In today’s society, Americans are turning to social for everything, including healthcare advice. In fact—in a twist that may surprise you—many of your patients consult social media for healthcare advice before turning to their physicians.
The numbers are an interesting read. According to a survey done by Charity RX, 1 in 5 Americans will consult TikTok before their doctors, while 37% of Americans seek out health advice from influencers. The majority are looking for medical authority, too—55% say they look for an influencer with medical certification, while only 26% say they look for relatability.
Which conditions are the focus of all these social interactions? The top 3 conditions Americans are most likely to consult health influencers on are anxiety, weight loss, and depression.
It’s clear that social media is now and will continue to play a part in healthcare, and TikTok is on track to do its part. To reach and engage this growing population, more healthcare providers are using TikTok marketing as part of their marketing mix. So what exactly is TikTok’s place in the healthcare media mix? Let’s jump in and look at how the video share giant can impact your healthcare marketing agenda.
Why Do Healthcare Consumers Use TikTok?
That’s a good question. Why are more and more people turning to TikTok for healthcare advice? To understand this, it’s essential to understand the demography on the app. On average, the TikTok user is in the 16 to 24-year-old bracket, but that’s slowly increasing, and you’ll find many users in their 30’s on the app. That means that more and more TikTok users are aging into young adulthood and making their own healthcare decisions for the first time.
So, we have a cohort of young adults ready to start ‘adulting’—why TikTok for healthcare, though? Because, to them, it feels more authentic and credible. To these users, TikTok is not corporate.
With that in mind, how should you position your marketing efforts on the app? It’s safe to say that healthcare groups won’t thrive on TikTok with stock videos and polished ads. It has to be a genuine piece of authentic creative content that connects to users and feels native on the platform.
As Rich Briddock, SVP of Strategy & Analytics here at Cardinal, put it:
“You can convey an emotional connection and understanding that you can’t get through a 1,500-word article that you read on WebMD, which is obviously very factual and is just trying to be useful but also rank on the SERP and all these other things. I think people want to have things explained to them in a format that is easy to understand. They want a mode of content that they can relate to. They want authenticity, which is something that you get in abundance with TikTok because it’s user-generated content, either through people who have been through the same thing as you or from people who treat the thing that you’re going through.”
What are users looking for on TikTok? Community, for one. Communities are built around topics of interest, and users go to these communities to find support and answers. People also want short video content–they often don’t want to read the information, they want to see it, so get visual.
@destinationsforteens Confused about the different levels of mental health treatment? Let us help answer your questions. #teenmentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters ♬ Sunflower (From “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”) – Original Soundtrack
One of the biggest communities on TikTok when it comes to healthcare? Mental health is a huge focus of many TikTok health questions and conversations taking place. There’s definitely an opportunity in the behavioral health space to be present on TikTok and to engage with that audience. Young people are ready and waiting to make those healthcare consumer decisions and are already taking part in an engaging conversation.
How Healthcare Marketers Should Use TikTok
Let’s be clear—TikTok marketing isn’t the right option for every single healthcare specialty. Not every specialty is served by this type of space, and still, other specialties just aren’t the right fit for the demography. The healthcare specialties that are most active on Tik Tok include:
- Mental Health
- Addiction Treatment
- Cosmetic Surgery
- Gastro / IBD / Gut Health
- Women’s Health / IVF
TikTok is also a pretty popular location for communities and conversations around pharmaceutical comparisons. If your healthcare organization fits into one of these categories, how can you use the platform? Consider the following:
Use TikTok to better understand your patients
Use the platform to collect patient insights to inform your marketing strategy. What content do they engage with and respond to? What questions are they asking in the comments? How do they search or communicate about their health conditions? All of this information can help you structure your marketing efforts and content to speak directly to their needs and the way they communicate.
Use TikTok to refine brand messaging
TikTok can also provide some great ways to refine your brand’s messaging. For example, companies like Trojan have created content around safe sex on the platform since it’s a topic that is highly relevant to the 16 to 18-year-old audience that’s on TikTok. Healthcare groups can use TikTok to increase brand awareness by answering questions consumers are asking, giving them accurate medical advice or just being a reputable source for healthcare-related content.
Senior Director of Commercial Intelligence at Woebot Health, Chris Hemphill, emphasizes how important it is for credible voices in medicine to maintain a presence on the platform.
“When it comes to these platforms, we have to understand how to reach people in a way that is safe and effective because you said the a-word. Advice is the A word. If people are going to these platforms and credible sources aren’t there, then who does that leave the door open to speak to them? I really think that we have to be there, that credible voices have to be there to drown out the wave of disinformation that people would otherwise get. We can see that there’s a major potential for that disinformation to do harm.”
Use TikTok to source content ideas and discover trending topics
Social media is always happening “now” and is more aligned with current events and trends. For this reason, it can serve as a great resource for uncovering trending topics and finding the next great idea for your marketing campaign. Remember, search results and data are based on historical information; using TikTok points you in the direction of the latest and greatest and can be indispensable in guiding the marketing strategy for your organization.
@stanfordchildrens POV: I had surgery today! Follow my journey throughout the hospital with some help from Child Life and Creative Arts. They make my stay so much better! 🏥🧸🎨🎥 #ChildLifeMonth #StanfordMedicineChildrensHealth #PackardChildrensHospital #ChildLifeSpecialist #ArtTherapist #CreativeArts #SophiesPlace #BroadcastStudio #MusicTherapist #MedicalPlay ♬ original sound – stanfordchildrens
Stanford Children’s Health joined the trend of recording “a day in the life” to show how their Child Life and Creative Arts department helps patients when they have surgery.
How Can Healthcare Organizations Get Started on Tiktok?
Where can you begin? Agencies can be a great resource and can help healthcare groups understand strategy, trends, search volume, and more on TikTok. It’s best, however, to handle TikTok content creation in-house; remember, authenticity is key, and you never want your content to smack of “formula” or the corporate. Patients want to feel a connection and see a human face, so get your providers and healthcare worker team out there, front and center.
Potential Cons of Using TikTok in Healthcare?
There are some downsides to using TikTok, and it’s always a good idea to know these in advance. It can spread inaccurate information, for one, and users who associate you with inaccuracies can lash out. If you post something not very well thought out or inaccurate, you could receive backlash in the form of comments on your posts or ads, which could harm business.
The platform can jeopardize your organization’s reputation with patients, too, so curate and create your content with your patient’s best interests always at heart. In one infamous instance, a group of Atlanta nurses used the platform to mock their patients, leaving their healthcare organization with a dinged reputation and a loss of customer loyalty.
Make sure you have time to put into the platform, as well. Yes, it’s a big time commitment, and looping your healthcare experts into this time commitment can be complex. Their commitment, however, can bring the much-needed authority and authenticity needed to excel in this space and mitigate any risks involved.
If you are going to dive into the world of TikTok content at your practice or organization, you need to employ some best practices, so consider the following:
- Develop a content strategy and social media usage guidelines. You don’t want anyone improvising and potentially putting your reputation at risk.
- Determine and define who can and can’t post content. You do not need to open it up to everyone within your organization. Limit it to people who have been briefed, know your high-level goals, and understand what is at stake if usage guidelines are violated.
- Monitor feedback and comments, and adjust your content accordingly. Remember, social media is a conversation, and the best conversationalists always listen.
TikTok is a space that may require some creative thinking, but it can deliver big in terms of a return on your creative investment. As you start exploring new ideas for your healthcare marketing strategy, consider including this vital space where your patients of tomorrow are ready and willing to discuss care.