Editor's Note: This is an installment in our continuing series of articles about the intersection of social media and healthcare marketing. A Facebook presence is a basic component of most social media plans, but the platform-and the way people use it-is constantly evolving. Watch for updates about Facebook and other important communications tools for doctors, hospitals, medical practices, pharmaceuticals, manufacturers, health systems and other healthcare organizations.
There are roughly 200 "social networking websites," and most people would not recognize the name of 195 of them. Fortunately, it's the short list of recognizable social media sites that is important to healthcare marketing.
Facebook is the undisputed leader of the pack with close to 700-million registered users, including nearly half of the American population. But more important than size alone, Facebook is fast becoming a primary resource for users looking for health information.
Over 40 percent of respondents in a survey by National Research Corp. rely on social networking for health info, and nearly all of those people (94 percent) turn to Facebook. They are looking for healthy living ideas, such as diet and exercise, to find health events, and to view health education videos from hospitals, medical practices and other healthcare providers.
But social media in general, and Facebook in particular, provides a two-way communications channel for healthcare marketing. Individuals can connect with others interested in the same medical topic, illness or injury, and in some instances give and get feedback from health facilities.
Although Facebook may not be appropriate in every situation, hospitals, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers, individual and group providers, and others in healthcare marketing are increasingly aware of the business benefits that social media holds for them.
Here are some of the benefits of using Facebook as part of your healthcare marketing plan:
Remember that the best approach, however, is in using Facebook as one of several, interrelated tools in a coordinated (synergistic) marketing, advertising and public relations plan.
The three types of Facebook pages can look similar, but each has a different role and basic terminology.
So...which is best? Individual circumstances or needs might lead you to use any or all of these types.
A personal profile is, well, personal, and social...and probably not appropriate for business objectives. Some business figures have a second, and purely personal account for close friends and family. Professional guidelines point providers away from having Facebook "friends" to avoid potential legal and ethical issues. (We'll discuss legal and professional reputation issues in a future installment.)
Facebook Groups are typically for topic-focused discussions. Accordingly, Groups are often short term, non-commercial, and may be of limited use in a sustained marketing effort. They could, however, serve briefly as support for a primary (business) account.
For anything beyond the most incidental reference or casual mention, commercial or business activity can only be via a business page, according to the Facebook rules. Comparisons indicate that a Facebook business page is the better platform for continuing relationships with customers, patients, fans or readers.
A personal profile requires only a simple sign-up at Facebook.com. But for a business marketing fan page, you'll want to read the various terms and conditions, privacy information and other instructions. You'll need to create one personal profile to login to Facebook, and then you can create and administer one or more business pages.
But as simple as it seems on the surface, Facebook can get a bit complicated. Fortunately, there's a Facebook Help Center. And you're welcome to talk with us about your marketing and advertising message. (Facebook also has a Facebook page...several, actually.)
You may also need some guidance in deciding where you fit among the following six primary categories. You'll need to select one main heading and one sub-heading, so review the full options first, using the dropdown menus at Create a Page.
The design and layout of a Facebook business page is similar to a personal page. The Mayo Clinic page is a good example.
The logo and branding appearance carries over to the Facebook page. The Wall tab (where most people will begin) presents Mayo's News Feed, along with visitor comments. The Info tab begins with "request an appointment" phone numbers, with space for topics such as "about" and "mission." There are other tabs for pictures or videos, events, questions and links, plus user-defined tabs for even more customization.
Facebook for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (in the Non-Profit Organization category) has a custom tab about the opening of their Yawkey Center, as well as tabs for contests and a poll.
We like Facebook. And in the social media world there are a lot of benefits in playing the biggest game in town. But—and this is an important BUT—we can't recommend any healthcare marketing strategy, tactic or media in a vacuum. Facebook isn't going to do an effective job without other basics in place, and if it fits in a well-considered overall marketing plan.
Facebook can build loyalty, enhance your brand (reputation), drive traffic to your website, help with search engine optimization, give you a forum to interact with patients and the public, and more. Let's talk...it might (or might not) be right for you.
Facebook and other social media platforms are constantly evolving. Watch for more about Facebook in this continuing series of articles from Healthcare Success. Our in-depth article titled How to Profit from LinkedIn is online here. We also cover social media and other timely topics on our blog. And, we update the Healthcare Success Facebook page regularly. Please click through...we're certain you'll LIKE us.