Why the private healthcare sector should be embracing social media

Reuters U.S. announced earlier this month that social media giant Facebook has turned its attention to focus on healthcare in a big way. So what is it about tapping into information about our health that makes Facebook think it can increase engagement and improve its service to its audience?

FB stethoscope

Currently Facebook knows who our friends are, where we live and what our interests are, but soon it could also be privy to information about the state of our health. Scary thought? Maybe. But Facebook can only access information that we ‘choose’ to share, which means that plenty of users must already be regularly sharing information about their health on social media.

How will Facebook use information about our health?

Facebook is staying tight lipped about this for now and has not mentioned introducing this within the UK Facebook marketplace as of yet. According to the reports it is still in the ‘ideas gathering’ stage and no doubt the issue of privacy will be a major hurdle to overcome, but according to the reports Facebook is exploring the idea of developing online ‘support communities’ that connect Facebook users suffering from various ailments and a new ‘preventative care’ application that would help people improve their lifestyles.

Reuters explains: “One catalyst: the unexpected success of Facebook’s ‘organ-donor status initiative’, introduced in 2012. The day that Facebook altered profile pages to allow members to specify their organ donor-status, 13,054 people registered to be organ donors online in the United States, a 21 fold increase over the daily average of 616 registrations, according to a June 2013 study published in the American Journal of Transplantation.

Separately, Facebook product teams noticed that people with chronic ailments such as diabetes would search the social networking site for advice, said one former Facebook insider. In addition, the proliferation of patient networks such as PatientsLikeMe demonstrate that people are increasingly comfortable sharing symptoms and treatment experiences online.”

What does this mean for the private healthcare sector?

The details of Facebook’s health care plans may be unclear at this stage but this focus on health does demonstrate that Facebook and other social media channels present big opportunities for those operating in the private healthcare sector, particularly those operating in ‘preventative’ treatment areas such as physiotherapy, eye health or dentistry, where its often the case that people haven’t realised that they actually need any form of treatment.

Facebook is more of a ‘closed’ network than other social media platforms such as Twitter but there are opportunities on both (and others) to have a strong presence that puts your healthcare services in front of your target audiences online including educating those that might not know they need your services yet.

A case in point

As digital communications experts with experience in the health sector we were delighted when Yorkshire based Peak Physiotherapy asked for our help to maximise the brand’s online presence and generate new patient leads via Facebook and other social media channels.

Peak Physiotherapy was looking to attract more private client work to supplement the NHS and insurance company referrals that they relied on. Search engine optimisation was working well to drive traffic to their three brands’ websites but they were struggling to reach out to people online who weren’t already specifically searching for physio services or were unaware that physio could help them.

Our approach

We came up with a strategy that would position Peak Physiotherapy and its sub-brands, as trusted advisers on both general health and well-being and treatment of specialist conditions.

peak screenshot

Initially, we were asked to deliver in-depth training on social media that would allow them to maximise the efforts they were putting into using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to generate interest and leads. This helped in the short term but as ‘hands on’ practitioners, the owners of the business were keen to get more support with maintaining a strong presence and proactive engagement with potential new clients and referrers on an ongoing basis.

We set up a WordPress blog from which they could share expert advice on topical issues affecting their target audiences and devised a content-led campaign to keep all three brands at ‘front of mind’ with relevant audiences in Yorkshire. This included sharing case study content to bring to life their services, spotlights on their key experts and tapping into key sporting events in the region and awareness weeks linked to specific treatments.

The outcomes

Over the first six months of the campaign, we generated several tangible new business leads via Twitter, which have since turned into lucrative regular clients. We’ve also built a captive audience of potential clients across the piste via all social media platforms who regularly share and engage with the useful content published on the blog and websites.

Managing Director Sarah Joice says: “From day one of working together, Engage Comms understood our business model and needs and came up with innovative ways of identifying new routes to market. They’ve helped us embrace social media as a strategic business tool that gets us tangible leads and results for a fraction of the cost of other marketing activities. They really have become an invaluable resource to our business.”

Engage Comms Ltd is an award winning digital communications agency with experience in the healthcare sector, having worked with clients including NHS Blood and Transplant, Optegra (eyecare) and Peak Physiotherapy. If your business is in need of a ‘digital healthcheck’, please get in touch on 01943 660495 or email jo@engagecomms.co.uk

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