How social marketing is used in healthcare

Woman smiles while having a text conversation about a healthcare appointment.

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?

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

A graphic that shows social marketing in 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:

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.

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

Audience segmentation is the process of dividing your target audience into smaller groups based on shared characteristics, such as:

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.

Social marketing is an effective way of applying proven marketing techniques to influence the behaviors of a population toward better health.

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:

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.

Social marketing is 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.

Form alliances

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:

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.

Watch the overview video or request a demo to learn more about Adobe Experience Platform.

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.

To learn more about Adobe Marketo Engage, watch the overview video or take the interactive tour.