For the past five years, from a marketing point of view, hardly anything has been discussed at more length and in more detail than social media. Regardless of the industry, business, or purpose, the value of social media marketing has been extensively studied, reported, examined, and tracked. However, not every industry or business is conducive to social media. In some businesses, the idea is forced and little return on investment is ever seen. In other industries, such as healthcare, social media has taken off.
If you're looking for proof of that success, take a look at the numbers:
- According to researchers, more than 40 percent of consumers say the information they find on social media affects how they deal with their personal health.
- Patients between the ages of 18 and 24 are twice as likely to use social media for health-related discussions as 45 to 54 year old counterparts.
- Nearly 20 percent of smartphone owners have one or more health apps on their phone.
- Thirty-one percent of health care organizations have their social media guidelines in writing.
- When looking for online resource related to healthcare, Facebook comes in behind only WebMD, Wikipedia, and health magazine websites.
- An impressive 60 percent of doctors say social media improves the quality of care patients receive.
Why Does It Matter?
There are dozens of additional statistics just like these that show the pervasiveness and importance of social media in the healthcare world. But why does it matter?
Primarily, it points to the future of health information. With 18- to 24-year-old early adopters dominating social media, it points to a growing need to meet patients where they are. Health-related businesses will be forced to make their presence known or risk being left out of internet discussions.
Secondly, it means health-related businesses need to invest in quality educational content marketing to succeed. It's no longer enough to have a company website. You need an active social media presence, quality blog, and detailed strategy.
Learning from the Best
In an article published earlier this year, Jasmine Pennic of HIT Consultant wrote about the Mayo Clinic's dominance of social media in the health care industry and what makes them so successful. In her opinion, there are five reasons why the Mayo Clinic succeeds:
- Brand recognition. Pennic believes the Mayo Clinic's success is directly tied to their commitment to fostering brand recognition and remaining consistent. They use the same logo, colors, and style in everything they do. This builds a sort of comfort factor with the audience.
- Integration with missions/values. Instead of their social media presence being independent of the rest of the company, the Mayo Clinic does a great job of integrating their content with the organization's missions and values. This ensures there is no disparity between what the company stands for and what people see, read, and hear.
- Understanding of patient engagement. They Mayo Clinic understands that social media is a communication tool and uses it as way of engaging patients, not speaking at them. The organization's goal is to foster conversation, not spit out regurgitated information and promotional messages.
- Support from leadership. Going hand in hand with the integration of social media and the organization's missions and values is the support from corporate leadership. As CEO John Noseworthy said at the 2011 Social Media Summit, "I'm proud to say that Mayo Clinic has been and intends to be among the leaders in using social media [to help serve patients]."
- Willingness to innovate. At the heart of their success is the organization's willingness to drive innovation and change. Social media marketing is certainly a new area of business, but one that they are not afraid to use.
The Future of Social Media and Healthcare
In five, ten, or fifteen years, the healthcare industry will likely look back and note that 2014 was only the beginning of social media's impact on the healthcare industry. As more and more businesses, hospitals, and medical facilities begin to realize the potential of this great tool, it will only grow. According to RespShop.com, a provider of CPAP supplies, "Social media is something we are seriously looking at and evaluating right now. In the very near future, we hope to grow and expand our social media presence for better customer service and online visibility."
Many other organizations feel the same way and believe the future of internet marketing lies in social media. Whether it's the Mayo Clinic, RespShop, or any other organization in the industry, the time to begin developing a long-term social media strategy is now. Patients are already online, and it's up to companies to meet them where they are.
Whether it's interacting with patients, informing curious minds, tracking recovery progress, or scheduling appointments, social media has the potential to completely change the way the industry operates. The only question is which companies will join and which will be left out.