When it comes to healthcare, there’s an intrinsic sense of community among all people from all walks of life and that’s by dint of the fact that we all have a medical need or requirement at some stage in our lives.
As the expression goes, ‘birds of a feather, flock together’ and that’s mirrored in human behavior in that people want to know they’re not alone in liking or using a particular hospital’s services and place emphasis on the opinions of complete strangers to motivate them to schedule healthcare appointments.
With the width and depth of public opinion online, it can be challenging for hospitals to exploit this potential in a way that boosts confidence and trust to sufficiently encourage new patient inquiries.
Here are five techniques to gather social proof in the healthcare sector that are effective in driving new patient admissions:
#1 – Patient Reviews and Testimonials
According to research from Search Engine Land, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Patient reviews and testimonials are the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing and present strong opportunities to garner social proof. By providing testament to the quality of care and circulating evidence of such through various digital channels, hospitals can very effectively garner social proof that results in new admissions.
#2 – Providing Answers to Common Health Questions
Around 70% of Americans searched online for answers to specific health questions in 2016. By having that information readily available and distributed via hospital websites and social media channels it is possible to gather social proof and in some cases, achieve coveted ‘influencer’ status. The main reason this is the case is that content relating to common medical issues is more likely to match the bulk of health-related search inquiries and when a hospital is ranked in several places on the first page, it reeks of social credibility to potential patients.
#3 – Be Visible on Social Media
A recent report on the influence of social media in healthcare revealed that just over 40% of people would choose a healthcare provider based on its reputation on social networks. As this is one of the most direct routes to patient audiences, it’s crucial for hospitals to circulate the right kind of content on these platforms to gather social proof. This is also a good exercise in terms of reputation management and affords hospitals the opportunity to engage with existing and prospective patients in a relaxed and informal setting.
#4 – Be Visually Creative with Content
It’s often easier for people to grasp complex information that’s visually presented with images and video as well as text and it also grabs audience’s attention much faster. By covering common health concepts with diagrams, images, and video it’s possible to empower and educate patients and successfully build a stronger, trust-based relationship with them. It’s even possible to use streaming tools on Facebook to host live Q&A sessions which provide a platform to answer patient questions and showcase medical authority. This approach improves transparency and trust as well as garnering social proof as it indicates a valuable and welcoming open-door policy and humanizes clinical organizations.
#5 – Create Practical Patient-Centric Content
Printable fact sheets and checklists go a long way to helping current and potential patients make the right health choices and can also serve more practical uses to inform expectant mothers how to prepare for labor day or advise diabetics on how to use the latest glucometer. If this kind of educational and practical content is distributed frequently, it accumulates to become a valuable go-to resource for a wide audience and establishes medical authority as well as social proof.
Social proof has become something of a psychological phenomenon of recent times due to the surge of social networks and people’s reliance on the actions of others and their opinions to determine their next move. Although social influence extends to all facets of life, healthcare is very much affected by the experiences, opinions, and treatment received by patients and how they are reported on social media.
In many senses, this is not a new phenomenon but more a reinvention of the wheel as people have been expressing their opinions via word-of-mouth since language was invented. Even providing evidence of social acceptance with testimonials is a retrospective take on one of the earliest forms of advertising. Ultimately, the best way hospitals can gather social proof is by regularly communicating and engaging with audiences in their ‘natural habitat’ as it were, which for many people is logged on to social media.