While increasingly essential, online marketing can be a tricky area for healthcare professionals to excel in as the field continues to change and evolve along with technology and online trends. The most important thing is to stay connected with patients and reach out to potential patients by maximizing and honing online reach. This is no small task, and the best means and methods to accomplish it change with time.
Here are three of the major current trends in online marketing for healthcare professionals:
1) Embrace Social Media
Social media has been around for several years now, but usage among key demographics including older adults continues to grow, as does healthcare professionals’ involvement in social networking. It’s not enough to just have a Facebook anymore; to keep up with your competition, healthcare companies need to need to maintain a presence across a variety of networks, potentially including ones tailored for the healthcare industry.
Besides Twitter and Facebook, some social media sites you should consider developing a presence on include YouTube, LinkedIn, Four Square, and even physician-specialized social networking sites such as Sermo. Doctors and other healthcare professionals are also starting to build a presence on “fun” sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr.
To get a glimpse of statistics regarding healthcare professional use of social media, check out Mayo Clinic’s Health Care Social Media List, which is “a compilation of health-related organizations actively using social networking sites and maintaining officially sponsored accounts.”
2) Invest in Brand Messaging
Another big trend in online healthcare marketing is brand messaging. Established brands are preferred by younger patients, and marketers are paying attention to this critical facet. Today’s patient has many choices when it comes to healthcare decisions, so building a positive online discussion about your brand is essential.
Mark Shipley, healthcare marketing expert and co-founder of Smith & Jones, recently explained in a statement, “Patients today are often referred to as healthcare consumers because they are as informed and self-directed in their care decisions as any retail shopper. To become relevant to this new breed of consumers, organizations will need to translate their brand messaging for smaller audiences at different stages of the decision process.”
Maintaining a stable image in the current industry environment of mergers and acquisitions is another reason why brand messaging is more important than ever. Furthermore, according to a recent blog post by Nurses Count, the top physicians, nurses, and administration leaders also want to be associated with the top brands in the industry.
So how do you market your brand? Brand journalism, also called story branding or corporate media, is one way brand messaging is accomplished. A form of content marketing, brand journalism focuses on real-life examples and human interest pieces. Healthcare professionals tell their own stories and distribute them through social media. According to the Smith & Jones white paper Healthcare Marketing’s Top Trends for 2014, this kind of corporate storytelling could replace the press release in the coming years.
3) Change Your View of ‘Content’
Content is still king when it comes to online marketing, but it might be time you start rethinking the definition of “content.” In addition to blog posts, articles, whitepapers, and other written content, image and video are becoming critical additions to your overall content package.
Accompanied by a short blurb or written post on social media, image and videos are growing in popularity for healthcare marketers. Young, busy consumers reading posts on their mobile devices appreciate short, shareable content, and images and videos meet this need perfectly.
A recent Pew Research Center study demonstrated that 47 percent of internet users share videos and photos they found online. Young people, and women are especially, are likely to share visual content they find online, according to the study.
“Pictures document life from a special angle, whether they relate to small moments, personal milestones, or larger news and events,” says report author Maeve Duggan. “Mobile connectivity has brought these visuals into countless lives in real-time. This all adds up to a new kind of collective digital scrapbook with fresh forms of storytelling and social bonding.”
Don’t miss out on this segment of the market: Get your visual content out there for consumers to share.
Stumped on how to create catchy content? According to Smith & Jones Healthcare Marketing’s Top Trends for 2014, the most shareable videos and photos that are likely to “go viral” are either funny, emotional, dramatic or surprising, or thought provoking. Videos should also be short (two minutes or less).