80% of internet users look for
health information online
- Pew Internet
Health care marketing executives are tasked with leading the local community to their area of the pond. They strive for community brand recognition through everything from billboards to direct mail campaigns, in hopes that the public will think of their hospital first when seeking health care services. To further increase visibility, many are also turning to the internet to create an online presence.
However, when it comes to the internet, the key to success is in knowing where to fish and what bait to use to get noticed. Berry Network, an online and print advertising agency that provides services to VHA members, finds three strategies to be effective:
Make Your Website a Destination Site
It is old school to simply dangle a Website out on the internet in hopes that users will stumble upon it and find it enticing enough to get hooked. Today, providers that have the greatest success understand that they must create engaging content that makes users want to keep them coming back for more on a regularly basis. Hosting a CEO or physician blog is an ideal starting point. Blogs allow users to post comments and questions and learn from the two-way conversation of others. Equally effective is providing news updates on important hospital changes and announcements. This provides a service to the community, keeping them informed on building expansions, new physicians, and recent advancements in health care procedures.
Another easy addition to your site is syndicated content. For instance, the CDC offers a host of resources on health topics that can bolster your site. At the www.CDC.gov site you can get RSS news feeds on health topics including seasonal flu, chronic disease, and emergency preparedness; widgets and buttons for administering online polls and health assessments; whitepapers and ebooks; and other site enhancements such as Podcasts and links to help users learn more about their specific health interests. To follow are examples of buttons you can apply to your site.
Engaging audiences through social media
Today we are hearing more and more about social media, but does it really have a play for hospitals and other health care organizations? According to the Pew Internet Study, 80% of internet users look for health information online. The study also says that 41% of e-patients have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website or blog. Further, according to a study by the National Research Corporation, 78.8% of Americans researched gave a level of 3 or higher (on a scale of 1 to 5) to the likelihood that social media influences their health care decisions. Perhaps, this why more than 900 hospitals across the U.S., tracked by Ed Bennett, Director, Web Strategy, University of Maryland Medical Center, have jumped on the social bandwagon listening, creating conversation, and responding to the public.
One way to understand how social media may be useful for your organization is to watch and learn from the organizations that are already making a presence. Children’s Hospital Boston, for instance, has more than a half-million likes from their Facebook page. The Mayo Clinic engages with more than 100,000 followers on their Twitter page. And, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital boasts a whopping 358,154 fans on Facebook. These organizations also know that it is not enough to just have a presence, they have found ways to be creative and set themselves apart. St. Jude’s, for instance, provides a special tab on their Facebook site for "Patient of the Month," and a "Shop" tab that allows visitors to purchase items from the hospital to support its fundraising efforts.
Physicians are also in the social media game creating online profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, and ZocDoc), authoring content (blogs, Medscape Connect, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter), connecting with other physicians (Sermo, HealthVault), and engaging with patients through mobile apps and community forums.
Make Your Website Be Found When Users are Searching
An equally effective method that marketers use to increase their online presence is making sure their hospital is found when users are searching health-related topics online. Outside of the common search engine marketing and optimization methods your Webmaster is probably already doing, another tactic involves targeted banner advertising. Unlike traditional Run-of-Site banner advertising, that has managed to get labeled as intrusive and wasteful, targeted banner ads do just the opposite. Targeting technologies now allow advertisers to segment to the precise audience they want. Programs like the AT&T/Yahoo Healthcare Network allows online targeting based on behavior (tracking online history by IP address), geography (regional or national), and demographics (age, gender, income, profession, etc.). These programs can be easily managed with a fixed budget, simply by putting a cap on the number of paid impressions you want to deliver.
Whether you’re talking about a fishing line or online, the principles are the same… make sure that what you are offering is enticing and keeps your users coming back for more.
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