Who’s Influencing Patient Choice?

Influencers exist even in healthcare and can help boost your hospital marketing strategy

Just when we thought things were settling down, COVID came back with in a fury. We’re again balancing the need for disseminating crucial health information to COVID-fatigued audiences.

Despite an urgency to target your audience with the “mask up, socially distance, wash hands and vaccinate” message, now can be a good time to determine who’s actually influencing patient choices—from vaccinations to hospital selection.

If it’s not already part of your hospital marketing plan, consider influencer marketing. By definition, an influencer is “a person who inspires or guides the actions of others.”

Influencer marketing spending in the US is estimated to exceed $3 billion this year.

While celebrity influencers with millions of followers may not align with your marketing plans, look for voices of authority in your community. A Gen Z TikTok star probably doesn’t sway many of your patients’ choices, but a mommy blogger, Instagram “granfluencer” or Facebook group for cancer survivors can deliver targeted, authentic messages to audiences.

Reach your patients where they are.

Changing consumer patterns demand changes in patient experience at every touchpoint. That means connecting with them where they go for information.

Expectant mothers look to other moms. Find an influencer in your community posting about birthing centers, pediatric services or child-rearing experiences.

One of your primary targets is probably the Boomer generation, which controls some 70 percent of all disposable income in this country. Boosted by financial power, baby boomers and older Gen X’ers have added their voices to the space. Someone talking about health, wellness or nutrition can influence brand preference among followers. Consider your current hospital marketing strategy to help identify influencers that speak to your target audience about topics relevant to your services and strategic goals.

Partner with influencers to increase patient loyalty.

“Build brand preference and loyalty to drive action” is a typical hospital marketing plan objective. Finding and partnering with influencers aligned with your brand can help accomplish it—and reach new audiences.

However, be strategic with influencer partnerships. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Look for influencers talking about your brand; search for tagged posts, branded hashtags or comments;
    • Follow your followers; select about a dozen to see who they’re following;
    • Share content from a potential influencer (get permission first) on your social accounts to gauge audience interest;
    • Monitor newsletters, blogs, events, Pinterest boards, media coverage and the competition to find out who’s speaking with authority in your market;

Set a budget.

An influencer posting about brands in exchange for complimentary products or services is rare now. Unfortunately, there are no standardized rates. Partnerships can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

A commonly used pricing calculation is one cent per follower—or $100 per 10K followers. Macro (10K—100K followers) and nano (less than 10K followers) influencers often post about niche topics, which might better fit your hospital marketing strategy.

When negotiating with influencers, consider:

  • Reach and engagement; larger reach doesn’t necessary mean more engagement;
    • Influencer time and resources required to create content that fits your needs; share information or resources in advance to lessen their time requirement;
    • Length and terms of campaign—number of stories or newsfeed posts, blogs, mentions, photos, number of channels, etc. that you expect;
    • Contract—as with any paid media, execute a written contract that specifies terms of the agreement including usage rights, deadlines, approval processes and exclusivity clauses.

Set goals and measure results.

Effective hospital marketing depends on results. Closely review the authenticity of posts when researching influencers who could potentially affect patient behavior. Content that reads as “sponsored or salesy” probably won’t deliver the intended results.

Set and clearly communicate goals on the front end. Measurable results may include:

  • Engagement—comments, likes, shares
    • Brand sentiment
    • Website traffic from campaign
    • Conversions, such as attendees at a baby or seniors fair, increase in health screenings or uptick in COVID vaccinations

Connectivity to your audience through an outside trusted voice can influence their patient choice and solidify loyalty to your brand.