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Master the search and social mindsets to improve patient acquisition

As healthcare systems get more savvy about using digital to improve patient acquisition, more medical providers are asking me about the best ways to apply paid search and social media.

For example, a healthcare system might want to promote a new wellness program and needs to understand the interplay between search and social to achieve their goals. My conversations always come back to one fundamental truth: to maximize the value of either channel, you first need to understand the search and social mindsets of patients.

Understanding the different mindsets will help you align the two channels more effectively to manage patient acquisition.

The Search Mindset

When people use search tools such as Bing and Google, they demonstrate intent. They are looking for urgent care, investigating a symptom, seeking a new physician, or performing some other search with a goal in mind. They might be looking specifically for your brand (e.g., “Cleveland Clinic”), or performing a non-branded search (“hospitals near me”). In either case, they want to engage with you at some point. About 80 percent of people use search engines to address health needs.

Healthcare systems need to position themselves as the go-to resources for these searches by applying paid and organic search tactics ranging from keyword buys to optimizing content and data on physician pages to be found for topics that are most important to you. For example, a paid search strategy would consider factors such as:

● Which types of searches align most closely with your areas of specialty.

● What time of day to maximize the value of your digital advertising and keyword strategies.

● The right blend of visual storytelling and content to position your physicians organically for searches.

These factors will help you best capitalize on search intent.

The Social Mindset

People have a much different mindset on social media platforms. They’re less likely to spend time on their socials to look for your brand or to research topics with active intent. Sure, they’re very active sharing content with their friends, but with brands, they likely to be more passive unless they are taking to social because of a customer-service issue. The social audience is a much more passive one -- and therefore reacts differently to ads or content in social media than through search.

This difference in mindset dictates that healthcare systems develop different strategies, creative approaches, and measurements for success to more effectively interact with patients. Healthcare providers can and do succeed with social media advertising so long as they understand the core truth of the social media mindset, which is that people on social do not invite you to share your content.

Since people on social do not reveal any perceivable intent, I believe it’s important for healthcare systems to test how different audiences engage with you brand on social. I advise clients to experiment with different ad formats on social to earn the attention of your audience depending on your objective. Those formats include display, video, and descriptive content. In addition, social media – especially Facebook – offers the ability to target advertising to specific demographic segments far more than you can with search. You advertise to a person on social. You target a behavior on search.

Search and Social

When a healthcare system understands the mindsets of social and search, they can combine the two channels in effective ways to meet specific location marketing objectives.

Let’s say you’re a medical center with multiple locations across a large urban area, and you’re opening a new wellness center for physical therapy and exercise. And let’s say your business challenge is to raise awareness for the center.

On search, you’ll want to drive traffic to your new wellness center by being present when people conduct near-me searches in categories such as physical therapy. You’ll want to bid for the appropriate keywords for those non-branded searches knowing that few people will do a branded search for your unknown center. Furthermore, you might want to run display ads announcing the opening of your wellness center, including calls to action such as discounts for first-time visitors. Your ad will need to be concise and optimized for mobile with a direct offer. But since you’ll be competing with many other businesses bidding for the same keywords and running their own ads, you’ll want to complement the effort with a social media outreach.

On social media, you’ll want to focus on raising awareness and driving foot traffic to your new site. Placing effective ads should, in fact, spur searches on Google and other search engines for when someone needs physical therapy or wants to join an exercise program even if they don’t click on your ad on Facebook or another social platform. But even better: your ad will be so compelling that it will drive traffic to your new location.

You might want to experiment with many approaches, knowing that you’ll need to catch the attention of people who are not actively searching for you or your category on social:

● A more conventional text-based ad with a discount offer for first-time visitors, akin to search display ads.

● A brief video tour of the new facility.

● A brief video with exercise advice.

And the healthcare provider will want to experiment with different ads at different times, such as offers targeting people on social media in January, which is a time when many people are motivated to exercise as part of their new year’s resolutions.

However you deploy paid social and search, I believe it important to always:

● Know the mindset of your audience, as noted.

● Combine paid with organic.

● Tie your activity to measureable outcomes.

By focusing on mindset primarily, healthcare providers can keep your patient acquisition strategies more strategic, valuable, and patient-oriented. After all, patient acquisition comes down to people and providers coming together at the right place. The tactics simply enable the process.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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