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How to Create a Healthcare Social Media Calendar

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are searching social media for reliable healthcare news and resources. As expectations for trustworthy, up-to-date information continue to increase, it's not surprising that some of the most followed and engaged accounts are in the healthcare industry:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 4.2+ million Facebook (FB) followers
  • World Health Organization (WHO): 38.4+ million FB followers
  • Cleveland Clinic: 2+ million FB followers

Healthcare professionals provide a human necessity, not just a retail product or luxury service. This makes them uniquely positioned to market their products and services on social media.

A healthcare social media calendar helps businesses effectively engage with audiences on their favorite social channels in real-time.

Healthcare organizations, providers, and influencers that leverage social media to educate and inform their audience also build trust, loyalty, and brand recognition. They recognize that an increasing number of people are using social media to educate themselves about products, services, and the business they provide.

In today’s competitive landscape, it’s essential to have a strategic social presence to drive sales and brand awareness. While the starting point for a social media calendar often centers on organic content, including paid social advertising is crucial to ensure synergy between paid and organic posts. A social media calendar can help plan your digital communications, maintain consistent messaging across multiple channels, and monitor your effectiveness.

In this blog post, I share:

  • The value of having a social media calendar for your healthcare brand,
  • And how to build a social media calendar that works for your business.

Why Do You Need a Social Media Calendar for Your Healthcare Brand?

A healthcare social media calendar is an all-inclusive, extensive, and focused tool used to ensure you’re sharing a similar brand story across all marketing channels and media. 

It integrates every aspect of healthcare marketing, from blog posts and events to video content and paid search, and everywhere in-between.

A well-planned social media calendar defines content themes and posting cadences to meet the expectations of each social platform's audience and objectives. 

Here are a few benefits of maintaining a robust social media calendar:

  • Keeps your messaging organized and on track,
  • Promotes consistent messaging across all channels and avoids overpromotion (repetition),
  • Avoids gaps in content and encourages regular posting to keep your audience engaged
  • Provides a snapshot of what you’ve recently communicated across channels

But before I share how to build a healthcare social media calendar that works for your business, let’s take a deeper look into eight reasons why healthcare brands need a social media calendar to attract, engage, and connect with their target audience.

1. Raise Awareness

Social media is the fastest way to reach today’s healthcare consumers and raise awareness about new, emerging, and cyclical health concerns. 

It’s highly effective when things that affect public health are rapidly changing. Sharing timely, relevant, and educational content is the best way to share the latest issues, guidelines, and advisories.

Staying on top of current health issues and providing helpful information also builds trust and loyalty within your community.

2. Combat Misinformation

Social media is designed to quickly spread information to diverse groups of people.

According to a recent Pew Research Service study, 86% of U.S. adults said they get their news from a smartphone, so it’s easy to see how information (of all kinds) spreads so quickly.  While it's extremely useful for sharing crisis communication or other urgent, fact-based messaging, it can also be used as a vehicle for misinformation.

Spotting misinformation on social media is challenging. To help your audience recognize credible sources of information, each post you share must answer three critical questions:

    • Who is posting it?
      (e.g., does this information come from a credible internal or external source)
    • What information are they sharing?
      (e.g., does this information back up its claim with relevant studies or research)
    • What is their intent?
      (e.g., does this information aim to educate or persuade)

Social media channels help hospitals and health systems raise awareness and share information from credible, trustworthy sources (e.g., your website or other public health accounts).

3. Crisis Communication

Managing and sharing public health information is particularly challenging during times of crisis. The best way to address a health crisis is to plan ahead.

Developing a crisis communication plan and healthcare social media calendar that can be executed at a moment's notice is essential for educating your audience on preparing for the days ahead and what they can expect from your organization (e.g., available resources, locations, hours, etc.).

Developing a proactive approach to public health crises and natural disasters will inform your audience and help instill brand trust and loyalty.

4. Community Outreach and Growth

A healthcare social media calendar is an effective tool for public outreach campaigns. Hospitals and health systems can use audience insights to create and send notifications to new audiences based on demographic insights, like location, age, gender, and interests.

Community outreach messaging grows your organic reach on social media, especially when using relevant hashtags. For example, you can target families with aging parents by using keywords and hashtags such as nursing home, home care, arthritis, cancer, and stroke.

5. Answer common questions

Eight in 10 internet users research health information online in the U.S. alone, and 74% use social media.

Savvy healthcare businesses leverage social media channels to educate followers and answer general health questions while maintaining patient privacy and HIPAA compliance. For example, if someone inquires about an earache, healthcare professionals can provide clear instructions for what the questioner should do next (research credible websites for symptoms, contact primary care provider, etc.) without asking invasive or personal questions.

Healthcare marketers are also analyzing their posts’ reach and engagement to determine what posts to share (e.g., copy, infographics, or video), optimal times to post, and when physicians should participate in healthcare forums focused on patient education.

6. Public health monitoring

People share everything online, including how they’re feeling. Hospitals and healthcare organizations can monitor nation-, state- or even community-wide health concerns and outbreaks in real-time with social media. Data analysts can predict disease outbreaks and conduct real-time disease surveillance and analysis using hashtag- or keyword-based searches.

These channels also act as accelerated notification platforms for healthcare providers. Posting important public health information across channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter instantly notifies large audiences in hopes of lessening or preventing disease outbreaks.

7. Patient support

Patients can join virtual communities through social media, participate in research, read educational materials, receive moral support, set goals, and track personal progress alongside patients with similar symptoms, illnesses, or chronic health conditions. Be sure to include relevant content that resonates with your target audience on your healthcare social media calendar.

These online connections have been shown to aid in recovery and disease management—not to mention mental health.

8. Marketing

Social media networks are open to everyone (well, almost everyone), giving businesses the ability to follow and engage with consumers or guide them deeper into the buyer journey.

By regularly engaging and interacting with consumers on social channels, hospitals and health systems can revitalize word-of-mouth referrals, improve business-to-consumer (B2C) communications, and provide better care.

These channels also help healthcare marketers understand their audience's likes, dislikes, needs, and interests, creating a more informed marketing strategy that attracts a high-intent audience and builds brand loyalty.

Your Complete Guide to Creating a Healthcare Social Media Calendar

Now that you understand why social media marketing is essential for healthcare organizations, let's develop an effective social media calendar that attracts more patients and delivers results.

  1. Plan Ahead

  2. How to Create the Calendar

  3. Track & Monitor Results

Step 1: Plan Ahead

A detailed source of all your social media posts can help identify the types of content that are working and which aren't. You can develop timely, relevant, and engaging content and increase interaction rates, but it's important to lay the groundwork first.

1. Develop your brand voice for social channels

    • Before creating social content, hospitals and health systems need to establish a brand voice, so your audience has clear and consistent messaging across multiple channels. The voice reflects your brand and should attract the types of patient relationships you wish to cultivate. It's also important to note your tone may change slightly across social channels to appeal to different audience demographics, but the brand's overall voice should remain consistent.

      For example, Facebook is the best platform for storytelling, while shorter, more concise messaging is best for Twitter.

2. Identify your social media channels.

    • Instead of developing an overwhelming and unsustainable healthcare social media calendar that encompasses every social channel, focus on the ones that will help you connect with your target audience, drive engagement and boost revenue. Here are five steps:

i. Identify your target audience

ii. Analyze your existing traffic sources

iii. Identify where your competitors share content regularly

iv. Determine your social media objectives

v. Choose 1-2 channels (you can always add more, but the key is to be active where your target audience is engaged)

3. Choose your content types.

There are several social media content types, but the most common are written (e.g., posts, blogs, articles, etc.), links to external content, images, videos, and testimonials. Other content types may include:

      1. New blog posts or reshares of top-performing blog posts
      2. Digital Marketing campaigns
      3. New staff announcements
      4. New services/treatments/service lines, or service promotions
      5. New website, service, or landing pages
      6. Organizational milestones
      7. Community events 
      8. National health observances 
      9. Quotes from doctors and/or staff
      10. Updates to hours or contact information
      11. Updates to health protocols 
      12. Special offers or promotions

Here are a few tips for choosing the right content types for your audience:

      • Identify your audience
        Analyze your social audience and identify their preferred platform, content types (based on engagement), and popular topics.
      • Set your goals
        Identify whether you want to focus primarily on increased engagement, website traffic, customer acquisition, etc.

i. The best content types will often become apparent once you’ve identified your business objectives. For example, increased website traffic will likely require internal links to thought leadership articles, blogs, and custom landing pages.

The marketing or communications editorial calendar should also influence your content types. Depending on the structure of your organization, this may require consulting with other departments in your hospital or company to ensure your healthcare social media calendar is aligned on branding, voice, and messaging.

      • Determine your posting cadence
        While frequency and timing are important, it doesn't go as deep as cadence. Cadence is more personalized and results in better and more engagement. When determining the best cadence for your content campaign, it's essential to answer these questions:

i. What is your target audience and/or buyer persona?

ii. Which social channels do they prefer?

iii. What kinds of content provide the most value?

iv. Does the content help qualify prospects, fill the pipeline, and move them to the next stage of the buying journey?

Sharing the right content with the right people during the right stage of their buying cycle—and at the optimal time—is key for building a successful social media strategy.

Choosing the types of content to post is key to building your healthcare social media calendar. Here are two standard content mix formulas to help you get started:

i. Split your content into three buckets (the rule of thirds):

          1. Promote your business or drive conversions.
          2. Share user-generated and curated content.
          3. Personal interactions with your followers.

ii. Follow the 80-20 rule

          1. Design 80 percent of your posts to inform, educate, or entertain.
          2. Design 20 percent of your posts to promote your business or drive conversion.
      • Create content ahead of time
        Creating and pre-scheduling content helps your business stay relevant and keeps your audience engaged and returning for more. This, in turn, generates brand awareness and loyalty, builds trust, and presents your business as an industry leader.

        You should also round out your healthcare social media calendar with National Health Observances throughout the year. Creating and scheduling this type of content ahead of time ensures you’re posting relevant content your audience wants to engage with throughout the year. For example, allergy and asthma content should coincide with Allergy and Asthma Awareness month in April.

        Here are a few more healthcare content tips for popular social media channels:

i. Facebook: Create custom, shareable content that encourages engagement (e.g., click-throughs and shares).

ii. Instagram: Share simple, beautiful imagery that looks like something a friend might post.

iii. Twitter: Post simple, concise, and relatable content. Include links for additional reading as needed.

iv. LinkedIn: Post thought-leadership content related to your industry focus.

Step 2: Build Your Calendar

A comprehensive document that outlines your social media posts for each social channel you’re targeting can quickly identify gaps in content, overlapping content types, or places where your brand voice may falter. It’s time to bring all of your ingenious content ideas together in one place:

  • Select your calendar tool. 

We like Google Sheets at Healthcare Success, but there are plenty of options like Hootsuite, Hubspot, and Solo PR Pro. I recommend you review each of these options (and more) to find the one best suited to your needs.

  • Create a tab for a monthly view of your calendar. 

Create a monthly spreadsheet that allows you to view weekly and daily posts/topics at a glance.

  • Create a tab for your inventory of content, copy, and assets.

Once you have your at-a-glance monthly calendar, it’s time to flesh out your copy, add links to supporting content, and identify graphics.

  • Add tabs for each social media channel. 

Add a tab for each social media channel you plan to use and build out your audience-specific copy, content, and assets as needed. While there are several social channels, these are the most popular for healthcare audiences:

    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • Twitter
    • YouTube
    • LinkedIn
  • Add custom columns for post information. 

At a minimum, we recommend the following columns for each social media channel:

    • Publish Date
    • Publish Time
    • Text or copy to post
    • Link
    • Graphics
    • Character counts
    • Keywords/hashtags
    • Offers/CTA

Step 3: Track & Monitor Your Results

Now that you've built a strong foundation, it's time to start posting, testing, tracking, measuring, and improving your strategy. Most social channels have analytics or insights you can analyze:

  • Facebook Audience Insights
  • Instagram Insights
  • Twitter Analytics
  • YouTube Analytics
  • LinkedIn Audience Insights

These tools help identify the content types, graphics, or types of content that your audience engages with the most.

Next, you can adjust your healthcare social media calendar posts, content, or strategy to focus on your best-performing content to avoid further lackluster results.

To further refine your social media strategy, I also recommend A/B testing. By splitting your audience into two groups, A/B testing allows you to compare two versions of the same post to determine which gets better engagement.

Testing helps guide you to the best types of content, formats, post frequencies, and times of day for each social platform.

The Bottom Line

Health systems and multilocation medical practices face additional challenges with keeping social followers engaged. In addition to following HIPAA regulations and sharing unique content regularly, they must also consider the unique needs of each local community they serve. 

This is where a well-planned social media calendar can help larger, more complex brands send relevant branded messaging and location-specific messaging that tell a consistent story. 

Finally, a social media calendar builds a strategic foundation that allows you to layer in spontaneity while supporting your overarching business objectives.

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