According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 70% of Americans use social media to connect with one another, engage with news content, share information, and entertain themselves. Social media's impact is felt by consumers of all ages:

  • 86% of 18- to 29-year-olds are on at least one social media platform
  • 34% of those 65 or older are on social media, with the percentage of other age ranges falling in between…
  • Including a whopping 64% of those age 50 to 64.

Clearly, social media has serious potential for connecting with consumers, even healthcare consumers. With so many current and future patients on social media platforms, healthcare organizations can ensure their message gets in front of the right consumers, at the right time. In fact, as we’ve been onsite with partners lately, many are including social media advertising in their strategic plans because they are seeing that It's a strategy that can be exceedingly successful to find and engage current patients and future patients.

Quick Results
Social media advertising can be your best advertising bet for quick results, like engagement, clicks, and more. You don't need to wait for someone to search for your targeted keywords or happen across your promotion or blog organically. If you want to reach 60,000 people in one day, you can. Social targeting allows health care organizations to leverage user provided information and social signals to match ads with the best prospects. Ideally, your ad is seen directly by those more likely to need the healthcare services you offer. Additionally, the instant connection on social platforms will undoubtedly lead to a few new inquires, at least. But, more importantly the positive engagement on social platforms lead to increases in conversions and new patients with lower cost of acquisition, often on a platform like Google search. So, the key takeaway is that your social media marketing can be great for both patient acquisition and brand engagement. Consumers that engage with your brand on social platforms may not convert in the same medium, but because you have provided them with valuable information, your organization will be top of mind when they’re looking to make a health care decision in the future.

How to Choose Your Platform
To get the most value for your social media advertising buck, it's important to use the appropriate social media platform for your goals. Some are better for healthcare applications than others — for example, Facebook, with its 2 billion monthly users, is a great network for provider organizations looking to connect with consumers. LinkedIn, not so much, since it's better for business-to-business connections.

Here's a quick look at what type of content and play is most effective on the three most appropriate channels for healthcare marketers:

Facebook: Its abundance of ad formats makes Facebook perfect for business-to-consumer campaigns. These formats allow marketers to dig deeper into their audience and uncover potential customers through awareness and social reach. In addition, partnering with a CRM solution can allow you to pull targeted lists of your most valuable patients and build new audience lists based on patients that "look like" your most valuable groups. Additionally, for engagement with your brand and to provide consumers with meaningful content, you can promote service lines through health risk assessment offerings, general awareness, and more.

Instagram: Instagram ads are ideal for driving awareness. Highly visual content gets users to engage. Overall brand awareness and event promotion work well on this channel.

Twitter: Twitter's various advertising options help grow awareness and drive clicks to your website. You can promote newsletter or blog content on your site, events, providers, and more.

Which platform you choose depends on three factors:

1. Where are your target consumers concentrated? (How often do they use the platform, what groups mighty they be a member of, and more)
2. Where are your target consumers most accessible? (What is their preferred channel, for example)
3. Where are your target consumers most engaged with your ads? (You'll need to do some testing to determine this)

Data, from market research or your healthcare CRM, will be crucial here to discovering the answers for each segment you're advertising to.

Smart Social Media Advertising Tips
1. Know your campaign objectives. What's the goal of your social media advertising strategy? Going blindly into paid social will only cost you time and money. Are you trying to drive clicks or some deeper call to action like a health risk assessment completion or event signup?

2. Initially, choose just one or two networks that best align with your goals and objectives. If you find success, you can always expand your efforts. But starting small allows you to stay focused and test iterations of campaigns more effectively. Think big, start small, go fast, and optimize!

3. Seamlessly blend paid advertisements into feeds, walls, and timelines so they seem a natural feature of the platform, rather than screaming “I'M AN AD!" Your brand look and voice should be consistent and transition naturally into an ad format.

4. Use free social media to test your paid social ads. Also, analyze your free posts to see which topics best engage your audience. Organic posting should be a part of your balanced strategy anyway, so you can make more use out of your efforts by double-dipping like this.

5. Take advantage of user targeting features. Pushing ads to highly specific groups should increase your engagement and minimize budget wastage.

6. Rotate ads frequently. Fresh content is essential on advertising channels that rely on ads that appear directly in users' feeds. Once you reach maximum exposure on an ad, or when it's been served enough times to your audience that its relevancy starts to decrease, it's time to switch things up or refresh creative.

7. Keep the text brief and to the point. Short and sweet usually wins the day.

8. Use small samples to test the text and images used in your ads. Best practice is to test several ads with small audiences to determine what works best, then use the winning ad in the primary campaign.

9. Design ads with mobile in mind.

Today's Advertising Platform
Social media advertising may be your best advertising bet for a quick return on your marketing investment. You can structure it so that you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad — meaning you're actually getting something (the view) for your dollar. A smart strategy for your social media ads can really help you get the most bang for your buck.

Want more tips on social media advertising? Download our playbook for service line marketing on Facebook.