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Practical Tips for Targeting Patients on Facebook

“Your people are here,” announces Facebook Business. This is certainly true in the big picture. Around 2 billion people use Facebook each month. And, it might be particularly true for healthcare. For patients and caregivers, Facebook is a thriving community, a way to connect with fellow patients, and a place to find support. There are more than 6 million health-related groups, with more than 70 million members, according to Facebook executive Danielle Salowski. Other social networks have audiences as well, but none that come even close to competing with Facebook, which is why targeting patients on Facebook can be so beneficial in reaching the right audience.

Facebook truly is where your audience is. – source


In light of the recent data breach scandals the social networking giant is facing, some businesses are understandably questioning if their audience will continue to use Facebook. While the overall numbers might dip a bit, it’s unlikely that the network’s user base will dwindle by any significant margin.

This is, again, especially true for patient communities. As WEGO Health CEO Jack Barrette puts it, “One thing is for certain. Facebook will change, but it will not go away.” Patient Leaders are already stepping up to help educate fellow patients about the importance of understanding data control and privacy. The overall value patients and caregivers can get from Facebook remains unparalleled, and most of these users are unlikely to delete their accounts.


The Key to Targeting Patients on Facebook

What makes Facebook stand out as a marketing channel is that you can target with laser-focus precision. Rather than showing your message to billions of people – the majority of whom won’t be a good match for your brand – you can show it to a much smaller group that will be a good fit. A smaller group with a bigger likelihood of caring about what you offer ultimately will result in a much higher ROI.


Start With the Patients and Healthcare Consumers You Currently Serve

Although your goal might be to attract new patients, it’s wise to also target existing patients and prospective patients. After all, you’ll typically want to retain that relationship over time, so it’s worthwhile to spend some energy cultivating it.

You can start by doing a targeted campaign to make sure your existing consumer base follows you on Facebook. Do this by importing a current patient email list. Facebook will take this list and determine which of these email addresses also have Facebook accounts. You can then run a targeted campaign that will be shown to these users.

Another option is to target those who have already shown some interest in you, such as those who have recently visited your website or mobile app. To do this, you’ll need to install a small snippet of code called the Facebook Pixel on your website or the Facebook SDK on your app.

Targeting patients who have already shown interest in you is a good place to start. – source


You can also target your existing page followers. This user group may or may not be customers already, but they definitely have shown an interest in you. Ideally, for this group you’ll want to promote content that encourages engagement like commenting. Consider a poll or an open-ended question.


Target Lookalike Audiences

A good next step is to target audiences similar to your existing audience. As Facebook puts it, “Your next customer looks like your current customer.” There are several ways to find this lookalike audience. The most obvious one is to look at the users your patients are connected to. While a patient’s entire friend list isn’t likely to have the same health condition, some of them probably do, and several may have a vested interest in health topics.

When you target friends of existing Facebook page followers, you can utilize the Endorsement feature. When your ad or sponsored content shows up in your target’s timeline, it will be accompanied by a line of text showing that a friend follows your page. This personal connection would likely give you some instant credibility.

You can also create a lookalike audience by targeting demographics that match your existing patients – or even your ideal patient. You can describe this audience with demographics like gender, age, and location. You can also target interests and behavior.

The word interest is pretty broad, and can include hobbies or interests like “healthy eating” or “hiking,” but it can also refer to celebrities or organizations the person follows, or even books and movies they have shown an interest in. When targeting Type 2 Diabetes patients, for example, you could target patients with interests like:

  • Diabetes research
  • Blood glucose monitor
  • American Diabetes Association
  • DASH diet
  • Mediterranean Diet
  • Paula Deen

Facebook makes this process fairly easy. As you type, suggestions will pop up and you’ll often see related interests that you might not have thought of.

There are hundreds of thousands of possible interests on Facebook. The more specific you can be, the better. Remember that your goal here is to narrow your funnel and target the patients who are likely to be the best fit for your brand.


Targeting is Irrelevant if You Don’t Have Valuable Content

Defining your target is only one part of the process. How you get eyeballs is one thing. What you show those eyeballs is another. It’s vital that the content you show these target patients offers them something of value. No matter how good your targeting is, if the actual creative doesn’t entice the target, it’s all for naught.

The two types of targeted content you can show are ads and sponsored posts.

With a Facebook ad, you could have several possible goals:

  • Gaining new followers for your Facebook page
  • Getting clicks through to your website
  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Lead generation
  • Sales

To find the most success with targeted Facebook ad campaigns, you should customize your message based on each micro-audience that you are targeting. Consider what the values and interests of each niche audience might be. Think about what is important to each audience and then provide it.

Sponsored posts, on the other hand, can share many of these objectives, but will generally focus on increasing engagement. Sponsored posts that encouragement patient engagement include posts that ask questions or otherwise inspire discussion. You could try a poll. Video tends to be particularly engaging. Users are 10 times more likely to engage, share, and comment on video content over other types of content. It might inspire patients to share it with their connections.

One way to ensure that you’re creating and sharing content that connects with patients is to ask them and glean Patient Leader insights. Take the time to connect with a group of Patient Leaders to find out if your messages are connecting and resonating. Ask them how they would respond. Ask them what they would like to see. Patient Leaders can speak on behalf of their communities.

Better yet, engage with Patient Leaders in partnership to help you create content. As other patients may be more likely to trust a fellow patient, this has the advantage of giving you more credibility. Ad creative created by, or with, patient influencers easily outperforms brand-created creative.

One WEGO Health case study showed that featuring Patient Leader creative boosted visitorship by 7x.


Continually Evaluate the Data and Respond

Facebook’s targeting capability is matched only by their analytics capability. To get the most bang for your buck with patient targeting, you need to pay careful attention to all the results and respond accordingly. Compare different audiences and how they respond to content. Be flexible. Adjust your targets. Notice trends. Learn what content components seem to outperform others.

Facebook Analytics is a tool that can help you further boost your ROI. – source


Better yet, Facebook Analytics can even reveal new demographic information that can help you continue to refine your targets. Remember, your goal with patient targeting is laser-focus precision.


A Word of Caution

Although targeting patients on Facebook is a great way to help you attract patient attention, you need to be careful in how you use it. Some internet users consider targeted advertising to be “creepy” or an invasion of privacy. In fact, an alarming 75 percent of consumers reported finding most forms of personalization at least somewhat creepy, according to a 2018 CX Trends Report.

Certainly, when you include personal information of the patient in your copy, you’re running the risk of perceived creepiness. Thomas Shadoff, director of media at Toronto agency Bensimon Byrne, thinks it’s pretty simple: “When you use personal information and you don’t add value, it’s intrusive.” Make sure that you’re adding value to the patient in anything that you share. To do this, present content that is educational. Also, you probably don’t need to broadcast in your copy anything that you know about the patient.

You’ll also want to be careful about the frequency with which someone sees your ad. Although Facebook automatically caps impressions for a given user to four times a day and no more than once every 6 hours on Instagram, you can set a different limit. When patients feel like a brand is following them around, there is a sense of invasiveness.

Patient Leader Mary Patricia Pettigrew has received private messages from brands after Googling something and says that this experience “doesn’t make me comfortable at all.” Be aware that many patients might find any targeted advertising to be somewhat off-putting.

Transparency with users about how you use patient data and how you target patients on Facebook is a best practice to adopt. When a brand is transparent and adding value, users are less likely to find targeting behavior to be intrusive or creepy.


Closing Thoughts

Time will tell just how Facebook weathers the storm in light of the recent data breach and other concerns about user privacy. But for now, it remains an important platform for patients. The ability to target audiences on the platform offers you a wealth of possibility for connecting with the right patients, but it is not without its challenges.

How will you use Facebook to target patients, and is the content you’re publishing of value to them?


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