Since its introduction to the world in 2007 the hashtag has quickly become synonymous in the minds of the social savvy with the # symbol. Now I know what many of you are thinking, this: #, is a pound sign, a number sign, or (for the logophiles) an octothorpe. However, while all the previously listed names are definitively correct, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many people who use them in their day-to-day conversation in 2020. Social media has promoted the use of the term “hashtag” so heavily that it has not only taken the social media world by storm but has changed the way in which people refer to a commonly known symbol in face-to-face conversation.
What does this have to do with healthcare?
If social media can change the perception of a symbol that’s decades old, then it can also change (or even define) the perception of all that is encompassed by the healthcare industry. People aren’t just using social media for personal promotion anymore. They’re leveraging these platforms to have conversations, gain insights, and make decisions about important things—like their healthcare. In a survey of 1,060 U.S. adult consumers about one-third were found to be using social platforms to discuss health. If healthcare professionals aren’t participating, how can social users know the content they’re receiving is authentic and trustworthy?
Left to its own devices, social media can run rampant with misinformation. Misinformation creates distrust and ultimately, a negative perception. Healthcare has the opportunity to tune into the social communities, flush out false information, and replace it with factual material from reliable sources. With an active presence on social platforms healthcare systems can boost their reputations—building trust through continued conversation and public education. Conversely, social media is another space for healthcare to collect data in real-time to educate themselves and better serve their consumers.
Now that you know why social media is important to the healthcare industry, let’s talk do’s and don’ts of healthcare social media.
Do: Create an organization-wide social media strategy that includes a style guide as well as guidelines that include HIPAA and FDA rules and regulations. Establishing the importance of compliance from the very start will set a precedent for all that follows.
Don’t: Forget to include a security plan. Employees will come and go, but security will always be of utmost concern. Have a plan in place for revoking access to all company socials in the event of employee termination. Generally, a quick password change will do the trick.
Do: Include customer service in your social strategy. 45% of consumers use social as their first touchpoint when they have questions or concerns.
Don’t: Underestimate the power of social customer service. 21% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that are accessible on social media. That’s a huge boost to your profits.
Do: Use social media to humanize your organization. Think of socials as platforms for creating relationships—not transactions—with your consumers.
Don’t: Overuse social media to self-promote—focus on the followers. Ask yourself, “how can this post help my followers/consumers?” not “how can this post help me/my business?” Ultimately, helping your followers helps your organization.
Do: Vary your platforms. Many in the healthcare industry have broken into the Facebook and Twitter communities—great places to initiate social media marketing efforts. However, researchers have found that Instagram and YouTube audiences are more active.
Don’t: Simply cross post the same content across all your accounts. Each platform has unique features that make them best suited for different kinds of content—use them to their fullest potential or don’t use them at all.
Do: Use links. 30% of consumers surveyed by sproutsocial said they wanted links to more information. Additionally, researchers at Convince and Convert found that, on average, curated links received double the engagement per post (0.033%) than that of your own domain (0.015%).
Don’t: Get link happy. Your content should be a variation and combination of photos, graphics, videos, and links. A post with a simple link is simply boring. Over half (58%) of the people surveyed by sproutsocial conveyed that they prefer visual content. Include graphics and photos to grab the attention of your followers. Once you’ve reeled them in, the link will educate them further.
Do: Use photos of people. 54% of the best performing posts in the study from Convince and Convert contained photos with people’s faces showing.
Don’t: Post photos without first gaining explicit written consent from all patients or customers that are depicted in the image.
Do: Work with compliance experts to consult HIPPA guidelines and FDA regulations prior to publishing any and all social media content. This will ensure that the precedent set at the start of your social media marketing initiative will be maintained and you won’t be slapped with any fines for avoidable violations.
Don’t: Forget to monitor the comments that will ensue following that awesome post you published. You can tailor the content to meet compliance guidelines, but you can’t be with all of your follower to pre-approve every comment they make. This means you must remain vigilant—track comments and remove any that may cause a violation.
(This is the healthcare industry we’re talking about. If I didn’t revisit HIPAA at least once after its initial mention, I wouldn’t be doing my job.)
Do: #hashtag. Hashtags aren’t just a pop culture fad. They have a distinct, useful application—grouping your content to make it easier for people to find. There are currently 3.7 million posts in #healthcare and 112 million in #health on Instagram. Use hashtags in your captions so that your posts can reach further than your followers. Users searching specific hashtags can’t find you if you don’t use them.
Pro Tip: Use hashtags as a research tool. Explore other posts with similar tags to see what types of posts are performing well and how your post is performing in comparison.
Don’t: Go overboard. Hashtags are great but using them for every word is excessive and unnecessary. Choose a couple of hashtags that encompass your industry (#healthcare, #healthinsurance, #medsupply, etc.) and a couple that are post specific (#enrollmenttips, #lifestyle, #nutrition, etc.). Also feel free to use hashtags that are trending (#nationalwomensday, #mondaymotivation, etc.) as long as you can relate it to your organization in a legitimate fashion.
Pro Tip: Don’t use punctuation in your hashtags. Punctuation causes a glitch and the tag will not group your post.
Do: Use produced video. Produced video was preferred by consumers 4 times more than uncut simplistic video.
Don’t: Forget to take advantage of the high video traffic on Facebook. Nearly half (49%) of consumers watch videos on YouTube, that’s to be expected, but a large portion of the other half (40%) watch video on Facebook. I know I told you not to simply cross post the same content on all of your accounts, but this is one instance in which it may be beneficial to buck the trend and post your video on both platforms.
Do: Nurture your followers. Social media is a major stage for conversation—contribute. Whether your followers are leaving positive or negative comments, it’s important for your audience to feel heard. 70% of people surveyed by Software Advice believed that it was important for providers to respond.
Don’t: Attack. Your followers want to feel heard, not bombarded with defensive (and probably offensive) retorts. Take a level-headed approach to every response—be open to their criticism, be thoughtful, and be respectful in explaining your side of the situation.
Do: Post between 1 and 3 times per week. According to a study performed by HubSpot, the highest ROI for social media in healthcare comes from a posting frequency of 1 to 3 times per week.
Don’t: Assume the more you post the higher the ROI. In the same study by HubSpot, it was determined that posting any more than 3 times per week decreased ROI for healthcare social media posts. There’s a definitive sweet spot—stick to it.
In a highly regulated industry like healthcare, using something as capricious as social media to market your organization can be a daunting undertaking. Nonetheless, it would be detrimental to ignore such an influential space. Hopefully, with these dos and don’ts you can feel more comfortable with launching or growing your social media efforts. If you still feel you aren’t fully equipped or need more information to do the job, it might be time to consider using a sales enablement tool to assist with your planning and execution.
We at Triptych can help with that. With the ability to automate compliance of the content created on our platform and a HITRUST certification Triptych can be a uniquely beneficial asset to your team. To learn more about what to look for when searching for a sales enablement tool, visit our blog.