by Jeff Neff in Advertising Age.   Where have they gone?  It seems they have gone “in-hiding”.  Facebook and Comscore report that users under 18 and 18-24 continue to grow but they are hiding their identity and not using the social media site nearly as much as in the past.

In it’s early stages, Facebook was all about students, high school and college.   But the real growth in the past couple of years on Facebook has been middle-aged adults and primarily women.  That means parents (especially moms), parents’ friends, grandparents, prospective employers and teachers are active on Facebook and can view profiles.  As a result, students are revealing less about themselves.

Students may still visit Facebook but are not providing as much information and are not as engaged.  They are actively using Facebook less and less.  Facebook was once a place almost entirely for students, now students are moving away from Facebook because they don’t want to share the same turf as their parents and older adults.  They are much more private on the site and are seeking new venues, away from adults.

So as a hospital marketer, if you think Facebook is just a place where teens and young adults play, you are wrong.  The adults have taken over and the students have gone into hiding.  Facebook has become a site for older adults and thus perhaps more useful as a marketing tool.

Facebook is no longer your child’s playground.


Healthcare Marketing: Take a Lesson from Starbucks on Social Media

Starbucks has become the most popular brand on Facebook because they are engaging with their customers.

Coffee heart

Starbucks recently surpassed Coca-Cola as the most popular brand on Facebook with over 3.6 million fans. The Altimeter Group also named it the “Most Engaged Brand”.  Why has Starbucks been so successful with their social media efforts? Alexander Wheeler, Digital Strategy Director for Starbucks credits really listening to the conversation and engaging in the discussion in a way that makes sense.  

Hospitals are beginning to use social media.  In many cases it’s experimental, just trying it.  And in too many cases it’s a half-hearted effort.  Certainly, a hospital won’t rival Starbucks but it would be worthwhile to learn how to make use of social media effectively.  It’s more than just entry now and then.  It’s more than just slapping up a page and sending occasional tweets.  It’s about listening to the consumer and engaging them where they are, with information that’s important to them. 

Alexander continues, “It isn’t a PR indicative; its alleviating and creating great consumer value and great consumer relationships.”  It’s about using the medium to build relationships.  Its listening and responding to needs and interest.  It’s not just about being where people are, but it’s about being relevant and creating valuable experiences.

Starbucks has the advantage of using social media to promote events like Red Day and Free Pastry Day.  It’s pretty hard for hospitals to do that.  But Starbucks has received over 75,000 ideas from their social community.  They are engaging their fans and followers.  They are building relationships.

Hospital marketers can get more than just a cup of Joe from Starbucks.


Hospital Marketing: Facebook Ads Offer New Targetability


Specifically targeted groups – even if they are smaller in number – are very valuable when using Social Media for your hospital.

Unlike traditional media, Social Media is a conversation, a dialogue. You are more likely to build that relationship with conversation and dialogue when the group is more narrowly focused.

 Facebook Ads offer many opportunities to define your audience for your hospital with several new ones just released mid July.

  • Location: Target by country, state, city based on the users IP address (not their network or hometown). Pretty straight forward but maybe you are doing a mobile screening event outside of your customary market region or you excel at a certain procedure that is worth driving a distance for. Use this feature to place your ads outside your area.
  • Age and Sex: Offers a little more targetability than some media outlets. Your goal is to increase number of mammograms? Target women 35 plus and avoid teenage boys getting the ad.
  • Birthday: This is a new target feature. The obvious is to create an ad that appears to the user on their birthday wishing them a happy birthday from your hospital. Take it one step further and make the connection to enjoying more birthdays (or their family having them around for more birthdays) by them taking advantage of a certain service line/screening.
  • Keywords: These are based on a user’s profile and offer insight into the consumer. Target sports enthusiasts or those who enjoy gardening with ads for your hospital’s spine care.  Target those who enjoy grilling with recipes for healthy sides from your hospital’s cardiac care center.  This feature auto populates. Spend some time looking for users with activities that are a match for your hospital’s service lines.
  • Education: Allows you to target based on education level. Most beneficial if you are trying to reach graduates of a certain school (perhaps a nursing school for recruitment).
  • Workplaces: If you are looking to promote your hospital/service lines to employees at certain workplaces this can be a valuable filter. Perhaps there is a message you want to get to the workers at XYZ factory?
  • Relationship: Facebook users can choose Married, Single, Engaged, or In a Relationship in their profile allowing Facebook Ads to appear based on a user’s marital status. This feature could be beneficial in promoting your hospital’s Sleep Disorder Lab by targeting married women with ads that ask if their husband’s snoring is keeping them awake.
  • Language: Target specific segments of the population based on their language. If you use this, make sure the ad is in their language.
  • Connections: This is a newer filter allowing you to target or even exclude users based on events, pages, and applications that they have joined.  Maybe your hospital has a Facebook Page and you are using ads to increase the number of fans. Use this feature to keep the ads from appearing to those that are already fans.

A very general ad with little or no targeting may result in more click thrus – but can also result in wasted dollars. After all, a Facebook user out of your hospital’s marketing region, female and 18 is probably NOT the target audience for your hospital’s prostate screening event. In this era of having to be most frugal with budgets, why send her the ad and waste the money? Target instead.



Marketing Your Hospital: Facebook Can Be Effective For Reaching the 55+ Market

facebook logo 2No longer dominated by college-age consumers, ads for your hospital on Facebook can be effective in reaching a more mature audience.

Service lines that traditionally target the 55 plus market including prostate and colorectal cancer, heart attack, osteo and stroke can be effectively promoted on social medium Facebook. In fact, the 55 plus segment saw the largest increase of usage so far this year. According to istrategylabs the number of Facebook users over age 55 increased more than 500% (from nearly one million to 5.8 million) from January 4, 2009 until July 4, 2009.

The 35-54 age segment also had some pretty significant usage increases. During the same time period as above, according to istrategylabs, Facebook users between 35 and 54 increased 200%. While the percentage is not as impressive as the 55 plus audience, the numbers are impressive when you consider that this percentage represents 20 million users compared to 7 million as of January.  Perfect audience to receive ads for your hospital’s branding campaign, colorectal or breast screening, spine center, etc.

Some other insights in the same report:

  • The south has the largest growing metro – Atlanta had a 142% increase.
  • Almost 17% fewer high school students are using Facebook compared to January of this year.
  • Nearly 55% of Facebook users are female.
  • Whether or not a user is a college graduate is difficult to determine as almost 80% of the users did not indicate their education level on their profile.

This shift in usage also means that Facebook eventually may no longer be the obvious choice for your hospital’s traditionally younger-skewed service lines.

According to istrategy, there was a decrease in college age users on Facebook of almost 22%. If the trend continues, young women may no longer be an obvious demographic to target on Facebook for your hospital’s obstetric services. Instead grandmother may be a better choice to target for her osteo health.