Five tips for using social media to better reach your patient community

Nov 7, 2017
Five tips for using social media to better reach your patient community

As patient advocates, one of our biggest responsibilities is providing strong, factual and supportive information to patients. This is certainly true for us at the National Association for Continence (NAFC) during a time like Bladder Health Awareness Month when a lot of the patients, caregivers and consumers we target are looking for information around bowel and bladder incontinence.

One of our biggest tools to help us provide this information to the community during this crucial month is social media. Every year, we arrange special social events to help spread our message along with adopting specific hashtags to ensure our materials add to the nationwide awareness raising efforts.

Outside of these simple steps though, some find using social media a confusing concept. To guide your own awareness efforts during BHAM, here’s our top five tips to using social media effectively to better reach your community.

1. See what’s working elsewhere

Every single one of us wants to create social media campaigns that are breakthrough and individual, but the key to doing so is not by isolating yourself. Instead, look at what is already out there and actually working.

For us, investigating the field let us understand which content works best over others, which primarily boiled down to easy-to-digest resources like video instead of copy. Another form of communication which worked really well for us last year was Twitter chats – Q&A sessions where Twitter users could follow our official #BHealth hashtag and ask questions and provide answers directly to one another.

Our investigations also informed us about how to build resource pages – as most website traffic now comes from mobile devices, relying on patients to move from a home page through to a desired resource is old-fashioned.

2. Create tools and resources of value

Traditionally, our industry has been about education for education purposes to drive a behavioral change for the better. But truth be told, that’s not how the marketplace works anymore. Consumers, patients and their loved ones, are more likely to digest educational material and do something when the content has legitimate value for themselves and others.

So rather than blasting out educational materials and hoping people read it, instead, create materials that are genuinely useful. A great example is using more image-focused materials like infographics and videos which are not only educational and visually appealing, but increase the likelihood of material being shared throughout communities. This is particularly true during a national awareness month where your posts will be competing against many others.

3. Pay attention to your analytics

Effectively using social media requires knowing what’s working and what isn’t. Using analytics platforms can help massively with this.

Major social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have their own analytics offerings along with Google Analytics – all of which can give a lot of information about content reach (how many people have seen it), engagement (how many people have done something with it) and many other useful aspects that help inform social media content strategy.

Even if you don’t use these tools throughout the year, they can provide crucial feedback on your efforts during major awareness months – they’ve certainly helped us refine our BHAM activities over the years!

4. Coordinate your content

Although it might be tempting to simply create what you think is great educational content and distribute it via social media, it’s vital that every single piece of content is in line with all other materials you produce across all of your media platforms.

Messaging, tone and the general composition of your content should all seamlessly coincide, no matter what form your social content takes. In doing so, you build your own community around your organization’s identity, making you a more legitimate and respected source of patient information. This community is then more likely to return and engage with your efforts not only on a general basis, but also during the next related national awareness event.

5. Plan out your content!

Possibly the most important part of creating effective educational content is by planning it and its promotion in advance.

At the NAFC, we plan an annual content calendar, but we have at least the next few months of content and its promotion well defined, giving us time to prepare and align our material’s messaging. Big events – like BHAM – can then be prepared for in the long term, making the event itself a lot easier to handle.

You may also find that a lot of the material you create and promote for big events can be repurposed throughout the year, saving huge content development costs.

Five tips for using social media to better reach your patient community


Steven G. Gregg, PhD is the Executive Director at NAFC.  Dr. Gregg leads the organization in its efforts to educate patients on the causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatments, and management alternatives for incontinence.  Prior to joining NAFC, Dr. Gregg led marketing and communication initiatives within the pharmaceutical, healthcare, consumer packaged goods and technology industries. His career has ranged from scientific investigation for a global sports beverage to global brand management for Fortune 100 companies. Dr. Gregg has served on the board of directors of the International Swimming Hall of Fame as well as provided strategic guidance to Swim Across America, an organization dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events.

Dr. Gregg is a graduate of North Carolina State University (BA), University of Arizona (Master’s), and University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D., Exercise Biochemistry-Physiology). Beyond academic and professional sphere, he is an accomplished swimmer. During his swimming career, he has medaled in nearly every major world event, including two World Aquatic Championships, the Pan-American Games, the FINA Cup (now known as the Pan-Pacific Championship), and the Olympic Games.


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