Social media is a vital digital marketing channel to build connections with your core audience. Whether you’re connecting with patients, clinicians, stakeholders, or the public – here’s how to make social media part of your healthcare marketing campaign (while avoiding common mistakes).
Social media is a core part of every healthcare digital marketing strategy. Organisations can use social media platforms – including Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn – to share content, build communities, and promote campaigns. Successful healthcare social media builds meaningful engagement with your audience – whoever they are.
In this article, we explore what social media is (don’t worry, we already know that you know). Then, we’ll provide 10 evidence-based tips from the 42group healthcare content team, with some of our favourite examples of industry best practice.
What is healthcare social media?
Everyone knows what social media is, right? Healthcare providers, NHS trusts, medical device manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies all use social media to engage patients, inform stakeholders, and build audiences. (They don’t all do it well, but that’s something we’ll tackle later.)
In the past, social media was often used as a synonym for Facebook and Twitter, but today it’s much broader. Social media can include:
Social media is hugely powerful with incredible potential. It can provide healthcare companies of all sizes with a direct connection to patients, the public, healthcare professionals, and key stakeholders – all for free!
That’s the theory, at least. However, too many healthcare organisations use social media in an unfocused and unstrategic way – which can cause resources to be spread too thinly. The result is a lack of structure and strategy that can also severely impact the effectiveness of campaigns.
More worryingly, healthcare organisations must have strong rules around how they use social media to avoid breaches of confidentiality. Improper or careless use of social media can lead to a negative impact on your brand’s reputation.
A recent paper (Multifaceted Role of Social Media in Healthcare: Opportunities, Challenges, and the Need for Quality Control) illustrates how social media can create human connections for healthcare organisations – but also exposes them to significant risks. Instead of giving your marketing team free rein with your social media accounts, you should exercise strict quality control to protect patients, data, and brand reputation.
10 healthcare social media marketing tips
These healthcare social media marketing tips are based on our work with several of the world’s largest healthcare organisations, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device manufacturers to create human connections.
1. Let the audience influence your platform selections
Effective healthcare social media marketing requires a detailed understanding of your audience. Learning about their demographics, interests, and healthcare concerns allows you to select the best platform and create content that builds connections.
While your young and ambitious social media exec may want to invest in a TikTok channel, if you’re targeting the over 60s, then it’s Facebook all the way. It’s a complex area, but thankfully, the team at Sprout Social have done the work for you (and us) with their guide to social media demographics.
2. Share reliable and accurate information:
Social media content is often conversational, but you can never compromise on accuracy.
You’ll need a process to ensure that all the information shared on your social media platforms is accurate, evidence-based, and complies with healthcare regulations. Most companies have a legal check, which is a critical part of the process – but it can take some time. That’s why we recommend running your social media calendar as far in advance as possible.
By sharing reliable and accurate content, you’ll build trust and establish your brand as a credible source of healthcare information.
Share Reliable and Accurate Information: Case study:
- Example: NHS COVID-19 Information Campaign
- Description: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS used social media platforms extensively to share accurate and up-to-date information about the condition, including symptoms, prevention methods, and vaccination updates. While the NHS hasn’t always grasped the power of social media, this was a masterclass in using online platforms to provide vital public health advice during a national crisis. The simple campaign messages were accessible, honest, and regularly updated. It’s a case study of the best in NHS digital marketing.
- Impact: This long-term NHS social media campaign helped to combat misinformation. It was designed to educate the public and promote effective health and safety without scaring people.
3. Engage with Empathy:
Healthcare is a sensitive and personal subject and one that demands care, ethics, and empathy.
When engaging with your audience on social media, do so with empathy and understanding. Aim to personalise your interactions and show genuine concern for patient wellbeing.
As well as posting regularly, you should focus on engagement. This can include responding to comments, addressing concerns, and sharing stories that resonate with your audiences’ experiences.
Engage with Empathy: Case study
- Example: Mind, the Mental Health Charity
- Description: Mind regularly uses social media to offer support and resources to those struggling with mental health issues. Check out the channels to see how they engage empathetically with their audience. This includes offering advice and creating a safe space to discuss life-changing issues. Mind has clear guidelines about community conduct and the behaviours it supports and prohibits.
- Impact: Mind works tirelessly to reduce the stigma around mental health. Its social channels act as a supportive community for individuals seeking help.
4. Create visual content
Visual content – including infographics, videos, animations, and images – is highly effective in healthcare social media marketing. Visual content is especially effective when communicating complex information, like how a patient pathway works, how a new treatment impacts the body, or how healthy eating can improve overall health.
Oh, and visual content is 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than text posts.
Visual content: Case study
- Example: Cancer Research UK’s Infographics
- Description: Cancer Research UK has mastered the use of infographics on platforms like Twitter and Instagram to explain complex information about cancer research, prevention, and treatment. The infographics are all in their unique style, and provide clear and easy-to-understand information and advice.
- Impact: Cancer Research’s infographics make it easier for the public to understand and engage with important health information. The result is greater awareness of cancer, support for cancer research, and brand recognition for Cancer Research.
5. Encourage community building
Social media provides a unique opportunity to build communities of like-minded individuals. Sure, you may capture the zeitgeist and “go viral”, but creating a community is much more effective in the long term than a single post that gains many likes, shares, or impressions.
Use social media to create spaces where patients can share their experiences, ask questions, and support each other. For example, you can do this through Facebook groups, Twitter chats, or Instagram Live sessions. You can also use hashtags as a way to create a community and encourage sharing.
A strong online community increases engagement and establishes a powerful, two-way relationship between a healthcare organisation and its audience.
6. Highlight patient stories and testimonials
Sharing patient stories and testimonials, with consent, is a powerful way to build trust, whatever your audience. If told authentically, patient stories are an incredible way to capture complex information and demonstrate impact. Many healthcare organisations use YouTube to host videos that can be shared across social media.
Testimonials are mini case studies but can be used in a slightly different way. For example, we gathered several one-sentence patient testimonials, transforming them into images to accompany ads. Testimonials helped to personalise the product, and focusing on real patient benefits helped to grow the audience.
Patient stories and testimonials: case study
- Example: Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Patient Stories
- Description: GOSH shares patient stories and testimonials on their social media channels, highlighting the experiences of children and families who have received care at the hospital. They’re potent ways to illustrate the life-changing work GOSH does – and encourage people to donate.
- Impact: These stories have humanised GOSH’s work and increased public empathy and support. They have also showcased the positive outcomes of their healthcare services, which can help patients and their families attending the hospital.
7. Post consistent and regular:
Social media success and engagement is based on consistency. Too many healthcare organisations burn hot and cold, publishing lots during projects and then dropping off when the project ends. Our advice is to post consistently and regularly (which takes planning and preparation!).
You should maintain a regular posting schedule to keep your audience engaged and informed. However, never compromise the quality of your posts and content to satisfy your ideal posting schedule.
8. Monitor and adapt to feedback:
Social media is a two-way communication channel, giving you incredible access to your audience. Don’t ignore them; embrace their feedback and update and amend your campaigns to reflect this.
Both positive and negative feedback can be used to adapt and improve your social media strategy. Using analytics inside social platforms, you can see the kind of posts that are successfully driving clicks and those that are being ignored. Over time, you’ll be able to refine your posts, improving engagement and growing your audience by delivering the content and posts that they want.
9. Promote health awareness campaigns:
Social media can be an afterthought for some marketers, but platforms are great for being the engine room of health awareness campaigns. You can educate the public and position your brand as being active in promoting community health.
Healthcare brands can use social media-led health awareness campaigns to gain an entry point to their audience without overt or aggressive branding.
Promote health awareness: Case study
- Example: Public Health England’s (PHE) ‘Every Mind Matters’ Campaign
- Description: PHE’s campaign used social media to promote mental health awareness, offering resources and tips for mental well-being. It included interactive tools and encouraged users to create a personal Mind Plan.
- Impact: ‘Every Mind Matters’ successfully raised awareness about mental health among PHE’s core audience. It encouraged public engagement and provided valuable resources for improving mental well-being.
10. Be bold with social media trends
The best social media professionals stay updated with the latest social media trends and tools. We’re not going to lie, it’s a fast-moving world. But remember tip #1 – focus on the platforms your audience is using, not chasing the latest trend.
Whether you’re exploring a new feature on Instagram or a trending hashtag on X, tapping into new trends can help keep your content fresh and engaging.
Finally, we recommend that healthcare companies be bold. While you’re likely to be guided by in-house guidance, brand tone of voice, and legal constraints, push these as far as possible. Brands that are brave and not boring are the ones most likely to succeed on every social media platform.
Healthcare social media that builds human connections
It can be challenging to master social media marketing. But when you strip things back, the focus is on one thing: building human connections.
Your social media posts should be original, authentic, and focused 100% on your audience. Trust us, if you get that right, you’ll smash all your social media targets!
Work with a content-first healthcare marketing agency
42group is a content-first content marketing agency that’s 100% committed to boosting your business online, creating conections with people and patients.
If you’re looking for a fresh perspective on social media, contact us today.Contact us today