To some, TikTok is the app where teenagers post dancing videos and participate in viral social media challenges. Beyond that public perception, TikTok is something different altogether.
With more than 1 billion monthly active users, TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps in the world and offers healthcare brands a prime opportunity to connect with a young base of digital-first consumers.
The challenge then becomes how medical marketers can best create and manage campaigns on the platform — which, based on the myriad TikTok fails that have been trumpeted across social media, is easier said than done.
A good first step is to be succinct and authentic with content.
EGC Group president Nicole Penn said she advises her healthcare clients to balance content that comes from the organization itself with content derived from influencers who act as ambassadors for the brand. She added that the content needs to be entertaining, educational and relevant in equal parts. Which, again, is no easy feat.
Penn pointed to Dr. Grant Collins, better known as The Braces Guy, as one of the most effective healthcare professionals on TikTok. With more than 4.5 million followers, Collins utilizes the platform to dispense helpful, bite-sized tips about orthodontic care. He simultaneously invites questions from his audience, which boosts engagement on his videos.
Another alluring aspect of TikTok, Penn said, is its status as one of the few social media platforms where brands can succeed via organic content, as opposed to setting aside additional budget. This appeals to even the most reluctant executives, who view TikTok videos as a low-cost investment with the potential for significant returns.
“Even if brands are skeptical or they’re not seeing early traction, we just tell them to keep at it because you’re building organic visibility,” Penn said. “It’s hard on Facebook or Instagram to get organic impressions like you can with TikTok.”
One of TikTok’s most defining features is its algorithm, which leads users down rabbit holes based on their clicks and interests. This can be an asset for healthcare brands, according to Samantha Arabolu, SVP of social strategy at Razorfish Health, because patients with specific medical conditions or a rare disease are always in search of information and advice from trusted sources.
A recent Meltwater report found that as brands look to social media for more content engagement, micro-influencers tend to have more engaged audiences than macro-influencers.
Arabolu believes that, by partnering with micro-influencers who have a strong connection with specific patient populations, brands can trade the broad canvas of a large (and costly) awareness campaign for more targeted, effective outreach.
“If you can help patients find these people using some of these tentpole moments, that’s going to be valuable to the community,” Arabolu said. “The role of the brand is to help elevate these people’s voices. Because at the end of the day, we want to help consumers and physicians make better health decisions and not necessarily push a brand on them.”
An-ther important consideration for brands seeking to engage specific patient populations on TikTok is to understand the hashtags they’re using and how content will be discovered by the targeted communities. Rather than flooding a video with hashtags or creating a new one (which is likely to generate minimal traction), Arabolu thinks brands should examine where the conversation among patients is going and then produce content that mirrors it.
It’s not like most companies will need to start from scratch. Indeed, many healthcare organizations are sitting on a sizable amount of content and data that could be redeployed on TikTok, according to EVR Healthcare account manager Lisa Wallace.
Wallace said she is encouraging clients to repurpose existing materials to post on TikTok, with an emphasis on a stripped-down production look that doesn’t come off as overly polished. She noted that some clients have expressed concerns about having an internal influencer produce content rather than an agency, but she countered that more leaders are seeing value as their videos perform on the app.
Wallace also said that while the majority of TikTok users are under the age of 30, brands should recognize that older adults are joining the app as it grows in popularity and consider their needs as well.
“TikTok is growing and, from a healthcare standpoint, those are the people you want to capture,” she said. “You want to talk to them because they’re the ones that are going to be using your healthcare services sooner than the kids.”