Social media platforms have emerged as the new normal in healthcare marketing.
When it comes to marketing a medical device or new healthcare product, social media is not typically the go-to strategy. However, that has changed in the last few years due to face-to-face time between sales reps and doctors being severely limited due to COVID-19. Suddenly, social media platforms have emerged as the best way to get products in front of both medical professionals and consumers. In a traditional setting, medical marketers are primarily speaking to doctors and preparing sales pitches accordingly. Reps hit the circuit prepared with data, statistics, demonstrations, and free samples to entice HCPs to try their new product. The medical professionals acting as somewhat of a middleman and trusted source would then in turn educate their patients on new products and services and prescribe or utilize them in their offices.
With the tables turned over the last two years, there has been a scramble to figure out how to effectively and efficiently reach the consumer when reps and HCPs have been essentially taken out of the picture. Social media has become the solution to make this happen. While there has been somewhat of a return to normal, when it comes to doctors’ offices and medical facilities, face-to-face interactions are still extremely limited as safety protocols are still very much in place. With the newest surge of the Delta variant, we don’t see a return to the former model as the primary sales tool in the near future, if ever. Studies show that online communities do indeed play a role in how people make health decisions and self-diagnose. With that being the case, it’s more important than ever to be a voice of professionalism and science to cut through all the noise and misinformation. We believe that the path forward will primarily be digital and conversations will be taking place on social platforms.
Making this switch essentially overnight has been a difficult task for many med-tech brands, many of whom previously did not even have a social media presence. There are so many things to consider for a company that is moving into this new landscape, and success is dependent on how quickly you can adapt and move forward. Who are you speaking to? What is your brand voice and messaging? Is the content geared toward consumers or HCPs? What legal technicalities do you need to be aware of? XDS has helped, and continues to help our clients pivot in what is emerging as the new normal in healthcare marketing. We have put together some insights to break down the complex landscape that is social media and best practices for moving forward with success.
The User Journey
“Whether It’s B2B or B2C, at the end of the day in social media marketing it’s 'B2H,' business to human connection. In other words, there’s always a person behind each social profile that you’re looking to connect with, so it’s important to keep content engaging. This will allow you to create a deeper connection to your followers and elevate your brand voice to be more personal and interactive. Humanizing social media is important to grow your brand.” – Angela, XDS Social Media Manager
To understand the importance of social media in the med-tech community, lets first take a look at The User Journey. When your car breaks down, you call a mechanic. Legal issue? You reach out to a lawyer. Buying a house, you’ve got a realtor on speed dial! Now, when you have a medical issue, what is the first thing you do? Do you dial your HCP or do you turn to Google? Google it is! In fact, studies show that 65% of the people surveyed by Big Think do in fact hit Google to research their symptoms and begin the journey of self-diagnosis. You chat with friends and family and look to health and wellness gurus online. You try home remedies, self-prescribed drugs, lifestyle changes, dietary restrictions, miracle ointments, and elixirs! Your doctor is typically the last on the list and often the last resort.
Why is this the case? The information is out there, and we all have access. If we can educate ourselves and do some digging to decide what is best for our body, we want to feel that we have the power to take care of ourselves and make educated decisions. Through Google searches and connecting with others in niche communities on social media, we are able to find people who understand our issues both physically and emotionally and are on the same journey as we are. We take comfort in that community and trust their opinions and recommendations. For a business, that means having social pages up and running to satisfy the needs of today’s digital-savvy consumers who are using these platforms to evaluate services or products that interest them is a must. If a user hits your page, they will automatically form opinions about your brand based on how credible and professional your social pages look and what your messaging is.
Questions To Ask Yourself
Do you have searchable content? When we hit up that Google search bar, do your website and blog have content that will populate? Through social media, we can target those consumers with ads if they are engaging with your content. Ad algorithms on social platforms also allow us to target those interested in topics relevant to your product or services. What people search for online and the ability to target them with ads on social media play a huge role in your brand’s exposure and engagement.
Are you running ads? Now that we can target your audience on social media, we can reach them with ads and boosted content. Those ads may drive to your social pages or website. Either way, once they click, they will do a lot of research and dig into what you have to offer. More often than not, consumers will turn to social platforms to learn more about your product and services and connect with others who are familiar with it seeking out feedback. With that being said, you not only need a presence on social media, but your pages need to be on point with clear messaging, a cohesive brand image, and consistent posts that are getting engagement, likes, and comments. If all the pieces are not in place, it can discredit your brand and create mistrust.
Are you engaging with your community on social media? Posting and running ads is just the beginning. Having an active voice is critical. Responding to comments, chiming in on relevant conversations, re-sharing content, connecting with groups, influencers, and like-minded people is key. Building a recognizable and trusted voice in the social landscape builds brand recognition, reputation, engagement, authority, and loyalty.
Can users find you on social media? Using hashtags is extremely important. If I type in #allergies, will I find your product or services? Hashtags are a critical tool that allows your brand to be discovered by audiences, particularly on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Using branded hashtags, industry hashtags, and campaign hashtags all add to your searchability. Researching competitor hashtags and relevant influencer hashtags can also give you some insights into what hashtags you should be including. Also, keep an eye on trending hashtags and be sure to include them if they are relevant.
“It is crucial to present a cohesive and consistent brand image across all of your social channels. This could possibly be one of the first touchpoints for your audience and they will immediately form an opinion based on what they see. Social media is a valuable tool for businesses and a key component of successful digital marketing strategies. It guides a positive user experience, inspires conversations, and is a necessary asset for building brand awareness and increasing engagement. Todays’ digital-savvy consumers use social media to evaluate products and services and it’s more important than ever for all brands to have a voice, stand out in a saturated medical landscape and stay top of mind while building recognition, reputation, authority, and loyalty.” – Kristin, XDS Marketing
Establish a clear brand voice and messaging that is consistent over every platform in your profile statement. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Who are you, what do you have to offer, how do we reach you?
"About us" statements can vary in length depending on the platform, but they should be consistent across all social channels. Facebook allows for a much lengthier "about us" section as well as the ability to add ISI.
Create consistent graphics for header images and icons that present a cohesive brand image. Make sure all designs are sized appropriately to each platform's specs.
Establish an overall cohesive design for your graphics so your feed looks professional and visually appealing. Brand guidelines should be followed and consistent on all designs and graphic templates.
Kick-off with an audit. If you already have social pages set up, we always suggest kicking off with an audit and channel clean-up. Is all the info on your pages up to date and consistent across platforms? Are there any posts we should remove?
“Add value, not noise! Are you adding to the conversation or are you making noise? Plan, learn, connect, and engage. Plan ahead and set your team up for success to navigate unforeseen events, including what to do and what not to do, to avoid panic-based decision making. Learn which social networks/platforms your audience uses and what people are talking about and join the conversation. Connect with your target audience and humanize your brand. Engage with dialogue, not a monologue. Prioritize your target audience. Research their needs, wants, questions, and behaviors. A strong social presence and a strong brand personality don’t happen overnight.” – Aly, XDS Strategist
Who are you talking to? From the get-go, have a clear profile of who you are speaking to and what you want to say to them. Are you speaking directly to consumers or other medical professionals? This also plays a huge role when it comes to targeted ads. A smaller, more engaged audience is more valuable than casting a wide net.
Establish which platforms you will focus on. Facebook and Instagram are more consumer-centric while LinkedIn and Twitter are where you will most likely reach your professional audience. If your content is crafted creatively, you can use the same post across all platforms. However, more likely than not, you will need to tweak your language based on the platform you are posting to. Each platform also has limitations as far as character counts, and this needs to be taken into account when creating copy.
Identify Key Content Buckets. These are the main thought-starters you want to focus on each week and create posts supporting those topics.
Identify the most important CTAs before you start posting. Having a well-thought-out plan of the most important actions you want your audience to take is extremely important. Do you want them to click, call, fill out a survey? Make it easy to figure out the next steps and seamlessly connect.
Establish KPIs and metrics to monitor, track and report on early on. This will help set and establish goals. Social media is a long game and looking at engagement data will help to consistently move forward with better results.
A social calendar is key to staying on track. This will allow you to plan accordingly and map out messaging in a timely manner. It will also help identify relevant holidays, special days, or events you want to chime in on. Not every holiday or day is relevant for your brand, so be authentic when you choose to join the conversation.
Plan well in advance. Content should be created, approved, and scheduled well in advance to avoid errors and missed opportunities. This also allows time for content to go through the appropriate approval channels for your company. Scheduling platforms are highly recommended.
Compliance is a big concern for healthcare on social media. Writing content that is accurate and factual is a must. When making claims, siting resources, data or studies is always recommended.
“Videos tend to do better than static-driven graphics (that’s because the human brain is wired to consume visual content). Statistically, people like to watch things, movement catches their eye and gains their attention so they don’t scroll away quickly. For videos that have audio, I highly recommend subtitles or at least some type of text that alludes to the video’s content. The majority of people have their volume off when scrolling social. Subtitles are also a good idea from an accessibility standpoint.” – Megan, XDS Associate Designer
Create posts that inspire engagement: ask a question, create a survey or, ask your audience to share an experience or provide feedback to your post. Also, be sure to tag anyone involved in your post or people who may be interested in your post. Request quotes and feature other industry experts or influencers. Not only does this build a strong network, but it also encourages others to engage with the post. For healthcare, people love things like symptom checkers and quizzes, they are great for engagement and allow you to provide “next steps” or a call to action.
Identify groups to join and pages to follow. Brands can leverage the popularity of Facebook Groups and Messenger to build a deeper bond with audiences. This will also help you join conversations and make your brand more recognizable.
Brainstorm an ownable brand #hashtag. A hashtag allows your brand to build momentum and develop a following while also upping the searchability factor on social platforms. Brands should also identify hashtags to be used consistently across platforms in every post.
Stay on top of new features and trends like FB live, stories, swipe-up capabilities, etc. Anything new always gets attention and you want to stay on the cutting edge.
Social monitoring is key. Staying on top of comments and messages and responding to them in a timely manner is crucial to building brand confidence and providing top-notch customer service.
Pre-prepared responses can be a huge time saver. By thinking about what questions may arise and planning for these responses ahead of time, you can shorten your response time and alleviate the stress of trying to decide how to respond every time.
Follow your data. Once you’re up and running the data will start rolling in. It’s important to stay on top of who you are actually talking to versus who you think you are talking to. Data will provide key insights on what posts your audience is engaging with how to tweak your content and targeting moving forward.
“I try to use imagery that is hopeful and empowering as opposed to showing imagery of sick or depressed looking people. The patients don’t need to see the 'problem' because they are already experiencing it. Showing them a hopeful, healthier future resonates better and focuses on the 'after' in a 'before and after' comparison.” – Sara, XDS Associate Designer
Post with purpose. Every post should have a clear message and call to action. It should also add value, entertainment or be helpful and informative. Ask yourself, is this post a thought-starter? Is it inspiring my audience in some way? Does it sound too sales pitchy? Social media is designed to connect with users on a personal level, it is not the place for commercial-like content.
Imagery drives engagement. Social content should be quick-hitting and clear-cut. Posts should consist of a mix of animated graphics, short videos, and static graphics.
Evergreen content is long-lasting content. It will have an increased life span on social as it stays relevant longer and will continue to build momentum.
Level up with creative campaigns. Once social pages are set up and running smoothly, it’s time to step back and start thinking about campaigns and creative content. Think paid media and big ideas that can really help you move the needle on social. Things like hashtag campaigns, user-generated content, and partnering with influencers.
Diversify your channel mix. Once you’ve got a good bank of content, look to start taking it to the next level and getting it onto platforms like YouTube and Pinterest. You’ve got all the content created; it can do more work for you. Graphics are ripe for Pinterest and with just a little tweaking you can create short videos from your graphics and patient/doctor testimonial for short informative videos for YouTube.
The Power of Paid
“Your audience will have an experience when they see/click a social ad. Plan out the messaging and make sure the experience is clear, easy, and consistent. Having ad copy and ad visuals that align with the landing page that users will visit when they click the ad adds to the overall brand consistency and user experience. The ad copy and landing page should have a clear, obvious next step for the audience to take like a submission form or downloadable content, etc. Make it easy for your audience to convert! ” – Aly, XDS Strategist
By now, most businesses have realized that it’s a pay-to-play world when it comes to reaching consumers online, and relying solely on organic reach is no longer a viable option. However, without having a substantial content marketing strategy, social media presence, and an optimized website, your money won’t go as far as it could. Paid tactics alone may get you noticed but to truly see an increased ROI your brand needs to be credible. Money may drive traffic, but the quality of content is what keeps consumers engaged on your pages and inspires them to learn more and trust your brand. So not only is content a key factor to enhance your paid spend, but the quality of the content is the driving component of success. By utilizing best practices, a brand can elevate their reach and engagement, establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry and get more bang for their buck in the ad space.
Give a lot of thought to your audience. Success comes from reaching a very niche audience rather than trying to the reach masses. A small yet engaged audience trumps a larger audience when it comes to ads.
A/B testing is a great way to feel things out. Start with what you know, or think you know and then allow A/B test variables to take your ads from good to great.
Design social ads for a specific strategy and purpose. If you see a certain audience highly engaged or a certain post or topic that is performing extremely well from an engagement standpoint, run with it. This is a great place to consider doing a campaign built around that post or topic or group of people.
Consider a “boost” budget. This will allow your social media team to act quickly and throw some money behind a well-performing post. Boosted posts work best in 24 hours. Past that window, consider creating a new ad inspired by the well-performing content. We have seen our clients get significantly more value and ROI utilizing fresh content for social ads instead of using an expired organic post.
Don’t forget about the “view-through rate.” While you may not be seeing the exact result you were looking for in click-through rates, keep in mind, if the engagement is there and your sales are increasing, the ads are working. Tracking the view-through rate isn't an exact science, but we do know that if we are getting eyes on an ad, it keeps your brand top of mind. Users will often come back to a site later on or type the name of your company, product, or service into the search bar from memory to learn more, shop, and explore.
About The Experience Design Studio
Whether you are in the process of kicking off your social pages or are in need of an overhaul, XDS has worked with several med-tech companies to get the ball rolling. See what’s new with Team XDS, Q2 Studio Review
The Experience Design Studio is an award-winning digitally native customer experience agency founded in 2017 by two agency veterans, bringing their collective creative, user experience, marketing, technology, and healthcare expertise together. XDS is a full-service digital agency providing strategy to creation, consulting, design, engineering, marketing, and analytics, with the aim of providing seamless customer, patient, and HCP experiences across all digital touchpoints, with common sense, sprinkled in. XDS is a Great Place to Work® certified company. To learn more about XDS visit madebyxds.com.