Who knew pancakes and burgers could cause such a fiasco?

In case you missed it, IHOP practically broke the Internet with its (thankfully temporary) name change to “IHOb." Even before the revelation that the little “b" actually stood for “burgers," the news went viral, with the announcement alone racking up 5 billion impressions on Twitter.

That? Is a perfect example of what social media means in consumer lives. If you're still thinking of social media as a only a playground for cat photos and political memes, you're missing out on the core nature of how healthcare consumers live. Check out these statistics collected by Adweek.

  • 7 in 10 Americans use social media.
  • 80% of internet users are searching for health information.
  • 72% of all internet users are active on social media
  • Healthcare consumers are using social media as an integral part of their healthcare journeys.

Social media is where healthcare consumers are, and since healthcare is a local business, understanding what social media looks like on a local level is an invaluable skill for today's businesses. That's also exactly why a little time invested in understanding today's consumer's relationships with social media can mean a big payoff for healthcare marketers.

Understanding the State of Social Media
Social media has evolved from a space for connection into a primary source of information. Consumers used to turn directly to their browsers to conduct searches, but today they're also consulting social networks for answers to their most challenging questions.

For example, when it comes to local search specifically, Facebook and other social networks are giving Google some serious competition. While Google's string of social network attempts has topped out at G+'s 4 to 6 million active users, Facebook boasts 1.5 billion active daily users. When you consider that word of mouth is still where consumers build trust, social media has a serious leg up on even the most sophisticated search engine.

Facebook is already incorporating maps, recommendations, reviews, and other search functions into its standard functionality. Combine that with Facebook doing more with its location features over the last year, and you're looking at a whole new world of opportunity to provide valuable information and connect with consumers.

(On a side note, if you want to do more with your current Facebook healthcare marketing, this post will get you started.)

Social media isn't all about the big players though. Locally focused up-and-comer Nextdoor lets users join a chat feed that can be customized to include their immediate neighborhood or expanded to a specific radius. Users can post positive experiences and recommend local businesses with links. While they don't currently offer agency support to hospitals, they do support doctors, meaning that your physicians are welcome and that users are on the platform engaging with healthcare topics.

Social media isn't a flat concept: different demographics gravitate toward different platforms, popularity varies by platform, and new networks are constantly popping up. According to a Pew Research Center survey, while Facebook and YouTube dominate social overall, younger consumers gravitate toward platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Pinterest is popular with the primary healthcare decision-making demographic, women, and LinkedIn dominates the college graduate set and households with higher incomes.

Step into the Age of Local Social Media
If you're feeling a little behind, don't worry. We've got you covered. To help you ride out the accelerating evolution of local social media, focus on a straightforward approach that prioritizes knowing your consumer and providing them with value.

Leverage Your CRM
If you haven't stepped into the world of advanced CRM (customer relationship management), getting in front of local social media trends in your area might be just the reason you need.

The complexity of local search and social is going to take a lot more than an intern watching your Facebook notifications. You're going to need the ability to obtain, record, and store information around consumer demographics and behaviors through intelligent targeting, predictive analytics, as well as reports and dashboards that help you understand what role local social should play in your marketing initiatives.

(Are you still planning on continuing life without healthcare CRM? That might be a huge mistake.)

Lean Into Your CMS
Once you understand what social media looks like in your area, it's time to start creating the content that will help you climb to the top of your healthcare consumers' feeds and search results. Considering the complexity of social media, this is no small undertaking. Even local campaigns can quickly surpass the human capacity to scale and require the aid of technology to keep up with competition and consumer expectations.

Using a sophisticated CMS (content management system) will help you create a seamless, personalized digital consumer experience based on local health concerns and patient education initiatives. The right CMS will allow you not only to publish and manage content to your website, but help you connect complex social campaigns across your most popular and highest-yield platforms. The right CRM will open the door to targeted messages based on location and will track conversions, so you know exactly how your content is paying off for you.

(Not feeling confident in your current CMS? This download will help.)

Know that your consumer experience is going to be a combination of personal plus collective data. The bar has already been set by retail, and yes, IHOb. Short of weird name changes, your healthcare consumers expect the same from you.

Want more insight into social media marketing for healthcare? Download our playbook.