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Social media advertising is 'secret sauce' to engagement

November 28th, 2012

by Jenn Riggle

Social media advertising may seem like selling out to hospital marketers.

Although we may not like to admit it, we tend to be social media purists. Blame it on our Pilgrim ancestors and their puritanical ways, but marketers often believe if they don't organically earn social media followers and drive engagement, it's not genuine. Oh, we may be comfortable purchasing some ads on Facebook, but developing a social media advertising strategy seems like cheating.

That's why it's important for hospitals to put aside their misgivings and think seriously about how they're promoting their content. Social media advertising might drive people to your Facebook page, video or website, but you need great content to keep them coming back.


When you think about it, social media advertising isn't much different from search engine optimization (SEO). It's just taking proactive steps to ensure people are aware of your digital content.

We've seen first-hand how effective social media advertising can be. We were working with a hospital client that understood it needed to engage in social media, but didn't have the time or resources to make it happen. The hospital had three or four videos on YouTube, but they were a couple of years old. By the same token, it had a Facebook page but it was updated sporadically and had a little more than 600 fans.

We realized our client first needed to focus on content creation and giving people a reason to talk about its organization. We developed a monthly ongoing editorial calendar and began posting daily updates on its Facebook page. The result, we increased its Facebook fans by 380 in one month.

On the content creation side, we developed a couple of short YouTube videos and set aside $5,000 for social media advertising to promote them. In one month, we generated 7,896 views for an Animoto-type video and 72,281 views for the second video. However, it was important to note that the majority of views (7,587 and 71,699, respectively) were the result of paid advertising. We also had some impressive engagement numbers:

  • During the course of the month, it received 1,018 new "likes"
  • The number of people discussing the page each day (posting comments, writing posts, sharing posts, etc.) rose to 85 per day from a previous total of around 5 per day

If you're considering social media advertising, here are some things to keep in mind:

Facebook Advertising
Facebook is by far the most popular social media advertising platform and represents 85 percent of all social media advertising expenditures. The goal of Facebook ads is to drive people to your page. But more importantly, it helps foster engagement by having people become a "fan," "liking" and sharing your content, or posting a comment. Engagement is essential because when a user visits a fan page and "likes" it, the content is posted on their news feeds-- which is the way most people receive content, instead of visiting a fan page. We found that sponsored stories were effective, asking people to check out our videos, having a poll about our organization, etc.

YouTube Advertising
The good news about YouTube advertising is that one size doesn't fit all. With four types of YouTube advertising, you can pick the one that's right for your hospital.

  • Promoted videos: This is a traditional advertising approach and is relatively inexpensive, in which you bid on keywords associated to your video.
  • YouTube homepage ads: This option allows you to own the YouTube masthead for 24 hours and reach its 23 million viewers. Masthead ads allow you to include interactive elements like clips or games, but they are the most costly and probably something only international brands can afford.
  • In-stream ads: This option allows you to run your video as an ad break before or during YouTube partner videos. These ads come in two formats: Standard in-stream ads (15 or 30 seconds long) and TrueView ads (can be longer than 30 seconds), where viewers have the option to skip after 5 seconds. With TrueView in-stream you are only charged if users completely view your ad or watch at least 30 seconds.
  • Text Overlay Ads: Text Overlay (standalone) ads work with Google AdWords and generally appear within a video player or within the bottom 20 percent of a video stream's play space. It's easy to see where your money is going since it's strictly pay per click.

We used In-Search and In-Display advertising to promote our videos on YouTube. This meant that our videos appeared in the top of search results for relevant keywords and they appeared in the "suggested videos" at the right of related YouTube videos. We also developed some ads that were similar to YouTube ads, with a 25-character headline and two-lines of ad copy with 35-characters each.

Content Advertising
If your hospital has a blog or a steady flow of original content, you also should consider a content advertising service, such as Outbrain. You are probably familiar with Outbrain ads, even if you've never heard of the company. It puts links to recommended articles on the web's largest content publishers in a section called "From Around the Web," including The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and People . While this wasn't an option for our hospital client, we've used Outbrain to generate great results for others.

People are going to the Internet to find health information. It's up to you to make sure they can find it.

Jenn Riggle is a vice president at Weber Shandwick Worldwide and member of its healthcare practice.


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