“New media” has given healthcare companies and providers a whole new world in which to help patients learn about new treatments and find points of care. Hospitals, medical practices, and manufacturers can interact with the public on Twitter and Facebook pages; some practices have even set up virtual clinics where patients can receive medical information from actual clinicians. It’s just in the last three years or so that healthcare providers have migrated to online communities and embraced Internet marketing.
Today, there are many ways healthcare providers and companies can leverage the Internet:
Social networking sites.
You can set up a Facebook page and get customers to “like” you; you can disseminate quick tips and reminders about marketing events, such as informational seminars, or promotions via Twitter and Facebook. You can also live-blog important events on Twitter, providing up-to-the-second updates for readers to follow. Additionally, mechanisms for readers to share their favorite content are commonplace — you know those buttons at the end of an article’s text inviting you to share on Facebook or LinkedIn or via email? There’s a host of social sharing applications like Reddit, Digg and new-ish virtual image/idea sharing applications like Pinterist. Many sites now have Facebook-powered comment threads, and when someone comments, it gets posted on their feeds, where their friends see the link. Reader sharing on social media is a simple, powerful way to get your information out to the people your customers know.
Reach the media.
Pretty much all journalists use the Internet to do research. According to the 2011 Arketi Web Watch Media Survey, conducted by PR firm Arketi Group, 98 percent of polled journalists used the Internet to read news — and 91 percent researched story ideas or sources on the Internet. Thirty-nine percent used social networking sites, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, to perform some reporting duties. Even back in 2007, more than 85 percent said they had used or would use Internet sources as primary sources for a story. And don’t forget HARO (Help A Reporter Out); today over 50,000 journalists subscribe. This service allows reporter to post inquires for stories that your company can respond to.
Lots of people now use the Internet to get their news — even back in 2010, the Pew Research Center found that 71 percent of Americans read news online at least occasionally, with 61 percent reading Internet news daily. More than half had between two and five favorite regular news sites. Today mobile devices equip with various news reader apps like Flipboard make this even easier.
The implications are clear. If your business is visible to reporters, they may turn to you for comments on issues they cover, or they may cover interesting events that happen at your office. Likewise, if your marketing consultant disseminates press releases and news updates intelligently on the Web, you will reach more readers.
Lots of people search for healthcare information online. Many businesses attract clients with YouTube channels, or pages where they upload short informational videos. If you concentrate on providing helpful information about your core area of competency, prospective patients will learn to go to you with their questions. It’s a cost-effective and quick way to build trust and credibility with greater access to information and transparency.
A regularly updated blog with good, useful health information can be invaluable. People search for information about specific topics all the time, and you can boost your visibility by using search-engine optimization (SEO) techniques and writing with commonly searched-for keywords. Content is king — your Internet presence depends on it. If your website content is searchable, readers — that is, potential customers — can find you.
To get people reading and networking with other website owners is key. The more websites link to your blog, the higher it will rank in search-engine results, so more people will find it that way and learn about your business.
How many people do you see using iPhones and Android devices every day? According to Pew Research Center, this year smart phone users will surpass feature phone users. When is the last time you went to Starbucks during peak business hours and didn’t see someone reading on an iPad? Nowadays, many Internet viewers aren’t even using computers — they’re using phones and tablets. Any website benefits enormously from paying attention to users who look at content on small, portable screens — that means using a thoughtful, professional designer and keeping extraneous content to a minimum.
These methods of marketing, which are so important today, didn’t even exist ten years ago. Back then, a website was usually just an online brochure; now, it’s a whole virtual environment where people spend a lot of their time. To reach them, it pays to have a savvy online marketing strategy. As more and more people depend on the Internet for health information, you have an ever-broader potential audience, and if they are aware of your brand, they will be more likely to look to you for health information.
At Grey Matter Marketing, that’s what we specialize in. Beginning with the visioning stage and right through to the execution and ongoing analysis of the plan, we keep our clients’ practices plugged in. We help you get found by the customers you wish to target. And since we’re 100% focused on healthcare, we understand the regulatory landscape and can help ensure you’re set up for compliance.