Healthcare Advertising

Social Media strategy for Hospitals

Hospital Social Media Strategy Checklist

Social Media for Hospitals

Are you satisfied with your hospital’s social media efforts?  Perhaps it is time to review and possibly revise your social media strategy. Here are some social media strategy DO’s and DONT’s for healthcare marketers.

Common Mistakes in Hospital Social Media Strategy

FIrst of all, taking a look at what “NOT” to do can be helpful. So here are a few of the “DONTs”.

  • Poor planning up front. “We need to be on Facebook” is not enough. Therefore, clearly define the goals, objectives, and metrics for measuring. After all, knowing what success looks like is important.
  • No content calendar. Creating a content calendar is an essential part of the process. In addition, the calendar needs to coincide with other hospital communication efforts, local events, and even the seasons.
  • No set schedule. Most posting is haphazard. Instead, post content at regular intervals, at opportune times.
  • Don’t leave it to marketing. Effective social media execution requires participation from all levels of the facility. Therefore, involve the service line managers, physicians, HR, and department heads.
  • No procedure for responding. Because patients and others in the community will attempt to engage with your hospital online, have a system for handling these comments and responses, ahead of time.

Essential Elements of an Effective Healthcare Social Media Strategy

In addition, your social media strategy should answer many of these questions.

  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What does success look like? Furthermore, how will we measure success?
  • Who is responsible? In addition, who is on the team?
  • What are the priorities?
  • Who are the target audiences?
  • Where will the content come from? Also, what about photos?
  • How will we involve doctors and other professionals?
  • What is the posting schedule?
  • How and who will  handle comments and responses?
  • What level of integration will there be with other communication efforts and channels?
  • What about boosted posts? And if so, what about budget?

In conclusion,  if you are looking to improve your hospital’s social media efforts, a review of the basics may go a long way.

ABOUT JIMMY WARREN
Early to bed, early to rise, work like crazy and advertise! Jimmy Warren is president of TotalCom Marketing Communications and has over 30 years experience helping many kinds of businesses build a strong brand. A large portion of that experience has been helping hospitals and healthcare organizations. He loves the ‘weird’, interesting and extremely talented people he gets to work with every day – that includes co-workers and clients. Outside of work he enjoys his grand kids, traveling and any kind of good ole fashion Alabama sports. Roll Tide!

Tackle Healthcare Pay-Per-Click Conversions through Digital Marketing

Beat the Healthcare PPC Wormhole

Digital marketing in the healthcare industry is crucial in a time where 1 out of every 20 google searches are health related, but running a successful pay-per-click (PPC) campaign is challenging. Without advanced techniques, health care companies will waste their money on ad space by failing to get seen.

Digital marketing for hospitals is specifically challenging. Below we have outlined exactly why your hospital may be struggling in the PPC department, and listed a number of tactics to help you beat the PPC healthcare wormhole.

(Are your hospital’s digital ads being blocked? Get around ad blocking today.)

Digital Marketing For Hospitals: Challenges

There are a number of reasons why digital marketing for hospitals using PPC poses challenges:

  1. Medical information is sensitive: You have to be careful with your ad word choices with strict HIPAA privacy laws in place.
  2. Retargeting: a recent adjustment of Google’s policies prohibits health care facilities from remarketing themselves.
  3. Competition: Because of the above retargeting restrictions, staying visible on search engine result pages (SERPs) is incredible important, but keywords are highly competitive (and expensive).
  4. Knowledge Graphs: In an effort to provide more correct medical information, and panicked patients, google has implemented knowledge graphs (certified medical information) that takes over the right hand side of SERPs.

All of that considered, there must be a way to effectively use digital marketing for hospitals with PPC.

Contact Information

Is your contact information readily available for other businesses and patients to view? Check, check, and check again! This is critical for your PPC plan. A patient searching for hospital care digitally is most likely in need of services sooner than later. Having your contact information positioned clearly can set you apart from competitors. Be sure to set up call extensions, location extensions and sitelink extensions to your ad. This makes for a larger ad, and is known to contribute to higher rankings on SERPs.

Contact information is the number one way to gain conversions, so place it on every landing page. If it’s hard to find your phone number, and easy to find a competitors, you will most likely lose a potential patient.

Mobile Marketing

Going mobile is imperative. If contact information is a key factor for a PPC strategy, so is going mobile. Contact information involves communication, and if you need fast contact, you have to call. Using your phone to find and contact a hospital makes it simpler. If your hospital is mobile, a potential patient simply needs to click the number that pops up on the Google page to call you.

Be sure you are tracking your Adwords performance by specific devices. Pay close attention to what mobile campaigns are and are not working. Make your bid adjustments accordingly.

Know Yourself

Finally, understand your target audience. Determine what your patients are searching for the most. There are many types of patients to consider for a hospital. Are your patients generally looking for urgent, emergency care? Are they searching hospital options knowing they will be in for a long term stay? Do your patients even know what they are looking for at all?

Step into the patient’s shoes and consider what you would search for if you were them. Think of triggers that grab their attention that you can then incorporate into the text of your PPC ads. Knowing what sets you apart from your competitors helps you create a PPC campaign that stands out

Interested in learning more about using PPC for your hospital’s digital marketing strategies? We specialize in using dedicated PPC campaigns to boost results for hospitals looking to gain an edge in the paid digital space. Contact us today.

The Challenge of Being Transparent in Hospital Marketing

abstract medical health care innovation concept background

Hospital marketing professionals have a range of inordinate challenges before them when it comes to promoting a facility or system in an effective way.

These challenges stem from a variety of causes: healthcare, in today’s world, has become increasingly political and polarizing; consumers largely view healthcare as a commodity and facilities as interchangeable; consumers feel detached from the healthcare process beyond self-diagnosis and choosing a doctor; the labyrinth that is medical billing overwhelms, confuses, and discourages patients.

Transparent communication in hospital marketing can alleviate many of these problems, but that poses a challenge in and of itself. How can hospital marketing pros be more transparent in their communications to earn the trust of their target audience and communicate differentiating quality?

The Obstacles to Transparency

Being transparent and clear about a hospital’s benefits and offerings can be difficult for facilities for a few reasons:

  • Many hospitals don’t want to “pull back the curtain,” so to speak, on medical billings, including cost of services
  • Healthcare in general has become politicized
  • Hospitals offer a wide range of services to a wide range of people
  • Consumers aren’t always willing to talk about their health
  • Costs become difficult to comprehend, especially when insurance companies are in the discussion
  • All services and physicians are not created equal

 

There are also many different stakeholders in the process. It’s not just the patient; it’s the patient’s family, insurance company, physicians and employers. These agents can interfere with clear, open communication.

Creating Transparent Communication

The most effective hospital marketing strategies overcome transparency issues and offer differentiation when it comes to their competition – even if they operate as a de facto monopoly in a given area.

One suggestion for perhaps being more transparent is being open with statistics and conveying them in a direct, easy-to-understand manner. For example, be honest about infection rates, medication error rates, and any other statistic about healthcare that your target audience would be interested in. Do so in a clear way without using jargon. Saying, “A typical post-surgery infection rate is one in 1,000” is acceptable, but it’s not quite as good as saying, “One out of every 1,000 patients who undergo surgery will get an infection.”

One might think that being forward with such knowledge could be negative, but the opposite may be  true; it is a positive way to establish trust and differentiate a facility from the rest.

Another suggestion for transparency is to be clear and open about what the hospital truly excels at – the hospital’s competitive advantage. This is not to imply that a hospital is “bad” at other areas, per se, but it does state, clearly, that consumers have one main choice when it comes to quality care in this particular area. By focusing on strengths, a hospital can begin to set itself apart in a meaningful way.

Additionally, a hospital can be open about the process it uses to bill and charge patients for their services. Many hospitals are loath to reveal specific costs and pricing information, which is understandable. Even if that’s the case, though, finding a compromise or middle-of-the-road path can reap benefits. Consumers are far more likely to choose a hospital that at least makes an attempt at clarifying the billing process and revealing the nature of costs and prices for services.

Having that particular conversation is, in a word, frightening for many in the healthcare profession, but it needn’t be. Transparency ultimately wins the hearts and minds of a consumer, and the more transparent hospital marketing professionals are, the better their results will be.

Consult with a hospital marketing agency like TotalCom to learn more about how you can expand transparency and deliver more effective messages.

 

Healthcare Marketing: 9 Ways Social Media is Impacting Business of Healthcare

Hospitals that understand this impact and leverage them within their organizations will be better positioned to meet the needs of today’s consumers

healthcare and social mediaMichelle McNickle, writing for Healthcare Finance News, referenced a report by the Health Research Institute at PwC US in outlining the impact of social media on the healthcare industry.  The information contained it the article is very useful for healthcare marketers.  The article is reprinted here:

According to a recent report by the Health Research Institute at PwC US, nine distinct uses of social media are helping companies to have an impact on the healthcare business, and to take a more active and engaged role in managing individuals’ health.

“Organizations should coordinate internally to effectively integrate information from the social media space and connect with their customers in more meaningful ways that provide value and increase trust,” the report read. “Insights from social media also offer instant feedback on products or services, along with new ideas for innovation. Organizations that can incorporate this information into their operations will be better positioned to meet the needs of today’s consumers.”

The report outlined nine additional ways social media is impacting the business side of healthcare.

1. Communication is shifting to public, more open forums. Which means less money spent on mailings, websites, and other marketing initiatives. According to the report, four characteristics of social media have altered the nature of interactions among people and organizations: user-generated content, community, rapid distribution, and open, two-way dialogue. “In the past, a company would connect with its customers via mail or a website, but today’s dialogue has shifted to open, public forums that reach many more individuals,” read the report. “Early adopters of social media in the health sector are not waiting for customers to come to them.” Ed Bennett, who oversees social media efforts at the University of Maryland Medical Center, agreed. “If you want to connect with people and be part of their community, you need to go where the community is,” he said. “You need to be connecting before you are actually needed.”

2. Patients (or consumers) are taking a more active role in their healthcare. Social media presents new opportunities for how individuals manage their health, the report noted, whether researching a certain illness or joining a support group. “The virtual aspect of social media enhances communications by creating a comfortable, often anonymous, environment for engaging and exchanging information.” In addition, patients are using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to better educate themselves. When faced with an important health decision, the report read, social media can provide a new avenue of information and dialogue. “Some may share a health goal to generate support or engage in a patient community to interact with other patients,” it read.

3. Increased access to information means patients are demanding more transparency.  Laura Clapper, MD, CMO of the online community OneRecovery, compared healthcare’s use of social media with that of a bank’s. “As more people go online to interact with their banks and make purchases, they want to do this with their doctors, health plans, and condition and disease management as well,” she said. According to the report, many industry insiders referenced social media site PatientsLikeMe, an eight-year-old health data-sharing platform, as an example of how more than 140,000 patients are connecting with each other. “Social networks will peel back every corner of the health system and drive transparency on cost, value, and outcomes,” said Jamie Heywood, co-founder and chairman of PatientsLikeMe. “The information asymmetry that patients experience will be leveled, allowing the average patient to evaluate and improve his or her conditions, as well as the system’s performance.”

4. More instant feedback can help both consumers and organizations. With patients more actively taking to social media to express opinions, grievances, and experiences, they expect faster response times from organizations, the report read. “Truly social brands will listen to what customers are saying and feeling and use that insight to adapt and create products and services,” said Kelly Colbert, director of strategic advertising at insurer WellPoint. In addition to improving services and creating products to better meet the needs of patients, social media has taken on a more practical approach to basic, day-to-day operations within an organization. For example, according to the report, 49 percent of those polled expect to hear from their doctor when requesting an appointment or follow-up via social media within a few hours.

5. Social information is impacting how and when patients select treatment and providers. It’s no secret consumers are increasingly turning toward social media to make healthcare-related decisions, like what physician to see and when to seek a second opinion. For example, according to the report, 40 percent of those polled said information found in social media would affect the way they coped with a chronic condition, their approach to diet and exercise, and their selection of a specific doctor. “Across the health industry, consumers seem to value information and services that will help them make their healthcare easier to manage,” the report read.

6. Social media allows for higher levels of trust. According to the report, consumer survey respondents said they would be most likely to trust information posted via social media (from doctors, hospitals, etc.) and, they’d be most likely to share information with providers via social media. The reason individuals trust their doctors the most? Human relationships, the report detailed. “You want to trust and connect with the people providing you the care,” said Kathryn Armstrong, senior producer of web communications at Lehigh Valley Health Network. “It’s easier to trust a person than an organization.” Healthcare providers have the ability to form human relationships and connect with their patients, the report added, which ultimately leads to increased trust.

7. Social media is evolving from a marketing tool into a business strategy. Although 82 percent of respondents said their social media efforts are managed by their marketing department, the report showcased how social media’s use is extending into customer service, innovation, and service/product development. “As people go through life events and their health journey, they have changing interests in health,” said Ann Sherry, senior director of Kaiser Permanente’s Internet services. “They want and need different tools and different interactions.” Having a social media strategy isn’t’ enough, she added. “It’s about social strategy.”

8. Providers can use social media as an outcomes-based measurement. The industry is shifting toward outcomes-based measurement, due in part to provisions in the Affordable Care Act, like Medicare’s Value-Based Purchasing and accountable care, read the report. “Social media can offer a unique mechanism for collaborating with other organizations/partners to coordinate care,” it read. The report advised using social media to support meaningful use efforts, all while defining a digital strategy and clear usage guidelines. “A hospital’s or physician’s first encounter with a patient is often through its online presence,” it read. “Providers should take advantage of the trust consumers have for them over other health companies.”

9. Health insurers can use social media to help focus on population health. According to the report, health insurers understand that focusing on the individual population will be key, as more partnerships in population health are formed and insurance exchanges bring in 12 million newly insured individuals in 2014, and up to 28 million by 2019. By casting your company as a “patient advocate,” it continued, you’ll get a jump start on understanding the needs of potential members and determining which needs can be met through social media. Additionally, it noted, organizations should begin to determine an approach to data aggregation and understanding the direct and indirect benefits of social media.

Healthcare Marketing: Men are Cheap!

It’s costs less to reach men on Facebook than women.

101891266Women dominate Facebook.  They are the ones constantly posting and engaging in social activity on Facebook.  So it makes sense to use the social network to reach women.  But although it makes sense, maybe we should wait a minute.

Against common thought, men cost less to reach on Facebook and respond better.  Noreen O’Leary reported in Adweek  that the surprising conclusion comes from an analysis of 65 billion Facebook ad impressions and 20 million ad clicks in a 12 month study conducted by Resolution Media.   While 58% of Facebook users are women, men see and click through more ads than women. 58% of men see Facebook ads compared to only 42% of women who notice them.  And men have a click volume of 60% compared to 40%b for women.

The study concluded that men are more focused on their activities when interacting on Facebook while women do more browsing, sharing and communicating.  And men have shorter attention spans on Facebook, which means they are more easily distracted and more likely to be persuaded by relevant advertising messages.  As a result, men click on Facebook ads at a higher rate than women.

So the cost-per-thousand impressions for men was 16 cents compared to 20 cents for women while cost per click for men was 51 cents compared to 68 cents for women.

Many healthcare marketers use Facebook advertising as a means to reach women.  And it can certainly be effective.  But this research shows we shouldn’t discount men on Facebook.  They are there, and although in lower numbers that are more likely to see our ads and even click on them.   So it’s true after all.  Women are right. Men are cheap!!!

Healthcare Marketing: Media as the “Big Idea”

Media strategy is just as important as the creative strategy.  Sometimes maybe more.

96284895As marketers we are always looking for the “Big Idea”.  And by the “Big Idea” we are usually referring to the creative concept.  The creative that will interrupt an audience and profoundly establish our brand identity.  And we should never stop our pursuit of that very thing.  That “Just Do it” or “Got milk?” creative idea.

But sometimes that “Big Idea” could be about media and not creative.  Sometimes the media strategy can be just as important, or perhaps even more important.  Antony Young, CEO of Mindshare  writing for Ad Age Mediaworks listed several reasons why media is as important as creative in developing effective advertising.  A synopsis of some of his points is worthy of considering

1.    We’ve moved from a world of Mad Men to Math Men (and Women).

Advertising has become a math game.  Where can we get the most impressions?  The right impressions? What is most effective?  And most efficient?  How can we achieve a favorable ROI?  And prove it?  What is the “right” amount of advertising investment to maximize results without diminishing returns?  All of these questions are important.  And in today’s world of fractured media and financial pressure these questions become equally as important as the creative approach.

2.    Instead of the creative idea, it may be more about small, smartly placed relevant ideas. 

There are those brilliant creative ideas, like those introduced by Nike, Apple, Dove and others.  But quite honestly they are few and far between.  We can work all our lives and rarely, if ever, develop a concept that becomes iconic.    But maybe in today’s marketplace it’s can be just as effective to tactically use custom messages in different media at relevant times, locations and environments that creative engagement.  The ability to target a very narrowly defined audience with today’s media tools certainly makes this a viable approach.  Axe has used it very effectively over the past few years.

3.    Matching the message with the media.

It may prove helpful to determine how we are going to reach our desired audience before we decide the creative.  Because the medium(s) will determine the way we present our message.  We can have the best concept in the world but if it doesn’t fit the medium needed to reach our target audience it’s a waste.  And what will be effective in the appropriate and effective medium may not lean itself to “out of the box” creative.  It may just need to be solid effective communication.

4.    Content is king.  But which content?

There are so many platforms for communication.  And advertising effectiveness may require several types.  Long form video, sponsored programming, video pre-rolls, mobile apps, interactive creative are all options in addition to traditional media.   More and more brand decisions are being influenced by sources beyond advertising.  These options should be considered and then develop the creative necessary for each.

5.    Adaptive marketing.

There are now opportunities to use data collected from web behavior to develop an appropriate message and deliver it to the targeted audience in real time.

6.    Media is more than a venue for ads

There is huge media events…destination TV.  The Super Bowl, the Academy Awards, the Grammys, finals for American Idol and others.  There is so much more potential than just buying an ad during these highly rated programs.  Tablets and social media have made these events interactive and even bigger marketing opportunities.   Take advantage of social interaction surrounding these events to increase your advertising effectiveness.

Yes, as healthcare marketers, we are always in search of the “Big Idea”.  But it might not just be in the realm of creative.  It could be media-induced.  We would be wise to pursue these kinds of “Big Ideas” too.

Healthcare Marketing: In Defense of Hospital Ad Spending

Healthcare marketers should stand up and defend the value of hospital advertising.  We should not be timid or hesitant.

80407780Healthcare advertising has always been the target of criticism.  In the past few months there has been a new wave of criticism.  As healthcare reform is being discussed and debated there are some who claim reform should include a ban on advertising.  We strongly disagree!

Recently in HealthLeaders Media,  Marianne Aiello offered a defense of hospital advertising.  Although her arguments are not exhaustive, she makes a strong case in favor of hospital advertising and outlines the central principles and beliefs that support her defense. The majority of her article is reprinted here

Hospital advertising has long been an easy target, from both internal and external critics. It seems that whenever it’s time for a healthcare organization to tighten its belt, the marketing team and its budget takes the biggest hit.

And yet, the media and general public decry the fact that a hospital needs to promote itself at all.

It’s funny—for being professionals geared around boosting their organizations’ brands, hospital marketers are hard pressed to enhance their own reputations.

Every once in a while—this month, for example—a slew of media criticisms are published in short succession, reporting on the thousands or millions of dollars hospitals spend on advertising while failing to mention the percentage of the total organizational budget that it accounts for.

Normally, we grin and bear it and move on. Not this time.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently published an article dissecting its competitive healthcare market. While the reporting is balanced, it starts with a markedly negative tone by quoting Sidney Wolfe, director of the non-profit consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen.

“Hospitals seem to be spending money left and right trying to get more patients,” he said. “Absent significant costs controls, there’s nothing to stop them. It’s siphoning money away from healthcare. Advertising shouldn’t be confused with taking care of patients or improving patient care.”

I think we can all agree that his last sentence isn’t worth addressing. But in this column I will explain why, in the vast majority of hospitals, advertising and marketing spending is necessary, effective, and does not take away from quality of care.

Ads as patient education

I’ve spoken to hundreds of hospital marketers over the years. Ask any one of them the most important aspect of their marketing strategy, and each one will point to patient education.

Without targeted advertising, a patient may not know he or she can receive cancer treatment closer to home, or that his or her community medical center is holding a lecture series on diabetes management, or that his or her primary care provider now uses an online patient portal.

Marketing and advertising is “core to our mission to educate the public,” Missouri Hospital Association spokesman David Dillon told the Post-Dispatch. And I think you’ll find that most hospitals and health systems include patient education in their organization’s mission as well. It’s difficult to care for the community if they don’t know who you are, what you stand for, and the services you provide.

St. Louis University Hospital spokesperson Laura Keller told the paper that hospitals advertise for noble reasons as well as realistic ones.

“I don’t think it ever hurts to remind someone that there are lots of choices that you have if you’re dealing with a major health issue,” she says. “We need to educate the patient, and there are good messages there. On the business side, people need to understand that without money we cannot support our mission.”

The business case

The hospital advertising critics always seem to forget about the business side. Aside from staying true to their mission, hospitals need to advertise to maintain or enhance revenue flow. Even non-profit hospitals need to market to insured patients and promote high-grossing service lines so that they are able to continue to care for the uninsured.

And while some larger health systems spend what seems like large amounts of money on advertising, on average, the hospital marketing budget accounts for a tiny portion of the overall organizational budget.

“While we do spend money on marketing and advertising, far less than a penny of every dollar of our expenses goes to that and we try to be prudent in those expenses,” Bob Porter, chief strategy officer for the non-profit SSM Healthcare-St. Louis said. “For us, healthcare is a social good, not a commodity.”