I laugh when I think about the things that didn't exist when I started, such as the iPad and the Facebook like button. While one is a device and one is a service, they underscore the need for both the flexibility to adapt to change as well as a bigger-picture understanding of what works and what doesn't in the digital space for healthcare marketing.
With that in mind, I've shared with you a few guiding principles that have served me and our agency well and might serve as strategic guideposts to help healthcare marketers navigate the constant changes they face in an ever-evolving digital landscape.
Show, don't just tell
More and more, people are becoming watchers as they are reading less. This trend is even more pronounced when a patient who is hyper-concerned and not easily processing information is trying to digest everything they need to know about a potential caregiver or treatment.
Healthcare is a very personal decision, and the more patients get a positive feeling from a potential caregiver, the more likely they are to choose them. In this case, digital is not a barrier, but rather an opportunity to making that connection. Video, infographics and simple, compelling user experiences are no longer a "luxury" item in the digital health marketing space, but more of a necessity in a world where the audiences is expecting more and better experiences from their media.
Simple Patient experiences
Audiences make both conscious and subconscious decisions when making medical decisions online. For this reason, it's imperative that web sites are well-organized and easy to navigate. Doing so instills both confidence and reassurance. A failure to police a site and guard against information overload will lead to a feeling of helplessness that often results in a patient taking their business elsewhere.
Social Media: Curating and providing thought leadership
In an age where everyone can be a publisher, and more and more people are feeling overwhelmed by information, the need for trusted sources and curated content will continue to grow. Understanding your audience's needs online and going along the grain of how information is discovered, captured and shared goes a long way toward extending a health provider's brand.
By listening for healthcare questions (through Quora, Twitter, Facebook etc.) being asked by others and providing timely, relevant responses or tools for others to provide the answers, healthcare professionals can connect with people well beyond their intended geographic targets. Doing this in a manageable, repeatable way is the key to long-term success and meaningful audience growth.
In medicine and online, one size never fits all
When it comes to medical conditions and treatments, audiences don't always know what they're looking for, but they know when they haven't found information that specifically relates to them. This puts an increased onus on clear, informative internal search tools, effective SEO strategies and a commitment to analytics that empowers health providers to understand their audience traffic and adjust to their audience's needs.
From a community perspective, this means health providers need to do more than simply take a "build it and they will come" approach. Communities need to be as targeted as possible so individuals can connect with others with their specific condition. The more health providers online can provide relevance for their audience, the greater the loyalty, and returning site traffic.
Everyone has their current fire-drill projects that are focused on addressing the latest and greatest trends in digital or social marketing endeavors. That said, it's important to think critically and strategically about how each of those new developments fit into a larger strategy, if for no other reason than to maintain one's sanity.