How social marketing is used in healthcare
The ultimate goal of any healthcare institution is to make a positive impact on the community it serves. To achieve this purpose, institutions must provide exceptional care and ensure that their communication initiatives are as impactful as possible.
Social marketing is an effective way of applying proven marketing techniques to influence the behaviors of a population toward better health. Used strategically, social marketing in healthcare can play a major role in improving the outcomes of care, mitigating health risk factors, and enhancing the quality of life of community members.
However, before healthcare institutions can make use of this powerful tool to drive change, decision-makers must first familiarize themselves with the core concepts of social marketing in public health. If you’re ready to help your organization take advantage of the power of social marketing, join us as we explore the following topics:
- What is social marketing?
- How social marketing is applied to healthcare
- How social marketing is used to change behavior
- Social marketing techniques for healthcare
- How to find a platform to manage your social marketing efforts for healthcare
What is social marketing?
Social marketing is the process of influencing the behaviors of a target audience through the use of marketing materials. It’s a strategy aimed at changing behavior to produce a social benefit, and it can be applied to public health and safety and unique community or environmental issues.
Social marketing shares some similarities with digital marketing, but the two concepts are distinct. Brands engage in digital marketing to fuel business growth, with objectives like building brand awareness, generating new leads, driving conversions, and increasing sales revenue.
In contrast, social marketing is a tool that can be used to influence meaningful behavioral changes, improve a community, and deliver social benefits like better public health outcomes.
How social marketing is applied to healthcare
Social marketing draws on proven marketing techniques to influence an audience’s behavior. Over time, mainstream digital marketers have become adept in doing so, influencing consumer decision-making and conveying benefits associated with a particular course of action (such as buying a product).
But many digital marketing concepts and tactics can be used for social marketing applied to healthcare. For example, a public health institution could use blogs, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and audience segmentation to spread its message strategically.
Given the number of channels competing for audience attention, a multimodal approach is necessary. Indeed, like a business, a public health organization will need to leverage several different techniques and outlets to influence societal decision-making processes effectively.
Doing so requires a cohesive strategy that keeps the marketing team focused on its overall mission and objectives. Prior to launching a social marketing campaign in healthcare, an organization should follow these six basic steps in its workflow:
- Plan the strategy. During the initial planning phase, decision-makers will need to define the core objectives and overall mission of the social marketing campaign and outline how they intend to achieve those goals.
- Select channels and materials. Next, decision-makers should determine which channels they intend to use, as well as what sorts of materials the campaign will incorporate (such as blogs or infographics, among others).
- Develop materials and test the approach. Here, the organization will need to develop its marketing materials, test them with its target audience, and make refinements to maximize the impact of that content.
- Implement the program. Once the content has been created and refined, the public health entity can implement its marketing strategy across all designated channels.
- Assess its effectiveness. Campaign managers should continuously monitor content performance to assess its effectiveness.
- Gather feedback to refine the program. Finally, the marketing team will need to gather feedback about the efficacy of the campaign, make necessary changes, and begin planning its next initiative.
These stages are cyclical and can be repeated indefinitely until an entity achieves its long-term goals. By following the above steps, an organization can build upon the success of its past campaigns and maximize its ability to shape public behavior.
How social marketing is used to change behavior
While social marketing content is informative, its objective is not simply to change attitudes or provide audiences with new knowledge. It’s designed to change behaviors, which will then produce community benefits.
Let’s explore the core tenets of social marketing in greater detail.
- Behavior change is voluntary. Perhaps the most important concept of social marketing is that any behavioral changes must be voluntary. Marketers cannot coerce, trick, or incentivize their audiences into altering their actions. Instead, they should present compelling facts that demonstrate the intrinsic benefits of making the desired change. For instance, instead of fining someone for smoking, marketers should relay the dangers of smoking cigarettes and the advantages of cessation.
- Marketing principles and techniques are used. Though it may sound like a given, social marketing campaigns should use established principles and techniques. The specific approaches that a marketing team takes will vary based on factors such as who their target audience is and the resources they have available. For example, if resources are scarce, marketers may lean heavily into free content, like social media posts and blogs, while shying away from paid ads.
- A specific audience is selected and targeted. Every social marketing campaign must have a specific audience in mind. It can be large and diverse, but its members should be facing some common health challenges. Individuals that smoke cigarettes are a prime example, as the demographic includes people from all walks of life but who all smoke and could be targeted with social marketing messages.
- The beneficiary is the individual, group, or society as a whole. Lastly, the beneficiary of the campaign must be the individual, group, or society as a whole — not a business. If the entity managing an anti-smoking campaign also sells a medication designed to help people quit smoking cigarettes, their endeavors may not be classified as social marketing, as the company becomes the direct beneficiary.
By adhering to these concepts, your organization can create more effective social marketing campaigns and make a positive impact on its intended audience.
Social marketing techniques for healthcare
Many mainstream marketing techniques can be applied to social marketing in public health. Let’s dive into some of the concepts and techniques you may want to incorporate into your social marketing campaign.
Audience segmentation is the process of dividing your target audience into smaller groups based on shared characteristics, such as:
- Geographic location
- Age range
You can segment your audience into subgroups under dozens of different criteria. After you’ve done so, you can create tailored content for each segment. Such an approach will allow you to maximize the efficacy of your marketing efforts by ensuring you’re delivering the right message to the right audience.
Research your target audience
Understanding what motivates each of your audience segments will help you tailor your messaging for optimal results. There are several analytical tools that help collect and process the data necessary to research target audiences and provide dynamic, easy-to-digest reports that yield actionable insights about the communities you serve.
You can use these to better understand your audience’s decision-making processes, purchasing habits, preferred social media channels, and so much more. For instance, by conducting extensive research, you may discover that Instagram is the most popular social media platform among your core audience — therefore, you determine that the majority of your social media marketing resources should be devoted to this platform.
Take advantage of online marketing
Online marketing can be used by healthcare institutions as a low- or no-cost means of reaching target audiences. As its name implies, online marketing is a broad concept that includes virtually any web-based marketing technique. It’s the process of sharing your message and content with audiences via such channels as:
- Your website
- Social media
Online marketing is most effective when it’s used in conjunction with other techniques, such as paid advertising. By incorporating it into your diverse marketing mix, you can:
- Adapt to changing trends. Online marketing is an extremely agile process, which means you can quickly adapt to the shifting preferences of your target audience. You can rapidly alter graphics, publish new content, or insert links into existing content to capitalize on the latest trends.
- Track your results in real time. Thanks to modern analytics tools, you can closely monitor every aspect of your campaigns, including total site visitors and the length of time that visitors spend on your page, among many other factors. These insights will guide future social marketing efforts and help you better understand what sort of content resonates with your target audience.
- Target specific demographics. When publishing content, you can target specific demographics based on gender, location, age, educational achievement levels, and occupation. These targeting techniques enable you to present each community segment with content tailor-made to address their unique health concerns.
- Provide an omnichannel experience. Through online marketing, you can use a wide range of methods and channels to shape individual behavior. In doing so, you expand your online reach and give community members the freedom to connect with you on their preferred platform.
Get active on social media
Social media channels have evolved into robust marketing instruments that are great for social health initiatives. But there’s no need to incorporate every single platform into your marketing plan. Instead, focus on the platforms that are most popular among your target demographic and begin building your presence on those channels.
For instance, if Facebook and Instagram are go-to social media platforms for community members you want to connect with, you should devote most of your time and resources to posting on these channels. On the other hand, if you want to affect positive change among younger demographics, channels like TikTok or Snapchat might be better matches for your strategy.
Regardless of the channels you choose to invest in, you should ensure consistency and follow best practices when using them. Post regularly, interact with your followers, and use these resources as a means of showcasing your other content. One simple but effective technique involves creating posts about each new blog you publish on your website. Make sure to include a link to the blog and a clear call to action like “Check out our latest guide.”
Build a great website — and keep it up to date
Most of your off-page marketing content will be designed with the intent of routing traffic back to your website. Once you get users to your site, you have a great opportunity to educate them on important health topics and influence their behavior. That being said, however, if you want your website to affect meaningful change, it should be dynamic and up to date.
In that case, what makes a website great?
Above all, it should be responsive and easy to navigate. If using your site is frictionless and enjoyable, visitors are going to stick around to read all that compelling content you created. After you’ve perfected your site, keep it up to date with fresh content. Consistently publish new blogs, update links, and closely monitor the site’s performance.
In the mainstream digital marketing space, marketers frequently collaborate with other entities within their verticals. They may publish guest posts on third-party websites, include backlinks to their own page, or work with influencers to promote a product.
Your organization can emulate that approach by forming alliances with entities that already have a connection with your target audience.
Your first instinct may be to reach out to other healthcare partners, but you should look past these formal agreements to find other entities to support your efforts. Local nonprofits and community centers can be valuable assets to your mission, especially if you’re directing your content at a niche group.
Generate buzz with online press releases
Community outreach events are a staple of any social marketing initiative. But before you invest precious time and resources into one, it’s critical that you generate plenty of hype around it to ensure its success. One effective way of doing so is by publishing online press releases.
Your organization is already doing great things in its community, so sharing your efforts with the world should be an obvious effort. Craft a detailed press release that highlights the turnout of your past events and draws attention to upcoming ones. Make sure to showcase those affected by your initiatives and reiterate the benefits they’ve achieved through behavioral changes.
Consider paid ads
Public health initiatives and social marketing campaigns often have limited budgets, but most campaigns would benefit from the selective use of paid advertising. Pay-per-click (PPC) and paid social ads can be particularly useful for getting the word out about important health issues.
PPC ads provide your marketing team with total control over its advertising budget, as they allow you to choose how much to bid on each word and set monthly spending limits. While these advertisements are too cost-prohibitive to form the foundation of your campaign, they can absolutely augment your organic outreach efforts.
Channel your inner wordsmith
The importance of blogging for social marketing can’t be overstated. Blogging is a cost-effective way of providing your target audience with impactful educational content. Some common blog types that you can incorporate into your campaign include:
- Listicles. These blog posts are structured as lists that feature a series of items, such as products or services. Each list entry will be supported by additional text that discusses its benefits and uses. Listicles typically feature a number in the title to grab the reader’s attention, such as “9 products to help you quit smoking for good.”
- Benefits blog posts. These blogs are quite simple and like listicles, they include a number in the title. However, instead of identifying items or services, the blog posts will outline a specific number of benefits associated with taking some sort of action, like engaging in regular physical activity.
- Beginner’s guides. Beginner’s guides are a great tool for introducing new readers to a particular topic, such as your organization’s mission or the behavior you want to change. If your initiative is geared toward teaching healthy eating habits, for instance, you can create a guide with a title like “Healthy eating 101: How to create a balanced diet for your health goals.”
These are just a few examples of blog categories you can incorporate into your social marketing campaign. You can curate your blog library based on the unique objectives of your organization and the interests of your target audience.
Find a platform to manage your social marketing efforts for healthcare
Your healthcare organization can positively influence and shift people’s behavior toward better health by using proven social marketing techniques. When you’re ready to get started, evaluate your data platform to see if it can manage your campaigns for social marketing healthcare campaigns. If not, it’s time to upgrade to Adobe Experience Platform.
Like a supercharged engine, Experience Platform is finely tuned to make experiences hum. Delivering personalized experiences at scale requires a centralized and connected data foundation, and Experience Platform is that foundation — powering the next generation of customer experiences.
If you’re looking to build engaging, personalized experiences at scale and prove impact, Adobe Marketo Engage can help elevate your social marketing initiatives. Marketo Engage gives marketers the complete toolkit to deliver winning lead- and account-based marketing automation, from acquisition to advocacy. Boost engagement — and growth — with marketing automation.