The Biggest Misconception about Social Media in Healthcare

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

Female doctor looking down at a cellphone and smilingToday, most healthcare organizations have some sort of social media presence. While a couple of doctors and health gurus have cornered the market on major medical celebrity, hospitals and practices simply aim to appeal to a hometown market with their social media posts.

Social media and healthcare can be a powerful thing. You can reach out to patients past and present, build your brand, and showcase your office culture. But this can lead to a dangerous misconception: that organic social media will actually drive more patients to your doors. (It won’t!)

Related: Social Media for Doctors: What Most Practices Get Wrong

How healthcare organizations misallocate resources in social media marketing

We see this situation come up over and over. A hospital or healthcare organization hires a young professional to assist in their marketing efforts (along with the administrative work). She may be inexperienced in some respects, but she knows a lot about social media. She posts fresh content to your page every day, takes great pictures, and makes sure everything is on-brand.

And what happens next as a result of all these efforts? Very, very little.

You see the occasional “like,” share, or positive comment. Your team feels involved and may share posts on their private pages as well. But at the end of the day, does posting on social media actually drive new patients to your practice or hospital? The chances are slim. Too many healthcare organizations allocate resources into organic social media that simply won’t generate any value in 2018.

Your followers probably aren’t seeing your posts

Facebook’s “fan pages” first launched in 2007, giving marketers an opportunity at a greater social reach than ever before. While healthcare organizations hesitated at first, most businesses jumped at the opportunity for “free advertising” within the first few years.

However, in 2012, it was revealed that only about 16% of Facebook Page posts were actually seen by fans (now known as followers). From 2012-2014, that percentage dropped to about 6.5%. And today, by some estimates, many page posts are only seen by about 2% of your total followers.

This is largely due to Facebook’s 2016 “Friends and Family First” initiative, which promised to help users see more posts from people they really cared about. An organic (unpaid) Facebook post about your latest blog, a new member of your team, or even a new hospital wing will only be seen by a tiny fraction of those already following your page.

Are you putting too much emphasis on a 2% organic Facebook reach?

Think about what 2% organic Facebook reach really means for your organization. Let’s say you have 1,000 followers–an impressive number even for a large local practice. With Facebook’s limited page view algorithm, only 20 people saw your latest post–and far fewer found the post relevant.

Is the solution to gain followers? It certainly couldn’t hurt, but it’s likely not worth the effort. If a local hospital has 20,000 followers on Facebook, that’s still only 400 people who see any given post. And most of those 400 are likely to scroll right past it. It can be extremely difficult to grow a page organically. And it turns out that your posts are probably not as interesting to followers as they are to your internal team.

Let’s face it: most people only interact with a local brand on social media because they have a close connection with it. You might see a lot of likes from your staff or colleagues. And a few grateful patients may bring loyal interactions. But will a gastroenterology practice gain a huge following of prospective patients? An urgent care center? A dentist? It’s doubtful.

Don’t rule out social media altogether

There’s been a lot of talk of organizations pulling out of Facebook altogether with data breaches, but don’t let this scare you. Most people have not abandoned their accounts, and they aren’t planning too. Advertisers make millions with Facebook ads every day– when they treat Facebook like a paid advertising platform.

Paid social media advertising is a way to ensure your posts are seen by the right people at the right time. Using paid social media properly (more on this later) means you reach your target audience, and that they actually see your content in their feed. You can limit your audience by age group, gender, or even interests and habits on both Facebook and Instagram (since the former now owns the latter).

Going beyond the basics with social media and healthcare

We’ve found that one of the toughest things about using paid social media in healthcare is convincing key stakeholders that it works. Beyond that, it’s difficult to see that social media advertising should not be a job for whichever front office employee has the spare time.

Paid social media advertising requires strategy. Otherwise, you end up throwing money away on people who have no interest in your brand. Your social media strategy should include a plan for things like:

  • Tracking conversions
  • Creating reports and assessing data
  • Testing different imagery and wording
  • Fine-tuning your custom audience
  • Targeting lookalike audiences
  • Retargeting

The Bottom Line

Organic social media can be a lot of fun. Someone in your office is probably happy to post pictures and make announcements on your page. It helps the whole team feel involved and to have pride in their workplace, and it’s useful for recruiting.

But organic social media shouldn’t be your only marketing strategy. Contrary to popular belief, a Facebook Page or Instagram account is not just “free advertising.” Consider putting a strategy in place that combines the appeal of organic social media with the advertising value of paid social media. All in all, your marketing should be geared toward driving new patients to your practice, and you simply won’t find that with organic social media alone.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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