Podcast #50

Facebook Advertising In Healthcare: Is It Still Worth It?

The release of iOS 14 had a major impact on Facebook advertisers. The update removed data availability and made it harder to target and build audiences. However, despite changes to the platform and new restrictions, Facebook is still a valuable tool for healthcare marketing.

Episode Highlights:

Rich Briddock

Rich Briddock: “Now that audience targeting has become less reliable, creative is more important than ever. You have to have the creative piece figured out in order to really be on social. The other thing too is you have to understand your user. Especially if you’re going through a funnel strategy, you have to understand what the user wants at the top of the funnel, where they are, who they are, what they want in the middle of the funnel, what they want at the bottom of the funnel.”

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Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Lauren Leone: Hey, Ignite listeners, we’re back again for a second week with our SVP of Strategy and Analytics, Rich Briddock. Rich and I for those of you that don’t know, we’ve worked together at Cardinal for eight years now. All of these conversations we’re having, we’ve probably had on a plane to a conference over a beer, at a social event. We just want to bring this information to you guys.

Really excited to have Rich here today to talk about a topic, probably the one I get asked the most in sales conversations, which is, should I be advertising on Facebook? I want to get Rich’s opinion. He’s our resident expert here at Cardinal. Let’s talk about how Facebook can be used for healthcare groups. Specifically. What are some of the challenges that we faced with Facebook advertising in the past year or two that have made it more complicated? If you’re going to be advertising on social channels, how to get the most out of your efforts.

Rich, I think it’s probably best to set the stage as to why Facebook is being used the way it is today. Can you talk our listeners a little bit through the iOS 14 update and the impact that that had on audiences and targeting?

Rich Briddock: Facebook has had a really interesting journey over the last couple of years. Obviously, when the pandemic hit, everybody was stuck at home looking at their devices. One of the things that people do to kill time when they can’t go out and do anything is scroll around on social media. All of a sudden, the amount of impressions, the amount of eyeballs on social just went through the roof. Because of that, it didn’t necessarily mean that there were necessarily more advertisers or not more advertisers straight away.

Impressions got really cheap on social because they had all this new inventory all of a sudden. That was like this golden resurgence of Facebook. Then we had Cambridge Analytica and all of these data leaks and concerns, and privacy was all over the news in multiple countries. The EU was cracking down on Facebook. That really precipitated iOS 14 and some of these Facebook algorithm updates whereby Facebook no longer had enough data to really be as useful as it has been in the past from a targeting point of view.

Facebook itself, just seeing where everything was going, decided to natively restrict some of the audiences that you could target so that it would not be under the limelight as much in terms of some of these privacy concerns. You had iOS 14, but then you’ve had multiple updates since iOS 14 where Facebook has become more and more restrictive and has had less and less data to essentially optimize towards. Which from a demand generation point of view, makes it slightly more difficult for advertisers. Advertisers really had to pivot in the way that they utilize Facebook.

It’s not this DR engine necessarily that it used to be unless you have a couple of things going for you in terms of how you set it up and the data that you can provide to Facebook to make it effective

Lauren: For the people listening that maybe don’t know what the details of the restrictions are, can you give some examples of the types of audiences that we used to have that we don’t anymore?

Rich: Yes. We used to be able to get a lot of interest audiences. Interest audiences are going to be based on the things that you like on social, but then also things that you’re doing off social. Facebook has data on you as a user and knows where you’ve been around online, on the internet. Same with all of these advertising giants. Google knows the same thing. If you’ve ever seen affinity segments in Google, it’s the same thing with Facebook. They basically know this person is interested in this healthcare procedure or buying a car or buying a house, et cetera.

Facebook had all of these native interest audiences that were built into the platform that you could just target, and some of these have gone away. Obviously, some of them have remained, but are less effective because Facebook is not looking out as much data as it used to have to build out those audience profiles and make sure that that person really is in the market looking for that thing.

Lauren: Those fun popups you get when you download a new app that says ask app not to track. That information is gone, right?

Rich: That’s exactly right. They’re not listening to you as much, as my grandad would say.

Lauren: [chuckles] I think other things too. Segments on household income, segments on some demographic information is no longer available.

Rich: Correct, and less important for healthcare, but also things around religious affinity. A number of what would be called sensitive categories have been essentially removed from targeting. The household income stuff, there’s workarounds with top zips, but if you want to actually get down to household level household income, that has gone away which obviously for high acuity procedures that might not be coming with insurance for clients like rehab clients where maybe it’s $30,000 a month to do rehab. If you were targeting people for that messaging, then you would want to know that they had the financial cloud in order to be a qualified individual for your services.

Lauren: We know that those things are gone never to return, so we’ve got to pivot. What’s happened is, a lot of companies moved budget onto social while the going was good and then got hit with these massive shifts in their performance. They’re coming to their agencies and saying, “Pull my money. This isn’t working anymore.” For those that either stuck it out or are now coming back and saying, “I want to try it again,” what is the right approach to building audiences?

Rich: Typically, it’s going to be a full-funnel approach. Before I get into, I guess, that piece, really what I should say is temp your expectation around social and really understand what social is for. Maybe in the good old days, social was essentially a Dr. companion to search where you could get cheap leads, but now, that’s not necessarily social’s primary focus. Social has a place in the media mix, but it shouldn’t be just something that you just compare the search. Which is what a lot of people will do. They’ll say, “Okay, I’m getting a $30 CPA on PPC, why am I not getting a $30 CPA on social?”

You can get good CPAs on social, especially through remarketing efforts. It’s not purely what social should be used for. You should be using social to increase brand awareness. If you are entering into a new market and you want to support a de novo opening, perhaps you’re looking to basically tap into a new audience. Search is the people who are holding up their hands, who are solution aware and they are seeking out your solution or a solution like yours. Maybe there’s a whole section above them, which is problem aware or unaware where search cannot reach them. If you do want to reach someone on search, you’ve got to be on some really broad exploratory keywords that generally-

Lauren: Don’t be inside their minds

Rich: -don’t tend to do very well. Why does my tooth hurt or something? Which most of our advertisers don’t spend money on those cause it’s not worth it. Social can be great for attracting that audience, but then you wouldn’t want to just target the top of the funnel. Then you build a full-funnel strategy. That full-funnel strategy is going to be let me educate users or try and build an emotional connection with them at the top of the funnel. To do that, let me use video, and 15 to 32nd video telling a story about the brand, explaining the category potentially.

Maybe you’ve had some medical issue and there’s this revolutionary new treatment for it. Really you’re talking to the category of that treatment necessarily more so than your company itself. You’re like, “You should get this amazing procedure because it will help you.” They watch that video and they’re super interested and you present the brand and intro the brand to them, but it’s not a heavy brand play. Typically, they’re watching that video for maybe two cents, three cents. You’re getting a lot of quality time with that prospect for very little money at all.

Then once you’ve got a warm lead that has watched that video or maybe multiple videos at the top of the funnel because you’ve got enough video content, then you can push them down to the middle of the funnel, then you’re really presenting your brand and why your solution is the best. Why you are the best at providing that procedure. Maybe you have the best insurance that you accept. Maybe you can get them in fast.

Maybe you’ve got the best specialist. All of those value props around why should I choose you to get this procedure done? Then the bottom of the funnel is, let me drive you back to the landing page and get you to convert right now. Let me get you to book that appointment. Let me get you to phoners and find out more or get triaged or whatever the call to action might be, free consultation, et cetera, et cetera. That is how you can deploy social. It’s really a scaling approach and it’s really a great way to tell a much more complex story, a much more complex narrative than maybe just a search interaction where they read a text ad and then they go to a landing page.

Through social, you can obviously expose them to multiple videos, multiple different creative types throughout the funnel or talking about slightly different things, or giving you that 360 view of the service and the offering. Then they’ll finally get into that landing page and then taking that action. They tend to be a lot more educated if you create that funnel strategy that way

Lauren: Now, some tactical advice for our listeners, you talked about if they are qualified at the top, move them down. If they’re qualified in the middle, move them down. What are the signals of success at the top, middle, and bottom? What do you need to tag? What do you need to be looking out for?

Rich: Typically and that’s why longer videos at the top of the funnel have an advantage, one, because you can tell a richer story and you can really educate. Two, because if I’ve got a 30-second video and you find a user that’s watched 75% of your 30-second video which is 22 seconds, I must be really engaged. If I’ve only got a seven-second video and I watched 75% of it, that’s only five seconds.

Lauren: Could have been an accidental–

Rich: I might not really be engaged. I’m just slow to scroll. If you have a longer video, you have more certainty that the person who watched up to a certain percentage was really engaged in your content.

Lauren: Is 75% the magical number?

Rich: I say anywhere between 50% to 75% are the completion goals that we play around with. Depending on how long the video is, depending on the content structure of the video as well. Maybe if you say everything that you need to say in the first 50%, having them just get to 50% is a fine completion rate because they’ve seen most of the content that matters.

Lauren: They watch 75%, we’re going to put them into a new audience, and then what are we going to do with them?

Rich: Then we’re going to target them with middle-of-the-funnel messaging. Middle-of-the-funnel messaging is going to be stuff like, “This is why we’re better than competitor A, this is why we’re better than competitor B.” It’s going to be more about true differentiation and value-focused. Those campaigns are going to drive you to a landing page. The objective is kind of a traffic objective except their setup is conversion campaigns because the nuance here is you don’t just want any traffic because a lot of social traffic, you go to a landing page and people will bounce after two or three seconds. That is unqualified traffic.

You don’t want to be then remarketing to those people if they’ve only spent two seconds on the website because it’s not what they thought it was. What we do is we set up a conversion called a qualified landing page view which is they’ve spent a certain amount of time on the website and/or they’ve reached a certain scroll dev. They’ve looked at a certain amount of content on the page, and then once they’ve hit those thresholds, we’ll fur a conversion for a qualified landing page view. Then those people who have fired a qualified landing page view or triggered a qualified landing page view, they’ll get put into yet another audience which is our remarketing campaigns.

That’s where we’re optimizing to that lead action, that phone call, that book appointment online, that lead form, live chat scheduling, whatever it might be. That’s when we’re telling Facebook, “These people are now ready to take that action. They have been sufficiently educated, they have been sufficiently nurtured, and they’re ready to take the final step.”

Lauren: Talk about native lead forms in Facebook. Should we be considering them in healthcare? What is your opinion?

Rich: You can test them but I would test them sparingly. Typically because they auto-populate, they generally tend to be a lot less qualified. They’re usually super cheap because it’s so easy to fill them in. We’ve had feedback from clients where they’ll call these leads and it’s like, “I did some middle lead forms. I don’t know who you are. I have no idea who you’re talking about. I think with some of those issues, you’ve got to be very sparing about how you use them. If I was going to use lead forms, I would do it in remarketing campaigns at the very bottom of the funnel whereby I know they’ve already been to my landing page, they’ve already consumed my video content, they 100% know who I am.

They could not mistake my brand for another brand and therefore, you could make it easier for them to convert by having a lead form. However, they’re probably motivated enough at that point to just go to the landing page and fill out a form.

Lauren: We’re willing to try it, come to us, we’ll tell you. We don’t recommend it, but we’re never against the test.

Rich: 100%.

Lauren: One of the other biggest mistakes that I think we should address is creative. You’ve given some tips throughout this conversation, but I’m a new advertiser, I’ve maxed out my search and I’m a dentist, for example, I want to expand into Facebook. I just have statics. Should I hold on running these campaigns and really think through my messaging strategy before going live or is there a way that I can go live now and work on my creative over time?

Rich: Probably the latter. If you’ve just had statics, obviously we want to recommend top of the funnel because you can’t really create a very compelling emotional connection and it’s harder to educate if you’ve just got statics. Facebook has ways now where you can compile a bunch of statics into something that feels like a slideshow kind of video. That makes it a little bit richer and more interactive but ultimately it’s just a bunch of images that are cycled through. You could start with the middle of the funnel on the top of the funnel structure.

You could because all of these audiences are going to be new and untapped. You could target a bunch of spend in the middle of the funnel and just hope that you could yield some purpose from that effort so driving a lot of traffic to landing pages through middle-of-the-funnel audiences and then seeing how many of those become qualified landing page views that you can then remarket to. The other thing that has to be bared in mind though is if you are creative constrained, not just from a format point of view but just number of assets creative, especially if you’re only focusing on two stages of the funnel has to be swapped out regularly.

Especially if your audiences are pretty small, if it’s a niche thing that you’re doing, you’re going to want to swap creative every six to eight weeks.

Lauren: It’s a lift, don’t enter social thinking, “I’m going to set it up and let it run.” It needs to be nurtured and maintained almost at a higher degree than your search or your other programs.

Rich: Yes. Now that audience targeting has become less reliable, creative is more important than ever. You have to have the creative piece figured out in order to really be on social. The other thing too is you have to understand your user. Especially if you’re going through a funnel strategy, you have to understand what the user wants at the top of the funnel, where they are, who they are, what they want in the middle of the funnel, what they want at the bottom of the funnel. You have to really understand those things because what we always see is the same messaging across every stage of the funnel.

You’re talking to somewhat cold audience at the top of the funnel the same way that you are talking to a super hot audience at the bottom of the funnel. That’s just a marketing no-no. You’ve got to figure out not just different images and videos but you need different headlines and different primary texts at each stage of the funnel to support it as well and you need variance of those queued up ready for swaps.

Lauren: Common mistake, talking about yourself, not talking about the user and making them see themselves in the story.

Rich: Yes, and I also just think just anecdotally and this is my own opinion that social for the longest time was the cool kid. I think maybe that’s changing a little bit now but it was always like, “I want to be on social because that’s where big brands advertise, and their creative is so revolutionary and interesting and funny and I want to emulate them.’ There was a desire to be on social. It’s a lot more visual, it’s a lot more appealing than searches.

People can see it so they can create a connection with it when they’re sitting in meetings internally and they say, “I love this social creative,” they get so jazzed about it, whereas no one’s going to say that about a search ad. I love this PBC [crosstalk]

Lauren: Great deadline.

Rich: Oh my god, it’s the best.

Lauren: Best 30 characters I ever read.

Rich: Oh, so good. It’s a lot more accessible for people. I think that’s why you get people coming and wanting to be on social so badly. It’s because it’s a medium that they can see and engage with much more so than search.

Lauren: To close this out, that’s a great point. Like I said at the beginning, I get asked a lot of times in sales, should I be on Facebook? What is the answer to that question? Someone comes to you and you’re going to evaluate their media mix and tell them whether or not now is the time to be on social, what are you looking at?

Rich: Of course, the answer is, it depends. Essentially, what are they doing on search, first of all? First of all, what is their objective? What are they trying to do as a healthcare company? Are they just trying to drive patients? If so, are they maximizing demand capture? Do they have good search impression share? Could they easily add more investment into search and drive good results?

Lauren: SEO, Google My Business. All types of search.

Rich: All types of search. Any kind of demand capture. Could they invest more there and get more of the same for the same cost? In which case, that’s probably where they should focus their effort. If they’re doing a very specialist type of treatment that maybe there’s not a lot of search volume around or they have an incredibly niche audience. We’ve talked to rehab prospects where they only want to target very specific audiences to go to their rehab clinics. Obviously, the audience targeting on search is not very powerful at all, so search might not be the best mechanism for them.

They may need to be on social because really it’s who, not what they’re searching that’s the most powerful intent signal that that business needs to tap into. Those are pretty rare niche cases. Typical for most healthcare companies, it’s max out your demand capture for patient acquisition and then move to social. Again, some of the only other outliers to that would be stuff like, “I’m really trying to create more brand awareness.” Maybe it’s a DSO or an MSO that’s taken over a bunch of unbranded practices and they’re trying to rebrand them under one brand name.

Social would be much more effective for that than search if they want to create brand awareness around the new super brand that they’re bringing all of these practices under helping users understand what that brand stands for. Obviously, search is not good for that. It’s not good for saying, “Here’s our belief system, here are our main value props.” That’s much harder to communicate in PBC ad copy and even on a landing page sometimes. There are exceptions but typically, don’t go to social unless you have a good demand capture patient acquisition program set up.

Lauren: Thank you for the tips. For everyone listening, listen to what Rich said. If you have questions around is now the right time for you? You can always give us a call. If I were to sum that up, I think look at your mix and determine if you’re maxing up demand capture. Go into it knowing your audience and have done the exercise to understand who they are and what they need at various stages of the funnel, and then develop the messaging specific to that. Don’t just come to us and say, “I want to be on Facebook. Here’s one picture and one headline. Make it work.”

Thanks for joining, Rich. Thank you guys for listening. Please like, subscribe, follow us on wherever you’re listening to the podcast today and we hope to see you next time.


Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.


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