Healthcare Digital Marketing

Healthcare Marketing: Media Consumption has Shifted in Politics too!

For the two political conventions TV viewership was down and social media usage was up.

The recently completed Republican and Democratic political conventions revealed the dramatic changes occurring in media usage.   Television viewership plunged, depending on the night, from 25-40% from 2008.  And according to Nielsen the television audience was decisively older with very low number for viewers 18-34.  There were ten times more viewers 55 or older than 18-34.

But on the other hand, social networks and online saw a dramatic increase from the conventions just four years ago.  Several news organizations offered live streaming feeds online and both parities saw significant traffic on their respective YouTube channels.   The two conventions have also been one of the most talked about events of the year on Facebook.  But even there, the audience trended older.  Twitter was perhaps the biggest winner among social media options.  Where information is shared in increments of 140 words or less, Twitter only registered 365,000 tweets between the two conventions in 2008.  But this year the Republican convention alone drew 5 million tweets.  About 14,300 a minute during Romney’s acceptance speech, according to Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press.

These numbers just confirm what is obvious.  Media consumption is dramatically changing.  Now consumers are not tied to their living rooms and a TV set for news and information.  With laptops, tablets and smartphones, consumers can gather information wherever they are.  On demand.  Media consumption occurs anyplace online access is available.  And the information is often gathered by consumers in small increments of time and bits of information and not necessarily long format like a 3-4 hour convention coverage on television.

For healthcare marketers, it doesn’t tell us that traditional media is no longer effective, but that we must consider and explore other non-traditional mediums to be relevant and reach a broader audience.  And that is especially true if we want to reach the younger audience.  Only a few healthcare organizations have a marketing staff large enough to have a presence everywhere but every organization should be active in one or two.  Choose the one(s) that could be most effective for your brand and for which you can develop a good competency and consistent use and go for it. 

We might not have learned much from watching and listening to the conventions on whatever medium we used to consume them, but one thing we did confirm is that consumer media consumption is indeed shifting.  And we must embrace it.

Healthcare Marketing: Yesterday’s SEO Strategies No Longer Effective

Google’s algorithm changes place more emphasis on social engagement rather than technology and tricks.

For years, healthcare marketers have tried to understand the basics of Google’s search engines and their algorithms.  How does it work?  How can we optimize search results for our brand?  How can we get higher organic placement than our competitors?  A lot of work and effort has gone into this endeavor.  Many marketers have paid specialists large sums of money to try to manipulate the system in favor of their brand.

But recent Google updates, code-named Panda and Penguin, have placed the emphasis squarely on quality content, originality and overall user experience.    Veronica Fielding, CEO of Digital Brand Expressions, writing for Fast Company outlined some of the changes and stated “the updates contained very clear messages for marketers: stop focusing on technology and tricks and start focusing on people.  If your website appeals to people, it will appeal to Google’s algorithms too.”

As Fielding points out, the search engines place value in other things in addition to the website.  There is now an emphasis on what’s happening in social media channels.  There is an increased importance on social conversations.  And social activity influences how the brand is viewed and how their website should rank.

Brands can no longer depend on optimizing their website to catch Google’s attention.  Now a brand must be having conversations, going where people are and engaging them.  This is what the Google search engines like.

As healthcare marketers we have been lead into the social media arena so we can have meaningful conversations and build relationships.  As if that reason alone is not enough incentive, now such activity also affects how we are found and ranked by search engines.  That means there are several new strategies for improving our organic search ranking.  And they involve social media.  Now there are even more reasons to utilize social media in our marketing efforts.

1.    Facebook

Rather than just having a Facebook page, for search results it’s important to engage consumers.  Information on our Facebook page should be relevant and interesting.  There should be dynamite conversations between your brand and consumers.  This requires quality content.

2.    Twitter

Tweet about topics of interest.  Not just trying to push our hospital or health organization but providing useful and helpful information.  The kind that will be re-tweeted.

3.    YouTube

Upload shareable videos onto your YouTube site.  Again, videos that are useful.  Vides that will be watched and shared.  Note also that Google owns YouTube.  Enough said.

4.    LinkedIn

A brand profile with recommendations and referrals is a strong component of brand optimization on the web.  Company pages are now public and feature status updates.

5.    Other social media options.

Other popular social media options are helpful too.  Pinterest, Google+ and other sites will contribute to brand optimization.

“All this social media activity works to create engagement around the brand by what has always mattered to search engines most: people,” added Fielding.

So when we ask how we can improve search results for our brand, with the changes by Google, we must provide quality content, but in a way and in venues that will lead to relevant conversations and consumer engagement.

Healthcare Marketing: More Screens More Engagement

TV Viewers Are More Engaged When Watching Multiple Screens

There has been much concern about how effective television is with those who are watching TV while also engaged with other screens.  So many viewers now sit in front of their television with a laptop, tablet smart phone or a combination in front of them. The logic would seem to be that such multi-tasking would distract the viewer from their television viewing.

But research indicates that’s not true.  In fact television engagement actually goes up when viewers are watching multiple screens.  A study by Time Warner Research Council, using biometric monitoring and eye tracking, discovered that television engagement when watching with a friend over social media was 1.3 times greater than watching without social media.

“When they find something engaging on the TV, they pay attention’” stated Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting, a Times Warner unit who collaborated with the research council.  “When their interest wanes, in the absence of a second screen they could change the channel, get up, read a magazine, etc.  With a second screen that allows live social engagement, they have more reason to stay on-channel with their friend.”

And just as important to marketers is that the researchers found the increased engagement when involved in social media while watching television was true for commercials as well as programming.

So the consternation among healthcare marketers over the multi-tasking by television viewers can cease.  Social TV proves to be an asset instead a liability.

Healthcare Marketing: TV Still Rules!

Over 90% of all TV viewing is still with viewers watching live television.

Despite the pervasive nature of the internet and the growth of online options for viewing television programming, 91% of television viewing is live on a television set.  A recent study by TVB, a TV-based marketing group for stations, indicates that 1.5% of TV viewing occurs online.  And only 7% is time shifted.  The remainder is live traditional TV viewing.

Research has shown that TV usage has actually grown 8% over the past two years and the study indicated television is still the media most influential in making purchasing decisions for adults 18+ at 37.2%.  Newspaper was most influential with 10.6% of those surveyed and the internet at a surprisingly low 5.6%

So despite all the talk of the demise of television as an effective advertising medium, research indicates exactly the opposite.  Online viewing and the use of DVRs and ad skipping have had a much smaller impact on consumers’ viewing habits than has been predicted.  Traditional television viewing is indeed strong and influential.  Healthcare marketers can still have confidence in investing dollars in television. Especially since it is still renders the largest influence of all advertising mediums.  Television is alive and well.

Another important finding was that 51% of adults stated a television commercial prompted them to go online for more information.

Again, research indicates the importance of integration and convergence.  As consumers regularly access not one, but two or three screens at once, its important that our marketing efforts are integrated and converge consistently over all mediums for maximum effectiveness.  While consumers watch television traditionally, it’s extremely likely they also have a laptop open and available as well as a smartphone sitting beside them, both for internet and social media use.   To have a presence and consistency over all components of these mediums can exponentially improve the effectiveness of each. And it can certainly build and enhance our hospital brand. 

Healthcare Marketing: Digital Newspaper Ads Effective

Newspaper digital ads provide a strong reach and reader responsiveness.

Newspapers are struggling.  Circulation and ad revenues are down.   Some newspapers have stopped the presses or reduced their days of publication.  In response, and to adapt to changing consumers habits, newspapers have put an emphasis on digital content.  And research indicates their efforts are delivering results.

A study by Frank N Magid Associates  commissioned by the Newspaper Association of America found from a survey of 2,518 online interviews among adults 18+, 60% have looked at an online version of a newspaper from a laptop or desktop.  The study also found 25% has looked at a newspaper from a smartphone and 12% from a tablet.   Considering the overlap, 67% of the respondents fell into one or more of the three categories.

The original survey was followed by 1,179 online surveys and nine focus groups.  The research also found that 66% of digital newspaper media consumers said they act on digital ads displayed with newspaper content.  Additionally 61% of tablet users said they act on newspaper tablet ads and 59% of samrtphone users respond to ads.

Erik Sass referenced the study and reported in MediaDailyNews that 65% of adults ages 18-34, have read a newspaper on a computer in the last week compared to 48% of adults 65+.  And 41% of adults 18-34 read a newspaper on a smartphone, compared with 11% of adults 65+.

This is good news for healthcare marketers it gives some confidence there is an audience for digital newspaper and those readers are responsive to online ads.  This does not mean marketers can just take print ads and put them in a digital format.  It will require new creative strategies. And digital ads also will allow click thrus and more interaction with consumers.

The future of newspaper advertising will definitely be in digital formats and content. That too can be effective for healthcare marketers but will require different strategies and new creative approaches.

Healthcare Marketing: Younger Population Does Read Newspaper – Online

To fully reach the print audience, healthcare marketers must include an online component. Though not as easy as one might think.

Sixty-one percent of adults under 30 who read newspapers read it online.  Compared to just 39% who read a printed version.  Additionally the average income for those who read it online is 20% higher than those who read the printed version.   More astonishing is that adults under 30 who earn more than $100,000 annually are 82% more likely to read digital news content than print.

According to a survey of 5,034 households conducted by Pulse Research, online readers of newspapers are younger, more affluent and better educated.  The survey showed the average age of print readers is 51 compared to digital readers at 44.

Digital readers are 22% more likely to have a college education.  Additionally 48% of the digital readers have children at home compared to 32% of print readers.

While circulation of daily newspapers continues to decline, the print and online audience is substantial and desirable.   To penetrate the younger, more affluent, better-educated audience with print we must adopt an online strategy.

The chief problem with this for healthcare marketers is the options online are not nearly as attractive as those provided by newspaper print versions.  Traditional print offers good real estate, which can create impact and allow a brand to develop and tell a story.  Online options provide very little more than name recognition and a brand statement.  Until newspapers decide to offer significant space in their online content, newspaper advertising will continue to be less and less attractive.

Many marketers are shifting money away from newspapers because a significant portion of their audience is going online for the content, but offer limited advertising options for digital marketing.  Newspapers will have to address this issue as they provide little more than billboard advertising but with a much smaller reach and frequency.






Healthcare Marketing: 20% of Time Spent Online is with Social Networks

Social media sites reach 82% of the online population and Facebook reaches over ½ of the world’s population.

Social media continues to show amazing growth.  In “It’s A Social World”, ComScore has issued a report concerning the growth and impact of social media.  Without a doubt social media has become the most popular online activity.  In 2007 social media represented only 6% of online activity but that has now increased to 20%. Over 1.2 billion people globally use social media sites.

The report verified that women spend more than 30% more time online than men.  Social networking is no longer a young person’s activity as the participation now spans all age groups.   And Facebook now reaches 55 billion people, which is more than half of the world’s population.   Despite the hype for mobile access and marketing, it still captures just a fraction of the fixed-line connection.

The study just proves again the impact of social media.  The extensiveness of social networking.  But it does not answer, for healthcare marketers, the question of how to take full advantage of this massive audience.  Savvy healthcare marketers have experimented with some success.  But there are so many unanswered questions. We continue to learn and hopefully grow smarter.  But with limited resources and some of the limitations of healthcare marketing, it’s still a learning process.   There is still much to be explored as we attempt new tactics and new ideas.  Stay tuned….there will be much to come.


Healthcare Marketing: Ten Steps to Creating Effective Hospital Landing Pages

Improve your web marketing by utilizing landing pages that make engagement much easier.

In a recent issue of Ragan’s Health Care Communication News, Scott Bille contributed an article on how to create effective landing pages.  The article has some very useful information and is republished here:

Now that people are coming to your website, the next question most marketers ask is, “How can I make the site work harder for me?”

Take a look at these ideas.

1. Identify business goals.

Before you can figure out how to make a landing page work harder, ask yourself, “What was the business need behind the campaign?” Lead generation, patient education, engagement? Answering this will help define a call-to-action (CTA) to engage visitors on the landing page. It will also help you find effective ways to measure how well everything is working.

2. Define a target audience.

Your next question should be, “Who can help us achieve those goals?”

3. Develop marketing tactics.

Once you know whom you are targeting, you need to ask, “How can I get my message in front of them at decision-making time?” It may be that you have a few targeted messages for subsets of the audience. This leads to another vital piece of this step—setting up a plan for reporting on individual tactics (messages, creative and placements).

4. Drive visitors to unique landing pages.

Sure, when someone clicks a link in one of those places, you could send them to the home page and they should be able to find the desired content. But why make them work that hard? You have a specific message—why not send them to a landing page focused on that message?

Now the fun begins. How can we make the landing page convert visitors into action-takers?

5. Deliver on off-page promises.

Since you built the marketing campaign driving traffic to the landing pages, you know what visitors were reading immediately before they arrived. Your page title, URL, headlines and body copy should all relate directly to the message that got someone to the landing page.

This will help them quickly realize that they are in the right place and prevent high bounce rates (people leaving the page without taking any action). It will also boost your quality score for pay-per-click (PPC) ads like Google AdWords, which could save you money on your ad bids.

6. Don’t make visitors think.

Keep the message on the page focused and simple. Eliminate distractions (too many choices, navigation to the rest of your site, etc.). Create a bright shiny and irresistible call-to-action.

If visitors came from an email, chances are you might know some of their personal info. Talk to your IT team to find out if they can pre-populate the form fields in the landing page’s CTA. At AB&C, we have had conversion rates of more than 50 percent by pre-populating form content.

7. Build trust.

Bounces can be caused by failure to establish trust. Web surfers are a savvy bunch and will bail out of any site that feels like a spam trap created to get their personal info.

When visitors hit your landing page, you need to assure them that they arrived at a legitimate destination. Tell them where they are. Show your contact information, accreditations, awards, etc. to help create a sense of authenticity.

Avoid over-use of capitalization and punctuation. “AMAZING!!!” Or “NEW!!!” Might as well read “SPAM TRAP!!!” “RUN AWAY!!!”

8. Optimize Call To Action.

OK, you have identified the right people, driven them to the landing page, given them a concise message. Now, how do you get them to take action? On the web, it’s often a lead-generation form. Here are some tips to make that form process simple for your visitors.

  • Outline the benefits: Let visitors know why they should fill out the form. What’s in it for them?
    • Keep it short and simple: I always start by asking, “What fields can we remove from that form?” If you don’t have an immediate use for every piece of information you’re asking for, remove them. More importantly, remove any field that might make visitors ask, “Why would they want that?”
    • Create a simple scan line: Line up fields and titles to keep the user from having to jump around to understand the form. This will help even complex forms to feel less daunting.
      • Make the form easy to read: Make the type large enough for your target audience to easily see (the older the audience, the larger the font size).
      • Don’t skimp on white space: Let your form have room to breathe. It will make it less intimidating.
      • Identify required fields: This shouldn’t be necessary if you have done your job in eliminating unnecessary fields. But, if only some of the fields are mandatory, mark them.
      • Inline validation: Don’t make visitors hit the submit button before they find out that they didn’t enter a valid email, or they skipped a required field

9. Measure results.

If you are using Google Analytics and have properly tagged all inbound links, it should be fairly easy to see what tactics are driving the best traffic. Look at how many people hit the site versus the number of completed actions. Now, ask yourself, “What can I do to get more people to convert?

10. Test, test, test.

Try some variations to the page to see how they affect conversion rates. Fight the urge to test multiple variations the same time. If you do, how will you know which one made the difference? Run A/B tests to two variations; observe and refine as you learn from visitor responses. Here are some variables to throw into your A/B testing.

  • Headlines
    • Graphics and other images
    • Multiple CTAs: Some people will click the first shiny object. Others may read through your content before deciding to get involved. Make sure that second category doesn’t have to hunt back up the page to find your CTA. Sometimes a secondary CTA could work for someone who isn’t fully committed
    • Button colors: Try colors that blend with the page’s palette, and colors that contrast. There is no perfect formula. Some say that green means “go” and red means “stop.” Others say red evokes a strong emotional response. Some say blue is the standard link color, so use that for buttons. Whatever color you choose, make sure it looks “clickable.”
    • Button text: Label your button something that ties in to your CTA like “Request an Appointment” or “Apply Now.” Avoid labels like “Submit” or “Go.”
    • Form variations: Try your full form. Then, try simply asking for a name and email. Somewhere in between lies the perfect blend that doesn’t scare people away, but still gives your staff the info they need to follow up.


Scott Bille is the interactive director at Aloysius Butler and Clark.



Healthcare Marketing: Are Your Internet Ads Ignored?

Research shows Americans ignore internet ads more than advertising in any other medium.

The old adage that “half of my advertising budget is wasted, now if I only knew which half” appears to have a lot of merit. Especially with internet ads.  Research produced by Adweek/Harris Poll from an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive indicates that:

  • 63% of Americans ignore or disregard internet ads.
  • 43% say they don’t pay attention to banner ads.
  • 20% ignore search ads.  

For hospital marketers, those are significant numbers.

Wayne Friedman reported the findings in MediaPostNews.  Other media compared to the internet faired much better.  Only 14% ignore television ads, 7% for radio and 6% for newspaper.  Probably not surprising, 91% of consumers ignore some of the ads they see.

Even out of the largest users of the internet, adults 18-34, 40% of them state they ignore internet banner ads.  And of those consumers who have some college education or a college degree, 46% ignore banner ads compared to just 40% of those with a high school diploma or less. There was practically no difference between men and women.

So for healthcare marketers maybe we shouldn’t rush out and totally embrace internet advertising and shift significant amounts of money away from traditional media.  Some voices are constantly telling us that our budgets are out of whack because the percentage we spend on internet advertising is typically far below the percentage of our audience who are regularly on the internet.

Sure, we should have an internet presence and take advantage of opportunities of reaching and engaging our target audience.  But the number of people using the web is not the only factor to consider.  Research is indicating that it’s harder to break through the clutter and gain traction with internet advertising than with traditional mediums. 

Internet advertising is viable and should be in the media mix but it’s certainly not time to abandon traditional mediums for the web.   Internet advertising and social media are the new kids on the block.   But the old standbys aren’t dead yet.  In fact, this research indicates less of our advertising on traditional mediums is not as wasted as much as advertising on the internet.  But of course for each medium, we are still stuck with the question: which part is wasted and which is effective?