Online videos may offer most bang for medical marketing buck
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Of all the digital and social media tools available to them, hospital marketers say online video is one of the most effective. Experts said the same could be true for physicians as well.
A survey of hospital marketing professionals by Acsys Interactive, a Farmington, Conn.-based digital media marketing firm, looked at how hospitals use digital media tools in their strategies and how they expect those strategies to change in the next couple of years.
The media tool deemed most effective was online videos, with 12.9% of respondents saying they are extremely effective and 33.7% saying they are very effective. More than 50% said the level of resources devoted to online videos is expected to increase significantly during the next few years.
Because of the relatively low investment of time and money required to incorporate online video into a marketing plan, experts say physicians who use videos could experience similar levels of satisfaction.
Mike Stutman, senior vice president of strategy and innovation for Acsys, said that when hospitals refer to the effectiveness of any marketing strategy, they are generally considering how that strategy drives patient volume and increases brand awareness. Videos can help drive traffic to websites and lead to website visitors seeking more information.
Assuming a practice already has a website, the addition of video is a great way to make it more interactive and prompt patient engagement, Stutman said. The length of time users spend on a website is crucial, and online videos can help increase the length of their visit.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, published in the fall of 2010, found that one in four Internet users has watched an online video about health. Michael O'Farrell, director of public relations and media services for the 280-bed Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn., said the hospital wanted to take advantage of this growing media channel.
Lawrence & Memorial launched a new website at the beginning of August that uses video as a key component. O'Farrell said such a plan would not have made sense four or five years ago. But now people easily can access and watch videos online and consider them to be a primary source of information. It made sense to deliver information in the format people prefer, he said.
The hospital posted a series of videos on its website that introduces key services it offers. The videos feature doctors, nurses and other staff members speaking in a casual, nonscripted way about the work they do.
"It's a lot more effective for some people to see something moving and to hear someone talking rather than to read words on a page or words on a screen," O'Farrell said.
Stutman said one of the most-visited -- and, therefore, most valuable -- pages on a health organization's website is the physician finder/profile page. Many practices and hospitals are adding videos of their physicians to those pages. "That's really key, because you start to get some of that emotion and personality ... as opposed to just a few lines of text and a phone number."
Because of the availability of inexpensive (but decent) technology, online videos can be produced for a relatively low price. High-definition shooting capabilities are commonplace on devices such as smartphones and handheld video cameras. So investing in video production can be as inexpensive as the price of a webcam and broadband service, said Alex Fraser, a senior strategist for Acsys who has experience producing videos for health care organizations.
Fraser referred to a Google study that found "irrespective of the quality of the video, it's about the trust in the physician and the hospital" featured in the video. He said the study found that after people saw a video from what was considered a credible source, 60% went on to make direct contact with the physician or hospital featured in the video.
And it's pretty easy to drive traffic to your video, experts say. Most online videos are hosted on YouTube, the second-most powerful search engine behind Google. Placing appropriate keywords in the description or captions for your video will help it get prominent placement in an online search.
"In terms of taking a first step, a series of well-produced and syndicated videos living on a simple YouTube channel and integrated with website platforms can have a lot of legs, create viral activity and produce strong results without any ongoing baggage," Stutman said.