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Healthcare Marketers: Now is Your Opportunity to Build an Audience

By Brianne Carlon RushFeb 18, 2015

healthcare-community-building

One of every 10 people said if it weren’t for web-based health information, they’d be dead or severely incapacitated. Let this stat from Philip Healthcare sink in. One in 10 people who use the Internet believe healthcare content saved their lives. Clearly, people value content.

And it isn’t just in life or death situations. A Pew Internet study found 80 percent of Internet users have looked online for information—this translates to 59 percent of all adults.

That means now is the perfect time for healthcare industries, especially those rooted in patient care, to create an online community that will benefit both your marketing efforts, as well as your audiences’ healthcare needs.

Examples of Online Healthcare Communities

The Cleveland Clinic went full force with content marketing, creating its well-known Health Hub. The blog features 40 of the Clinic’s leading healthcare providers, boasts 3.2 million visitors a month and publishes three to five time a day, covering topics ranging from nutrition, heart and brain health and overall wellness.

cleveland-clinic-health-hub

Our overall strategy is really around content that helps people anywhere in the world, whether they're our patients or not,” said Manager of Digital Engagement Amanda Todorovich in an interview we conducted last December. “Our strategy is to write not just about clinical conditions and treating people when they're sick, but also around preventative medicine. We want to show we're there for you, even in those times. We want to be useful, helpful and relevant every day.”

The high-quality content develops a credibility and trust level, which Clinic community members—a whopping 1.2 million Facebook fans—are more than willing to share. About 65 percent of the Health Hub’s traffic comes from Facebook alone.

Invacare, a medical equipment manufacturer, created a web-based community for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, their caregivers and their physicians in May 2012. The Do More With Oxygen site is ultimately meant to support its line of respiratory therapy products.

do-more-with-oxygen

One of the community’s primary characteristics was its reliance on educational—rather than product-centric—content. By interviewing clinicians, patients and medical experts, the site was able to put forth a deep, rich collection of authentic, accurate content. In a highly regulated industry like medical device manufacturing, this professional approach to content creation is key.

After just eight months, the website had garnered more than 54,000 visits and more than 1,200 leads. Today, the Facebook community has more than 11,000 fans. 

Tips for Creating and Sustaining Your Online Healthcare Community

Create a Hub of Quality Content

As Todorovich said, strive to be “useful, helpful and relevant every day.” But that is no easy task. You must first understand what your patients, consumers and community members want. It’s not to read about awards won or mergers made, it is about how they can live a healthier life or do a better job at work. Then decide how to distribute that content; many brands find community success on Facebook, but yours may be on LinkedIn, Tumblr or somewhere completely different. 

Just remember content marketing and social media are about relationship building.

“The only way you do that is if the people engaging with your content feel like you care about them, feel like they can trust your content and they can come to you again and again as a resource,” Todorovich said. “That has really proven itself for us.”

Develop Additional Trust with Earned Media

Once you begin creating quality, professional content, others will notice, perhaps even the media. Take the “Top 10 Medical Innovations” list the Cleveland Clinic has been publishing each year since 2007. In it, the Clinic chooses new treatments and technologies expected to change patient care in the near future.  

This list was picked up by CNN, Forbes and MPR, along with countless others in 2014 alone. Being mentioned by such outlets builds a sense of trust among audiences, as “earned advertising [media] remains most credible among consumers,” according to Nielsen.

Get the Word Out with Paid Media

The truth is without paid media, you will have a hard time reaching new audience members.

As Matthew Gratt wrote on Convince & Convert, “Nothing markets itself. The world tends towards entropy, ignorance, and forgetting your company exists.” He suggests utilizing paid outlets including StumbleUpon Paid Discovery, Reddit Ads, Highly Targeted Facebook Ads and Retargeting.

Additionally, don’t forget about relevant, third-party email distribution and your very own (free) email database.

Encourage Engagement via Shared Media

Shared media is best described as audience members (fans or community members) working in concert with a brand to share or promote that brand. Think social media posts, online reviews, engagement in LinkedIn Groups—all the things healthcare marketers desperately want but could never authentically create on their own.

Positive online reviews, Facebook posts sharing your brand’s professional insight and, more recently, interaction with healthcare portals (see Meaningful Use) only happen once community members engage with your owned, earned and paid media.

Start Building Your Community Today

If you haven't taken the first step toward creating your own healthcare community online, what are you waiting for? Find more information about creating owned, earned and paid strategies for your healthcare organization in this free guide.

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The Author

Brianne Carlon Rush

After developing the Kuno Creative content marketing department and growing it by 500%, Brianne has expanded her role to help grow the inbound marketing agency in size, revenue and resources. She now focuses on sales and marketing alignment; employee recruiting, hiring and development; and communication strategies, while still dedicating time to client strategy and Kuno’s marketing efforts.
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