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The ROI of Social Media in Healthcare: 10 Benefits

Social media can be a murky area of marketing for many businesses. It can be difficult to see what kind of impact it’s having. And, it can be difficult to know what metrics to measure to see if a social media campaign is working. In healthcare, this can be even more confusing.

 

Despite the challenges, social media in healthcare doesn’t have to be overwhelming – in fact, it can be a huge asset. The most important thing that social media in healthcare can do is help the healthcare consumer. By helping the healthcare consumer, you’ll also be helping your brand. This ROI social media healthcare guide will help you to make the most of this unique piece of your overall marketing plan.

 

ROI Social Media Healthcare Guide

Here are 10 benefits of using social media in healthcare:

  1. Social media helps to educate and build awareness.

It’s a way for you to build awareness of your brand so that the healthcare consumer knows who you are and what you do for times when they might need you. Swedish Medical Center has taken a novel approach in live-streaming things like sleep studies and even surgeries. This can be educational for prospective patients and makes patients aware of the hospital and what it offers. They then track how many new patients heard about them from the live stream or rebroadcasts of the live stream.

Swedish Medical Center capitalizes on social tools like live streaming. – source

 

  1. Social media can help the healthcare consumer to like you more.

Healthcare companies can often feel sterile and standoffish to the healthcare consumer. Social media is a great way to show off a more personal, human touch for your brand.

In this case study, WEGO Health found that featuring Patient Leader content in social media campaigns increased both trust and engagement, which is apparent in the increased click-through rate.

Of course, one misstep could also result in seeing your reputation take a big hit. In a study published in the journal Pharmacy & Therapeutics, the researchers cautioned about this and a few other potential risks while ultimately celebrating the role of social media in healthcare.

 

      1. Social media is where the patients are engaging.

The majority of Americans are online regularly throughout the day, every day. This is where they are already seeking health information. According to recent PEW research, at least 80% of Americans are turning first to Dr. Google before an actual doctor.

Most people also use social media with some degree of regularity. Hundreds of millions worldwide are active users of Facebook, and other social networks are right behind them. WEGO Health conducted a Behavioral Intent Study and surveyed 433 patient influencers across seven condition areas, and found that Facebook is the top platform for the sharing of health information, where:

      • 87% of study participants say they share health information via Facebook posts
      • 81% of study participants say they share health information via Facebook message

This is a place where healthcare consumers are already present. And, it’s a place where they are far more actively engaged than they are while watching commercials on television, for example.

Social media usage continues to go up. – source

 

      1. Social media in healthcare provides an opportunity for the healthcare consumer to interact with you.

Worthwhile engagement via social media can provide tangible valuable to the healthcare consumer. When a patient is able to interact with a healthcare company before becoming a customer, they are more invested in you. The Harvard Business Review found that when a company is able to tap into, and connect with, consumers at the emotional level, the consumers become and remain more engaged. Since healthcare is already an emotional subject for many patients, connecting with them through social media shouldn’t be too difficult. As HBR puts it, when the consumer feels that emotional connection, there is a sense that “this company gets me.”

      1. Social media can help the healthcare consumer trust you more.

Building trust in healthcare is vital, but it can sometimes be a challenge. Empathetic behavior is one of the best ways to build trust and social media can be a great tool for building and sharing empathy.

      1. Social media helps you gauge patient satisfaction.

Capturing feedback is important when trying to understand how you’re doing. Social media is an easy place to gather feedback and to get a sense of how satisfied the healthcare consumer or patient is with you.

Boston Children’s Hospital did a research study about how Twitter could be used as a tool for measuring patient satisfaction. They concluded that the social media network offers “a potentially untapped indicator of quality and may be valuable to patients, researchers, policy makers, and hospital administrators.” Many patients who may be unlikely to respond to the traditional survey method of measuring satisfaction might respond to a tweet.

      1. Social media can build a sense of community among patients.

For patients with many conditions, there can be a feeling of isolation. Social media is a great way to build a sense of community among patients, and the healthcare company can help foster that community. By creating and building a safe space for patients to connect to one another, you’ll also be boosting feelings of goodwill. There are even special social networks just for patients with particular conditions, like Patients Like Me.

Patients are eager to connect with one another and experts online. – source

 

      1. Social media lets you tell your story.

Your social media presence shouldn’t be a sales pitch, but it is the ideal avenue for telling your story. It’s a way for the healthcare consumer to learn about not just what you do but why you do what you do and what your values are.

Quest Diagnostics uses their social media presence to provide a feeling of empathy as they tell their story. They highlight individual employees to show the human side of the business and they talk about their disability hiring initiative and inclusive training practices. They also share stories of what they are working on, like their recent collaboration with Cleveland HeartLab to help improve patient outcomes.

      1. Social media tends to be a more cost-effective method of engaging with the healthcare consumer than traditional advertising.

In part, this is because you are able to target a specific audience more easily. With effective social media marketing campaigns, you’re also able to cash in on the potential of the consumer spreading your content to others.

A viral campaign like the Ice Bucket Challenge ended up resulting in not only significant fundraising for ALS research with meaningful results but also managed to foster goodwill for many of the healthcare companies that participated and shared videos on their social media channels.

The Ice Bucket Challenge shows the potential reach of social media in healthcare. – source

 

      1. Social media in healthcare can result in greater efficiency.

When the healthcare consumer is already aware of you and has some understanding of what you offer through your social media storytelling, there will likely be greater efficiency for both you and the patient once you actually interact. Healthcare companies can also use social media to help improve health literacy among patients.

According to Janet Marchibroda of the eHealth Initiative and eHealth Foundation, when health literacy is higher, there are cost savings, improved outcomes, and much higher efficiency. Research published in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing describes how communicating with patients through social media can save time for both patients and providers because the patients are more informed.

 

Is social media in healthcare different?

Using social media as a healthcare company is obviously going to be different than it is for a company selling sneakers. Patients are already turning to the internet to answer health questions at a perhaps alarming rate. Around 80% of Americans have turned to the web when they have a health question.

It can certainly be seen as problematic that many patients turn to Dr. Google before they turn to an actual doctor, but this trend also provides a lot of opportunity. The concern is that fake news in healthcare is rampant, so when patients search for health information online, they may find information that is untrue or potentially dangerous. Compounding the problem, this fake news is then often shared with others on social media.

In healthcare, social media provides an opportunity to connect with the healthcare consumer on a platform where they’re already actively engaging. The audience is avidly participating in a way they likely wouldn’t for print or film advertising.

The point, of course, is that with social media you shouldn’t think of it as advertising. Instead, it’s about connection and providing value. This, in turn, is a highly effective way of advertising your business.

Patients are also eager to share and participate in online conversations about health. A Patients Like Me survey found that an overwhelming majority of patients would happily share health information online if it would help other patients, help improve care, or generally impact the healthcare system in a positive way. Though this comes with major challenges, this data also opens the door to a lot of positive activity in social media for healthcare companies.

In a WEGO Health Behavioral Intent study, we found that 91% of study participants say that online communities play a role in their health decisions. This highlights the value of turning to patient influencers for help in connecting with patients across multiple condition areas.

Ignoring the role of social media would mean missing a big opportunity. – source 

 

How to Measure the ROI of Social Media in Healthcare

The most important thing to consider with social media in healthcare is that it is a long-term investment. There is not necessarily a direct, straight line path between a Facebook post or a few tweets and gaining a new patient. It can also be somewhat difficult to measure accurately because there will likely need to be some use of estimation to account for the various social media attribution models.

For example, Dr. Robert Zaid of PrimeCare of Novi, MI estimated back in 2011 that his practice saw 30 new patients each month as a direct result of their digital presence on social media. He estimated that there was an annual return of $125,000 for an annual investment of only $60.

That’s a pretty big ROI, and it is likely that this estimate is on the conservative side. While it will certainly vary a lot from company to company, numbers like these are not unreasonable for ROI from social media in healthcare.

 

What to Measure

It’s clear that social media in healthcare can pay off with a big ROI but all too often, companies are not aware of what their ROI is. A survey by Convince & Convert found that 41% of respondents didn’t have any idea whether or not their social media efforts were paying off in any way. You can only manage what you measure.

The basic formula for determining ROI is:

(Earnings – Costs) x 100 / Costs

To calculate ROI, you first need to calculate your total investment or cost. With social media, this might include buying social media ads and paying to boost posts, as well as the time cost.

Then, you need to figure out the return or earnings. With social media in healthcare, this can sometimes be difficult to determine. It can be tough to parse out the connection between your social media efforts and gaining a new patient or making a new sale. To calculate the most accurate ROI, you need to put systems into place that will help you clarify that connection.

 

Using Analytics

In some cases, data analytics will help. You can track conversions when someone clicks on a link via social media. In other cases, you may need to rely on surveys of the “How did you hear about us?” variety. This will help you estimate how much of your new business comes as a result of your social media efforts.

A big part of return is accounting for the lifetime value of a new healthcare consumer or patient. It’s clear to see how important social media can be to your overall strategy if you find that, for example, it only costs $100 to acquire a new patient via social media while they bring a lifetime value of $25,000 or more.

 

Non-tangible Outcomes

But how do you account for the less tangible value that can come from your social media efforts? A survey by Altimeter Group found that the majority of respondents felt there was no way to tie social media efforts to business outcomes.

Although there are ways to track business outcomes that are tied to social media, it’s also true there are outcomes that are less tangible.

Understanding the connection between social media investment and outcomes is key. – source

 

In his book Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization, Olivier Blanchard writes that things like brand awareness, overall reach, and customer engagement “tell the story by capturing changes in human behavior.” Even if you can’t see an instant straight line between what you do on social media and your overall numbers, there may well still be a big impact.

To further understand the metrics of these non-monetary outcomes of social media, it’s a good idea to set some targets. This includes things like the number of total likes or shares or comments you get.

You could also do periodic surveys on social media about brand perception. You can use these metrics to create ROI profiles that aren’t based solely on profit. For example, you may find that you have a 140% ROI where the return is number of views or impressions or likes for an investment of a certain amount of time and money.

The most complete picture of ROI for social media in healthcare will include several different ROI profiles. This could include a look at overall social media-driven profits over cost, as well growth numbers over cost and several additional non-monetary metrics over cost.

 

Don’t forget about cost savings!

When thinking about ROI, it’s easy to forget about one of the most important things about social media in healthcare: it can save you money. Compared to traditional advertising, social media tends to cost significantly less for significantly better results.

As Forbes points out, the idea of spending thousands of dollars versus millions of dollars for the same results is pretty appealing. Here are four actions that social media allows you to perform for free:

      • Alert followers about promotions and company updates
      • Offer customer support and instant feedback
      • Connect with brand influencers and other brands in your space
      • Gain traditional media coverage by sharing unique content or news

Do you track your social media ROI? What metrics do you use to determine if it’s a worthwhile investment?


Kayla is a writer, marketer, and consultant whose work is often informed by her experiences as a patient. As someone living with MS for over a decade, she finds it particularly meaningful to help healthcare companies improve the patient experience.

 

 

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