Young Woman Posing For TikTok Video

The Top Perks of TikTok and other Vlogging Social Media in Healthcare Marketing

Technology in our society is transforming at a record pace and has grown over the last 100 years. It is amazing how this new technology has shaped our society and recent culture, especially when you think about mobile phones, the internet, and social media. We all have the power to send text, images, audio or video, your message from Atlanta, Ga to Bangladesh in seconds. Lately, social media platforms based on video, are becoming a more popular platform for healthcare marketing strategies among medical specialists. 

The voice of the medical community has grown a stronger presence through video platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube over the past couple of years. In fact, it has become so popular that there is a category of healthcare experts that engage on social media known as “healthcare influencers”. Whether it is reacting to medical conventions in the media, or outlining the details of their profession, these healthcare influencers have a global fan base. And it is amazing to see. 

But where did this all start? How did this become a category of healthcare marketing? What makes it an effective strategy? What is the right and wrong way to increase audience engagement with patients on the internet?  The answers to these questions will require a bit of digging.  Both into video sharing platforms and the world of doctors and nurses who use them.

The History of Medical Marketing in Video

 TikTok is a new platform with a growing audience every day. However, this isn’t the first time doctors and other healthcare experts used video hoping to spread awareness to their patients about public health. That distinction belongs to Public Service Advertising, or PSAs.

Motion picture cameras were getting their start in the early 20th century. Until the mass production of portable film cameras in the 60s, the only people who had access to film cameras were the original inventors of the product, some photographers, and governments.

The American Government was quick to use the film camera to spread their information to the public during and after WW2. Showing educational film reels spread their message to a much larger audience compared to print, but it could make their message accessible to the illiterate portion of the American population. This resulted in videos that varied from reminding people to exercise regularly to sneezing etiquette. They would be the primary source of medical education for the public. However, they were limited to academic spaces. Direct medical advice still had to come from talking to a doctor.

From there, those PSAs would make way for medical advertisements. America is one of only 2 countries that advertise their drugs to the public. These commercials are less about education and more about driving sales. That is why people only remember them for their listing of side effects. Then the internet happened, and the landscape of medical discourse changed again. 

The Rise of Entertainment and Social Media Influence

While YouTube launched in 2005, its monetization didn’t occur until 2008 after the community established itself. Anyone could post videos. If they were popular enough, it could make people money with ad revenue. Some medical YouTubers became so popular that they forayed their way into cable television. 

A good example of this is Dr. Sandra Lee, aka Dr. Pimple Popper.She started posting YouTube Videos in 2010. They both showcased what she does for a living as a dermatologist and gave people better insight about skin conditions. Her videos took off, and she gained enough of a following to get an offer on TLC. She still has a television series to this day.

There has been an issue lately with YouTube channels and extra sets of rules regarding what videos can host ads. Medical content can risk dispute by the platform, despite the educational element. This made it harder to promote medical channels. This led to content creators relying on sponsorship for their revenue or changing sites. There was also the added struggle of audiences with a smaller attention span. Thanks to the prevalence of technology, meaning that shorter videos and sound bytes garnered more attention compared to long form videos. Then, TikTok happened.

Enter TikTok and Medical Marketing Short Form Content

TikTok is a short form video app that started in 2018. After the end of Vine, it has since grown a following with younger audiences. Thanks to the cameras and recording apps on smartphones, anyone can make a video and share it. The average age of its users are from ages 18-23. They have downloaded the app 1.5 billion times since November 2019.

There are doctors taking advantage of the platform to spread awareness in the #Medical TikTok community. Most of these doctors use their platform to spread awareness of medical conditions and provide basic healthcare advice. This helps them gain and keep an audience willing to follow their channel.

But, it is not all dances and happy comments. There are some pros and cons with posting medical content on social media. 

The Good and the Bad

The primary advantage of doctors and other medical TikTok influencers being on the platform is that it creates patient awareness. Especially with young audiences. Specialists educate their audience about their profession, and what patients could do to check on their personal health. It is also a way to educate users in conversation about taboo topics such as weight loss surgery, or fertility questions. Another thing they are doing is humanizing medical specialists by engaging in harmless dance trends and sharing personal anecdotes with humor. 

“TikTok provides a unique opportunity to humanize our profession, to help people familiarize themselves with our health system, and to restore trust in health professionals through creative and engaging content,” – Dr. Chiang.

There are, however, disadvantages to the platform. For one, anyone can simply say they are a doctor with no need to prove their medical license, causing the spread of misinformation. Another issue is the medical professionals that use the platform to “joke” about patients and vent their frustrations out onto their audience with damaging beliefs and inaccurate information. Information based on stigma and commonly known prejudices that existed in the healthcare community long before TikTok arrived.  

Do You Want Your Practice to Be Seen on TikTok?

So, if you are seriously thinking about incorporating your practice into a place like TikTok as an avenue of medical marketing, here are a few tips to help you get seen by the algorithm and audiences alike. 

  1. Pay Attention to Trends

Whether that is a series of dance moves, or an audio clip intended to evoke a reaction, make sure you know the context of it before you try to replicate anything. There is nothing that can ruin a message than a person who does not know what it really means. 

  1. Show, Don’t Tell

                        While TikTok is short form video format, that does not make it any less of a visual medium. If you plan on using it on an educational level, have a couple of visuals on hand to get your point across.

  1. Be Mindful of Patient Privacy

                       Just because you are talking to a camera, it does not mean that what you say still can’t violate doctor/patient confidentiality. Be mindful that your content does not violate HIPPA laws and that you do not name names if you are telling an anecdote.  

  1. Tag your Videos

            If you are not tagging your videos with relevant information, such as a subject, location, or username, then your audience will not see you. Know what keywords your audience are using so they can find you. 

            Do: Use hashtags, use specific terms with generic ones, and use relevant hashtags.

              Example: #extractions #dermatology #blackheads #medical #atlanta #doctok #drcystsmith

            Don’t Do:  Use punctuation, irrelevant keywords, and random capitalization unless you specifically tied to your username. # Atlanta,GA  # Surgery #bubblegum #02SurGeryOnaGrape