With the rise and evolution of the social media industry over the past 25 years, social media marketers have had to evolve at breakneck speed. Well beyond the tidal shifts in the industry, be it a new platform or function, privacy issues, advancements in artificial intelligence, leadership changes or corporate transactions, audiences have changed the way they’re using platforms and consuming content—particularly in the healthcare space. We must be cognizant of how these changes affect an already very regulated industry.
As the landscape has become more diverse and competitive, our role as healthcare communicators is more deeply steeped in algorithm updates, channel features, audience experience, user behaviors and content curation performance. What can’t be overstated is the impact of integrated messaging: unifying marketing and public relations efforts within social media strategy to create a cohesive effort resulting in strategy and content consistency while driving long-term impact.
I’m often asked about the keys to succeeding in this dynamic environment, and like the industry, it’s an answer that’s constantly evolving. For today, I’ll say that social media marketers should focus on the following aspects: mastering relevant platforms, personalization in content creation, embracing video creative and developing influencer and thought leadership strategies. These are the key elements of a successful social media marketing strategy going into 2024 (and beyond).
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's October '23 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine
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Master relevant platforms before adding more. While it’s tempting to create accounts on all social media platforms and share similar content across the board, it’s important to strategically master the channels most important to brand audiences and build a strong following and engagement before expanding to a new platform. In the healthcare space, it’s also critical to understand your audience and how they’re using social media, as not every message is appropriate for every platform. Are you hoping to engage consumers who are looking for disease-specific information? According to PwC Health Research Institute, one-third of consumers in the United States turn to Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) to research medical conditions, treatments and health plans. LinkedIn is best for reaching professional stakeholders, such as investors, healthcare industry thought leaders and professionals.
How to get started: Connect with your public relations and marketing teams to best determine target audiences to develop social media channel-specific strategies, with a focus on growing audience and engagement. Brands concerned about losing a user handle should claim the account and complete set up with links and branding, then monitor to see if platform usage is growing. Are followers finding the brand account on that account and following the channel, despite that lack of content being shared to the feed? Are conversations relevant to the brand taking place without participation on the platform? If so, it’s time to add that platform to the brand’s social media repertoire.
Personalize brand content. As healthcare social media audiences become savvier, they become increasingly interested in engaging with content that has been tailored to their interests and needs. How important? 41 percent of social media users are making healthcare decisions about doctors and 34 percent are using social media content to make medication-specific decisions. Additionally, they’re interested in connecting with individuals going through shared experiences and seeking companies that offer innovative solutions to complex issues. Developing personalized, meaningful content is essential to reaching new and existing audiences, maintaining interest in future updates and important to building trust and loyalty while driving engagement and conversions.
How to get started: Through data and analytics and communicating with public relations and marketing teams, social media managers can segment audiences and develop buyer personas to help customize brand messages accordingly. When developing copy and creative, remember to align with marketing and public relations messaging for cohesion. Also keep top of mind that audiences appreciate content that is timely, highly visual and easily shareable. Brands can also leverage niche industry platforms to further tailor their messaging, such as Doximity for healthcare professionals, to deliver personalized content to a more nuanced audience.
Embrace video content. According to Sprout Social, 54 percent of marketers say video is their most powerful form of content, with 55 percent of patients polled sharing that they prefer video content for essential updates. It’s not surprising that the use of video has skyrocketed in recent years and is now one of the most popular and effective forms of content shared on social media, as it meets platform algorithm preferences, improves placement in feed, drives engagement, conveys emotion and communicates meaningful information in an easily digestible and highly shareable manner. Video has another upside: It can also improve search engine optimization, as search engines favor video content. Short-form videos—such as Stories, GIFs and TikToks—are hugely effective at creating dynamic, engaging and entertaining content that highlights your brand’s personality and value proposition.
How to get started: Collaborate with your marketing and public relations team to develop an attainable video strategy for your team’s capabilities and budget. Remember the importance of video quality—particularly lighting and audio—when capturing your subject. Familiarize yourself with platform video aspect ratios and timing limitations.
Collaborate with industry influencers. A recent survey by Sermo and LiveWorld found that 57 percent of U.S.-based physicians have changed their opinion of a medication or treatment based on social media content. It’s not surprising that 90 percent of the pharma marketers surveys have implemented social media plans this year, with 50 percent increasing their budgets targeting physician audiences. Influencer marketing is a powerful way to reach new and niche audiences, increase your credibility and generate word-of-mouth referrals. Partnering with healthcare content creators who share your vision and values can help drive traffic to your social media accounts and website, as well as increase brand awareness and conversions.
How to get started: Work with your marketing and public relations team to determine whether or not the brand has previously worked with healthcare influencers. Research influential content creators in your brand’s space. Determine a match for your brand and reach out to them or their representative to learn more about their post reach and engagement, as well as rate fees. Be sure to discuss goals and expectations before entering a contract, including how many posts will be shared, what type of content will be created, posting dates and deadlines.
Establish an executive thought leadership program. Social media thought leadership is an often overlooked and highly effective resource that can be used to establish executives as authoritative voices in their field and amplify executive visibility through shared expertise, insights and opinions while also improving brand recognition, credibility and trust. Executive thought leadership can also enhance reputation, attract new leads, differentiate oneself from competitors and attract media opportunities. Engaging industry thought leaders who are working on initiatives with your brand can further lift these efforts and lend additional credibility to your organization and priority messaging.
How to get started: Meet with your public relations team to determine which executives are attending congresses, speaking on panels and podcasts or are sought after for interviews. Research competing executive social media performance to shape recommendations, such as posting cadence. From there, identify topics that matter most to your executive thought leaders and build a content calendar written in their style and tone. Be sure to measure follower growth and engagement, as well as any speaking or media opportunities that may arise because of this initiative.
As the social media industry is changing rapidly and shaping how healthcare audiences consume and interact with content—as well as how they make decisions—it’s imperative that social media marketers in the space keep up with these changes in user behavior and adapt their strategies to continue developing relevant content tailored to audience interests and preferences.
Moreover, social media users are becoming more sophisticated and discerning, demanding more value, authenticity and engagement from the content they consume. Social media marketers, now more than ever, need to be integrated with public relations teams, while staying creative, agile and data-driven to craft effective strategies that align with their goals and resonate with their target audiences.
Laurie Roma is SVP, Social Media, at ICR Westwicke.