When you consider that 7 out of 10 Americans use social media, it’s easy to imagine that your potential new patients are probably online right now. And they spend an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day on social platforms.
This means that social media is an opportunity for medical practices to reach more patients.
In Tebra’s 2023 Patient Perspectives report, 82% of patients surveyed said they currently don’t follow their healthcare provider on social media — but many would. Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z would follow a medical practice if it posted interesting and engaging content.
But there’s one challenge: getting seen.
Visibility for organic, or non-paid, social content has been declining for years. That isn’t to say this content isn’t useful. In fact, organic content is usually a core component of a successful digital marketing strategy. But for many practices, it can help to give your videos, images, and text posts an extra push. And, ideally, you’ll attract more patients as a result.
This is where paid social media advertising comes in.
Why use paid social media advertising?
There are several direct and indirect benefits that a medical practice can take advantage of from paid advertising on social media:
- Boost leads: The top reason any business chooses to invest in ads on social media is to get more customers. For medical providers, this can look like more appointment bookings or even retaining current patients.
- Complementing an organic strategy: Maybe you’ve been posting on social media for a while, but you want to grow your following faster or increase engagement. Advertising can work alongside your organic efforts, as users who see your paid content are likely to review your regular content, too.
- Reach a specific audience: One of the best things about social media advertising is that you can show a specific community your ads with audience targeting. For example, if you are a physiotherapist whose ideal patient is a Millennial in Austin, Texas, who enjoys sports and working out, you can show your ads to Millennials in Austin, Texas, who enjoy sports and working out.
- Test content effectiveness: Let’s say you have two ideas for content topics: “Making the most of your primary care visits” or “how to read lab results.” You could make a short video or post about these topics and advertise it. The one with the most clicks or engagement can show you which one is more popular. Not only can you double down on successful topics, but you can use them in other parts of your marketing strategy, too.
- Drive traffic to a blog or case study: In some cases, you may have another asset you want to promote. This can be a blog post, case study, guest article in an industry magazine, ebook, or a similar product. You can use advertising to promote that content specifically and increase your authority.
7 steps for setting up a social media ad campaign
Social media advertising is incredibly versatile. But it’s important to set up your accounts and campaigns the right way. The good news is that each platform has a similar process. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Select your social network(s)
First, decide which social media platforms to use. Each has its own unique advertising setup and costs. In most cases, medical practices tend to want to start paid campaigns on Facebook. While Facebook has a lower organic reach (AKA, getting free exposure is difficult), it has a wide variety of ad options, a large user base, and you can show the same ads on Instagram without much additional effort.
For healthcare professionals who prefer video ads, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram all provide and promote video content.
2. Request a business account
Most social media accounts aren’t automatically set up for businesses. To get access to enhanced analytics and business tools, including advertising, you’ll need to set up a business or professional account. The good news is that this is often a simple process and only requires you to select “switch to a business account” under settings.
The Meta Business Suite, which includes Facebook and Instagram, is the most complex program, as it can require verification before confirming your account.
3. Create a campaign
Once you’ve set up your business account, create an advertising campaign. A campaign is an umbrella for specific ads. For example, a therapist may have a campaign called “ADHD,” and another called “depression” to highlight different key topics or services.
You can determine how long a campaign will run and its overall budget. Or, you can keep it going indefinitely and change out the ads as you see fit. Just make sure you decide by which metrics you’ll track your success, and now often, before you start. Your medical practice marketing plan can be a great guide.
4. Upload your ads
Once you create your campaign, you’ll be prompted to upload your individual ads. The specific ad you want to create will determine your exact needs but will likely involve a combination of headlines, body copy, and videos and/or images.
When it comes to creating ads, you can either outsource these tasks or do them yourself. And you don’t necessarily need to purchase expensive tools to create the materials you need. For example, you can write your ad in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and simply copy and paste the text into the ad platform. You can use your smartphone to record a video or open a free Canva account to easily create professional-looking graphics.
You will also specify your audience demographics. You can choose factors like age, location, interests, and even potential job titles, to match your ideal customer profile. The ability to decide who sees your ads is the main driver of social media advertising. It allows you to cut through the clutter and reach the right people.
5. Install codes on your website (if necessary)
Platforms like Facebook and TikTok require you to add a “pixel” code to your website for better tracking. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to add, although it can take a few hours for the social media platform to verify the code.
6. Set a budget
Finally, set a budget for your specific ads. You can create a “total budget” that divides the funds by the number of days your campaign will run or until the funds run out. Or you can set a daily budget.
For those new to social media advertising, setting a small daily budget is likely to be more economical. Choosing to invest at least $1 a day for your initial ads can help you figure out your baseline, how your ads perform, and whether you need a larger budget.
7. Press play
Once you publish your ads, they’ll begin showing to potential patients. Within 24 hours you can usually begin to see data such as:
- Reach: How many unique people have seen your content
- Impressions: The number of times your content is shown
- Cost-per-click (CPC): How much each click costs
- Cost-per-impression (CPM): How much it costs to show your ad to a certain number of times, normally 1,000 impressions
Use this information to determine if your ad campaign is meeting your goals and then make informed decisions to optimize your advertising strategy.
How to get more patients with social media ads
Once you have an account, you may wonder what to post or what your ads should look like. When creating your ad strategy, consider the following best practices:
- Focus on education and entertainment. Most patients use the internet to find solutions to their problems or discover something interesting. Rather than directly asking potential patients to book an appointment or highlighting your credentials, consider creating content that teaches or entertains. This will set you apart from salesy ads and help you build an authentic relationship with your audience.
- Don’t discuss specific patient cases, even if you omit identifying details. It can be tempting to share a patient’s story on social media. But even if you don’t name them, sharing details about a patient’s experiences, especially without their consent, can be seen as non-compliance. To make matters worse, if your patient sees your post, they may feel like you have violated their privacy.
- Use testimonials. Include testimonials whenever appropriate, both on your website and social media. Online reviews that highlight patient satisfaction can boost practice growth and drive patients to schedule an appointment. Testimonials also reinforce trust between your healthcare practice and current patients.
- Use visual aids. Images, infographics, and videos are some of the best tools you can use to make both your ads and regular social media posts successful. Many patients don’t understand the complexities behind their medical conditions. Using visuals can help potential patients better identify and understand their current health challenges.
- Keep the language simple. Whether your post is a short article or a 3-minute video, use simple, direct language. Just like talking with your patients in private, assume a user seeing your ad knows nothing about your healthcare specialty.
- Be aware of platform requirements. Each social media platform has its own ad types and requirements. Review your options closely before creating any ad material. To avoid confusion, it can be helpful to start with one platform at a time rather than trying to manage campaigns for many platforms at once.
- Do what works for you. Like with organic content, invest time and resources in a social media ad that makes sense for you. If you absolutely hate recording videos, use photos or text instead. If you’re a confident speaker but can’t stand writing, create a quick video to share your thoughts. With social media advertising, it’s easy to create a custom strategy that works for you.
Social media is essential for any healthcare marketing strategy. But it doesn’t have to be complicated (or time-consuming). For more on effective social media advertising tactics to connect with your patients, check out Tebra’s recent webinar on how to attract and engage patients online.