Social Media for Healthcare

Healthcare Marketing: 10 Myths of Social Media Marketing

Healthcare executives have many misperceptions about social media.  Here’s debunking 10 of the most common ones that commonly undermine business strategies according to  Garreth Bloor, writing for memeburn.

It’s worthwhile to look at these myths as they apply to healthcare marketing.  

  • Myth 1:Social Marketing is great because it’s free.”

Even if social media doesn’t cost very much, it does require a tremendous investment of time and energy.  And healthcare marketers have very little time to commit to new projects.  Especially ones that will be ongoing and continual.

  • Myth 2: “Everyone’s doing it, so I need to.”

Even though so many have jumped on the social media bandwagon, many are not doing it well.   Doing it half-hearted or without a clear objective and strategy could do more harm than not participating at all.

  • Myth 3: ” I can just post our press releases on social media.

Not really.  It requires much more. The social environment is not another platform for you to promote your hospital.  Rather it’s a place to take part in a conversation, in people’s everyday conversation and be there to provide useful information to your readers on their terms.

  • Myth 4: “I need to be everywhere, dominating every type of social media.

Not true.  Be present where your patients and potential patients are.  And do only what you can do well.  The best thing healthcare marketers can do is to invest your time and energy into one or two sites your audience use regularly.

  • Myth 5: “Twitter is a tool for egomaniacs to tell people what they had for breakfast.”

This a myth coined accurately by journalist Eric Rice. However, as her research has found, tweeting gives your hospital a more “human” face.  They can see your brand personality.  Twitter helps turn your organization.  Appealing and engaging.

  •  Myth 6: “Facebook is more for my kids, not for my business.

Facebook ‘ fastest growing audience is women 40+ It has become a very adult medium. It allows you to enhance that “human” feeling with photos, helpful healthy tips and ongoing discussions with your customers.

  • Myth 7: “Social media won’t take much time.

An estimate of 1-2 hours per day may be required to actively participate in the conversations being conducted and created on social media. A busy healthcare marketing director will not likely be able to effectively maintain a social presence if it becomes just another task on the “to do” list.

  • Myth 8: “The threat of receiving negative public posts and complaints is too high

Consumers are already commenting in their offline and online social circles. It’s better to be part of the conversation so you can strategically defend your brand and respond in a timely way to problems. Being where the discussion is allows you to address existing problems and discover brewing issues before they get out of hand.

  • Myth 9: “This thing’s useless – I tried it for a month and it didn’t work.”

Social marketing doesn’t give you instant, measurable results.  It will take time for people to find you, warm up to you, and start adding to your conversations.

  • Myth 10: “Our customers don’t use social media sites.”

The audience is there and they’re going to have their conversations with or without you.  Take your primary target demo and look how many within your marketing area use social media.  It’s easy to research and you might be surprised.

For healthcare marketers, participating in social media is not easy.  It requires a commitment of time and energy.  And perhaps dispelling some of the myths will be helpful. 



Healthcare Marketing: 1 in 5 Use Social Media to Make Healthcare Decisions

Americans are using social media to gather information about their healthcare. 1 in 5 persons in a recent survey, confirmed they use social media to influence their healthcare decisions.
This according to research conducted by National Research Corporation of more than 23,000 Americans – the largest, most current research on the subject.
Summary of the findings:
  • 94% of the respondents said they had used Facebook as a source to gather information on their healthcare.
  • 32% had used YouTube as a healthcare information source.
  • Twitter came in third – tying with MySpace for 18% of respondents.
  • Location-based website FourSquare received a 2 percent response.

Additional findings:

  • 1 in 4 respondents said social media was “very likely” or “likely” to influence their healthcare decisions.
  • 32% said their trust level in social media was “very high” or “high”.
  • Only 7.5% said their trust level in social media was “very low”.

While consumers think highly of using social media as a source of healthcare information, it is not the premiere source however when considering all options. Fifty percent of the respondents replied that healthcare provider websites are the preferred source of online healthcare information.

Results of the study also provided insight into who is using social media for healthcare information. They are affluent and young – with the average age 41 and household income of $75k plus.

As healthcare marketers this provides current, up to date evidence that in order to be influential in patients’ healthcare decisions, we must be present in their world.


Healthcare Marketing: Seven Rules of Social Media

Social media success, like most everything, requires mastering the basics.

Social networking can be very helpful to hospitals and healthcare organizations.  And healthcare marketers have used it with varying degrees of success.  But there are some basic rules, which must be followed to build online relationships and leverage the power of social media.

Here are seven fundamentals for social media success:

1. Listen – Social networking for marketers is more about listening and less about talking.  Listen to discover what’s important to your target audience.  Only by listening can you create quality conversation that’s relevant and adds value to your friends and followers.

2. Quality – It’s not about quantity…how many online connections you have.  But more about quality.  It’s better to have a few relationships that value your content and who are loyal than to have thousands you connect initially but never become engaged.

3. Focus – You can’t be everything to everybody.  It’s more important to be narrowly focused providing specifically directed content.  A focus intended to build your brand instead of being too broad and general.

4. Consistency – It’s like any relationship; you can’t be a friend just every-once-in-a-while.  A friend is there consistently.  To have meaningful relationships you need to have frequent contact and dialogIf you disappear for a while, your followers will leave you for a more reliable relationship

5. Value – People don’t like others who talk about themselves all the time.  A friend must care and bring something worthwhile to the relationship.  You can’t use social networking to always promote your brand or services. It must be about providing something of value.

6. Acknowledgment – People don’t like to be ignored.  If they are ignored for very long, they will find better friends elsewhere.  So when someone reaches out or participates in a conversation, acknowledge them.

7.  Patience – Strong relationships are not built quickly.  And social media success doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes a commitment for the long haul.

As we swim into the waters of social media it’s easy to be overwhelmed and begin to sink.  But as healthcare marketers if we adhere to these basic rules, our likelihood of long-term success is greatly enhanced.

Reference:  Susan Gunelius writing for Entrepreneur Media



Healthcare Marketing: Boomers Spending Big on Technology

Baby Boomers are into technology, spending more money on technology than any other age group.

Technology and social media are ways to reach the younger generations.  Right?  Not so fast. Baby boomers might be the real target.  The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that baby boomers have fully embraced technology.  They are the biggest spenders on technology according to Forrester Research’s annual benchmark tech study.

Think about the boomers you know.  The typical boomer has a desktop computer at work, a laptop at home, are on facebook, have a smartphone, have multiple accounts on the internet, DVRs their favorite television shows and is wishing for an iPad. If they don’t already have one.

“It’s actually a myth that baby boomers aren’t into technology.  They represent 24% of the population, but they consume 40% (in total dollars spent) of it”, stated Patricia McDonough, senior VP-analysis at Nielsen and reported by Beth Snyder Bulik in Ad Age.

Baby boomers are not early adapters but they certainly pile on.   Ten years ago only 25% of boomers went online daily.  Today 70% go surfing everyday.   And examine these stats about baby boomers:

  • 47% use social media
  • One in five use social media every day
  • A full 66% use their cell phone for texting
  • 91% use email
  • 88% use search engines
  • 78% use the internet to research health information
  • 74% get news from the internet

Baby boomers are aging and have become huge users of health services and that will grow tremendously as they age. To healthcare marketers they are a huge and critical target audience and if we think they can only be reached by traditional media we are making a critical mistake. Technology and social media have been embraced by boomers and have become a very common and pervasive part of their lives.  Technology, new media and social networking are effective ways to reach, communicate and even build relationships with those 45-64 ears old.

Boomers are the greatest spending generation.  And they spend their money and their time on technology.  It would be a huge disconnect for healthcare marketers to assume otherwise.


Healthcare Marketing: Consumers Can’t Get Enough Media

Americans are watching more, surfing more, texting more and consuming media more!

Americans continue to consume more and more media. And there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.   Due to a slow economy, ubiquitous broadband, widespread Wi-Fi access, increased multi-tasking and the proliferation of new devices and technology, consumers are living a lifestyle of almost continuous media consumption. In the past 18 months we watched two more hours of television per week, sent and received half a trillion more text messages and spent 1.3 more hours on the internet.  “We’re finding a way to do more of it, watch more of it and take more of it with us”, stated Patricia McDonough, VP-analysis, Nielsen Company.

Beth Snyder Bulik reported in Ad Age some  of the latest figures for U.S media consumption.


  • 116 million Americans have at least one television
  • 55% of households have at least 3 televisions
  • There are more televisions than people in the US
  • Americans spend an average of 35 hours and 34 minutes per week watching traditional TV
  • Another two hours is spent each week watching time-shifted TV, such as DVR
  • We spend an average of 20 minutes per week watching videos on the internet
  • TV watching is shared with social networking  (21%), playing video games (16%), purchasing products online (15%), participating by phone or internet with what’s happening on TV (7%) and tweeting (4%).


  • On an average day, 78% of Americans with internet access go online
  • 62% send /receive email
  • 49% use a search engine to find information
  • 43% get news
  • 38% go online for fun
  • 38% use social media
  • 34% check the weather
  • 26% do banking
  • 23% watch video


  • Only 31% of those surveyed read a newspaper on a given day
  • 65 and older – 62%
  • 50-64 – 44%
  • 40-49 – 39%
  • 18-24 – 20%

E-Readers and iPads

  • 3.7 million e-readers sold last year
  • 10.3 million predicted to be sold this year
  • 15.5 million predicted sold next year
  • 30 million predicted sold by 2015
  • 10 million American’s either already own an iPad  (2.5 million) or intend to buy one (7.4 million)

Mobile Phones

  • In 2009 there were 286 million wireless subscribers
  • 72% of consumers now text
  • There are 153 billion texts sent each month
  • Teens send and receive an average of 50 texts per day – adults an average of 10
  • 42% use their cell phones to access the internet
  • 30% do mobile search
  • 27% download apps
  • 26% use it for buying products
  • 15% use their cell phone to purchase products

Social Media

  • Linkedin has 75 million members
  • Twitter has 100 million members
  • Facebook has 500 million members
  • 40% of Americans maintain a social-networking profile
  • 86% of adults 18-24 use social media
  • 47% of boomers use social media
  • 26% of adults over 65 use social media

It is clear that Americans consume an enormous amount of media.  And it continues to increase.  These figures vividly show the power and influence of the media.  They are tools, when used wisely, that can deliver our messages to consumers.


Hospital Marketing: Why Risk Your Brand On Social Media?

Even though The Mayo Clinic has an extremely strong brand, they are not conservative when it comes to their participation in social media. In fact, they are just the opposite.

The Mayo Clinic is one of the strongest healthcare brands with an incredibly strong reputation.  So some would argue they should be conservative and not risk their brand to social media and it’s potential pitfalls.  Well the Mayo Clinic feels completely differently. Mayo is heavily involved in social media.  In fact, they are one of healthcare industry’s leaders in social networking.

Examine their participation:

  • Facebook – More than 13,000 fans and used as a forum to distribute content and provide a venue for conversation and patient input.
  • YouTube Channel – Over 600 videos that have been viewed 1.5 million times. Most of the videos provide patient education and patient testimonials.
  • Blogs and Podcasts – For consumers, researchers and physicians.
  • Twitter – Over 24,00 followers.

Stewart Gandolf referenced Mayo’s acceptance of social media in a a recent blog and gave Mayo the following credits:

  • It’s gutsy.  They are confident in their brand to put its reputation on the line.
  • It’s realistic.  Consumers will be having conversations about Mayo.  Now Mayo can join in those conversations.
  • It’s brand building.  Mayo is a leader in everything they do.
  • It sells. There is a call to action (“To request an appointment”) on their Facebook page.

Many healthcare marketers are wondering if they should subject their brand to the dangers of social media.  And if they should put their brand at risk by providing a forum for consumer-driven conversations.  No one has more to lose than the Mayo Clinic.  Yet they are leading the way and using social networking tools to enhance their brand even more.  Maybe more of us should follow the leader.


Healthcare Marketing: Social Media Moving from Experimental to Serious


Social media is moving from experimental stage to serious commitment for most professional marketers.

For many serious marketers, social media has thus far been mostly experimental.  They have considered, explored, tested and sampled various social media options.  But researchers at Forrester Research  have concluded that now marketers are beginning to get serious about social media.   2010 “is the year social marketing gets serious” stated Forrester Analyst Augie Ray in a recent article by Laurie Sullivan in Online Media Daily

Social media is maturing and is being taken more seriously by marketers.  The growth of social media sites and the increasing use of such sites by consumers makes it very difficult to ignore.  Significant audiences exist there and marketers are challenged to find ways to engage consumers on those sites.  Social media is beginning to play a more significant role in marketing strategies and budget allocations are increasing for social media options. 

Although the tide is moving toward more emphasis on social media, healthcare marketers are not embracing social networks at the same level as other industries.  According to the 2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report from MarketingSherpa, healthcare lags considerably behind other industries in anticipated budget commitments to social media.   Only 43% of healthcare marketers anticipate increased budget allocations for social media in 2010 as compared to 79% in retail.

The trend is obvious.  Social media is no longer just a fad.  It is the place many marketers are engaging consumers and building brand awareness and loyalty.  While many healthcare marketers are not yet fully embracing social networking, it provides a great opportunity and potential competitive advantage for those who catch the wave and commit to finding effective ways to use the media.  It can be a place where healthcare marketers can dominant the competition and gain a significant advantage.

It is time to get serious about social media!


Healthcare Marketing: Twitter is a Work in Progress

Twitter user numbers escalate but some are flying away soon after landing.Twitter Vogel

Twitter usage is dramatically increasing practically each day. While some do not understand or appreciate twitter, more and more consumers are taking it for a test drive to check it out.

Adults who have accessed Twitter have grown 200% in the past year. In 2008 there were 6 million adults who accessed Twitter at least monthly and that number has grown to over 18 million in 2009. And in June of this year Nielsen Media reported 21 million unique users. 

Those numbers represent 11% of total Internet users and that is expected to increase to over 15% in 2010.

Twitter is a rapidly growing phenomenon, and hospitals across the country are recognizing it, and therefore experimenting with it to find ways to use it effectively.

Perhaps the least understood social medium, Twitter is attracting greater audiences than earlier expected. Hospital marketers cannot ignore this fact. Ways to utilize the microblogging site must be creatively explored. There are already many effective uses of Twitter being utilized in hospitals and healthcare organizations.

Even though Twitter is experiencing exponential growth, the same research indicated that large numbers of users are abandoning Twitter after a short period of experimentation.

Twitter is obviously not for everyone. Some try it and leave it. But if it continues to grow at such a rapid growth, it cannot be ignored.

Twitter should be closely watched to determine if it has stickiness and staying power. In the meantime, marketers should develop strategies for its use in connecting with consumers. If you wait, you may find everyone has flown off without you.