I love the healthcare industry.
One of my very first “real” jobs was working as a Resident Assistant, turned Weekend Cook, turned Activities Director, turned Marketing Intern, at a rural long-term care facility in the heart of Sweet Potato Country, USA (Vardaman, Mississippi, anyone?).
There were some great moments, like receiving over a dozen hugs from my newly adopted “grandparents” after every piano rendition of “When the Saints…”
There were some sad moments, like holding the hand of a 102-year-old resident as he passed away.
And then there were those “oh my god” moments like when a strange woman who was clearly high on something besides strong coffee drove her care through the facility’s beautiful front porch, interrupting a delightful volunteer-led Sunday Service, and tried to “cast demons” from the receptionist’s desk. Not the best PR moment for this quaint (and usually very quiet) healthcare facility.
One of the biggest lessons I took away from my first healthcare industry experience, was the importance of utilizing organizational transparency to build consumer trust.
For some industry members, this may be posting a quick pic of hospital volunteers on Instagram once a week; for others, it may be posting employee spotlights or seasonal health tips to Thursday evening’s Facebook feed.
By establishing and maintaining an active social media presence, healthcare organizations can connect with their target market and help dispel many of the haunting rumors of subpar care that may surface in absence of truth.
Check out these three reasons healthcare companies should prioritize social media strategy:
Super Social Senior Crowd
“I don’t need social media for our homes,” the owner of a long-term care facility company informed me. “Seniors don’t spend time on Facebook, Twitter, and what’s that new thing my daughter’s always on…oh, Snapchat! Our clients listen to the radio and watch TV, so that’s where our marketing dollars go.”
“Well, actually your target demographic is all over social media…” I replied.
Senior citizens (65+) are currently the fastest growing segment of social media adopters.
Maybe it’s the only way they can catch a glimpse of the latest grandchild pics; maybe it’s a great way to reconnect with old high school flames. Regardless of the driving force behind the senior citizen flood of Facebook, the 65+ crowd is proving to be super social – on social media that is.
First (okay – maybe not the “first” but definitely Top 5) rule in marketing – go where your target market is.
If senior citizens are on social media (as the stats consistently indicate), healthcare organizations including long-term care facilities and home health organizations, should prioritize an active presence on social media.
Healthcare’s Under the Gun
The 2015 National Healthcare Trust Index revealed 74 percent of patients stated trust to be the most important factor when selecting a hospital, superseding location (ranked at 54 percent). As the healthcare industry continues to experience the ever-growing effects of consumer-driven medicine, cultivation of consumer trust should not be overlooked.
People want to trust their healthcare providers – a recent survey indicated more people trusted Dr. Oz than any of the current presidential candidates – but they aren’t sure if they can. Whether it’s elder abuse at a sketchy long-term care facility, or rats crawling the halls of our nation’s top military hospital, consumer’s approach today’s healthcare organizations with a great level of mistrust and skepticism.
By avoiding a social presence – like far too many do – healthcare organizations’ digital absence validates many of the negative perceptions currently stigmatizing a highly flammable industry. Consumers crave service providers they can trust – trust that providers will enrich their lives and improve their communities vs. increase margins and capitalize on high volume. Integration of social media into your healthcare organization’s communications strategy is a 21st-century resource that can help build relationships with both one’s community and her members.
Millennials Are Tomorrow’s Caregivers
I’m in my twenties, and two of my four parents and in-laws have received the cancer diagnosis. Who would have thought a life-threatening disease would affect 50% of my parents/in-laws before the age of 55? I certainly didn’t. When what should have been a time of celebration – graduation, weddings, babies – ended up a season of chemo, home health, and funeral planning.
Not quite how I’d anticipated my twenties playing out…
By 2033, working-age Americans will support more people over 64 than under 18. So instead of spending their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s raising kids and running the carpool route, millennials will be tasked with caring for seniors at an alarming rate. This means doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, home health, and long-term care decisions – all elements of the aging population that millennials will be responsible for. Thus, this social media savvy generation will be coordinating healthcare options for their Baby Boomer parents.
Pay attention healthcare organizations: Millennials are the caregivers of tomorrow.
Who’s ready to get tweety?
The healthcare industry is undergoing many changes as we transition towards consumer-driven medicine. Long gone are the days of “I’m the doc – take those prescriptions” or as my childhood physician used to say, in response to my latest ailment: “It’s a good thing you’re not a horse – we’d have to shoot you.”
Today’s healthcare providers compete with an entourage of information (WebMD, anyone?), coupled with generalized consumer distrust of multiple industry facets – from big pharma companies to fraudulent insurance providers. Consumers don’t trust healthcare, but they desperately want to, and social media can help build that trust.
By prioritizing strong social media strategy, industry organizations can work towards connecting with their communities and cultivating strong relationships with those they serve.
About Hannah Becker:
Becker Digital is a full-service Marketing and Public Relations Agency dedicated to empowering mission-driven organizations to reach their goals. We apply our expertise in community development, social media strategy, and public relations to connect organizational clients with today’s always-scrolling online users.