Social media marketing for healthcare enables providers to engage with patients, promote new relationships, and improve the reputation and credibility of doctors. In challenging and uncertain times, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, social media plays an even bigger role. It serves as a tool for healthcare providers to share information, engage with the public, promote healthy behaviors, discuss policy and practice issues, educate patients and caregivers and most importantly – stay connected with their patients, referral sources and potential patients.

Now more than ever, people are left with the Internet – most especially social media – as their sole means of connection, news and entertainment. In fact, Facebook and Instagram have seen a 40% increase in usage due to COVID-19, with views for Instagram Live and Facebook Live doubling in one week. Even during “normal” times, social media for healthcare is essential:

  • 57% of patients ultimately decide where to get treatment based on a provider’s social media presence.
  • 80% of Internet users who engage on social media are specifically looking for health information, and nearly half are searching for information about a specific doctor or health professional.
  • 32% of US users post about their friends and family’s health experiences on social media.
  • 60% of doctors feel that social media marketing helps improve the quality of care they give patients.

As a healthcare marketing agency, we are not in the trenches with our incredible healthcare providers that are fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we have been creating and mobilizing strategies to help our clients update their websites and digital marketing strategies to keep messaging consistent and help our communities stay informed. In a time where things are changing not just day to day, but even hour to hour, we wanted to share the strategies we are implementing with clients right now to help manage their marketing programs in a time of uncertainty.

1. Keep posting, but be sensitive.

Now is not the time to be quiet. You can’t afford to lose touch with your current patients or stop marketing for new ones. The same can be said for your referral sources. People are spending more time than ever online, so it presents an opportunity for you to cultivate and/or maintain brand awareness within your community.But remember to be aware of people’s anxieties and sensitivities. Anxiety levels are high across the board. People are worried about their health — but they’re also worried about work, their children’s education, finances and more. In all that you do, use sensitive language. This will help build trust during a trying time, while at the same time providing helpful tips and a little bit of necessary brand building as we all navigate through these challenging times.

2.  Provide comfort and reassurance.

In the face of a crisis, many patients could use a dose of comfort and reassurance.Social media is an amazing platform for healthcare marketers to comfort, reassure, and display empathy. Use this opportunity to demonstrate the kind of patient experience you’re delivering. Show off your efforts to make patients feel as comfortable as possible under the circumstances and remind them of the safety precautions you are taking to protect them.

A good general rule to follow is this: Focus less on you…more on them. If utilized properly, social media can positively impact your bottom through reduced costs, increased efficiencies, and better experiences that meet the needs of today’s healthcare consumers.

3. Let them know you care by providing support, community and positivity.

In the face of home quarantining, the importance of positivity and connection are essential. COVID-19 is affecting everyone around the world in different ways. Offer compassion. Provide healthcare tips to help people take care of themselves and their families. Let them know that you care. Keep in mind that some of your followers have lost their jobs, are caring for a loved one, trying to work at home with a toddler and/or might be sick themselves.

4. Share information about you and your team.

To many of your patients, you are a trusted voice and face. A lot of healthcare content on social media can come off as a bit sterile. To combat this, it’s important that you’re able to humanize your organization. One great way to do this is by introducing your audience to your doctors, nurses, and administrative staff: the people who deal with patients every day. After all, they’re the face of your organization. During health crises, they are the people from whom the public will seek support and advice.Talk about your frontliners’ experience, achievements, and skills. Post pictures of them in their element. This adds a measure of humanity to your healthcare practice, making you more relatable to your community of followers. Many of your patients have been quarantined at home for weeks, so seeing a friendly face makes a huge impact and creates a sense of togetherness.

5. Review existing campaigns and make sure messaging is consistent and valuable in the current context.

For example, if you are running ad campaigns for elective procedures that need to be performed in hospital, such as bariatrics or orthopedic surgery, you likely need to shift messaging. A lot of patients are at home right now, working or not, and may be doing research. Switch to a brand awareness approach, rather than trying to get patients in the door right away for a surgical consult.

6. Provide valuable, accurate and reliable information for patients and potential patients.

Many people have more free time on their hands than normal, and they’re very likely to be glued to their phones, laptops, and other devices. If they were considering a bariatric surgery before the pandemic, it’s likely they’ll still be considering it. Use this time to continue educating patients about various topics, keeping the conversation between your prospective/current patients and your practice alive.Position yourself as the expert as you are and share medical resources and your association resources with your patients, potential patients and referral sources. Build trust now, so that patient or potential patient remembers you when the crisis passes.

7. Communicate with existing patients.

For your existing patients, you’re a trusted source of health advice and information, and this is a time when they need you more than ever. You might not be able to offer them some of your in-office services right now, so this is the time to provide them valuable information and thoughtful guidance based on your expertise.Also let them know that you are taking care of them. Be clear in explaining your commitment to their health and safety — which includes being clear about when patients should not come to your office. Go into as much detail as you can in explaining what you are doing to ensure their safety and how they can ensure the safety of other patients too. If you are encouraging patients to call ahead before coming in if they have COVID-19 symptoms, be sure to post that message on your website and on social media.

People are spending a lot of time online right now. Reach your patients where they are, let them know you are there for them and build your image as a trusted authority in their eyes. This provides not just a valuable service to people who may be experiencing a lot of fear but also builds your image and online presence for the future.

8. Share patient testimonials.

Online reviews posted by your patients can serve as a powerful social resource for other healthcare consumers. According to research, 72% of consumers use online reviews as a resource in finding a new doctor. Don’t hesitate to ask happy patients to leave you a review and to share your best reviews and testimonials on social media and on your website.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging moment for the world, but it also offers a chance to build community, understanding, trust and support as we navigate this unprecedented time together. Even amidst the challenges, smart social media strategies can influence patients and referral sources in a positive and profound way.