TikTok has emerged as an extremely powerful platform garnering users of all ages, but especially the younger audience of Gen Z and even Gen Alpha. Though the platform has become especially attractive for E-Commerce brands, it would be a disservice to dismiss it as a unique tool for other industries, such as healthcare.
Healthcare companies can take advantage of TikTok’s ability to reach and engage with a diverse audience of young consumers in order to raise awareness on health issues, redefine how the new generation looks at healthcare, establish a new avenue for recruitment, and establish a new communication channel for medical advancements and news.
Overcoming marketing challenges in the healthcare industry using TikTok
Traditionally, according to Forbes and We Are Amnet, healthcare marketers have struggled with challenges such as public perception of the industry, audience targeting limitations, and balancing authority with relatability in their creative messaging. TikTok, unlike other platforms, can position a company in a way that is similar to a friend in a group chat. The digital culture of this platform allows brands to be a part of the conversation instead of trying to yell from a megaphone.
Let’s explore how TikTok can combat these three particular challenges.
1. Public perception of the industry
According to Maestro Health, 50% of 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 25 years and older surveyed feel the quality of care they receive is equal to or greater than what it costs. Chief strategy and product officer at Maestro Health, Nancy Reardon, stated, “While cost is an industry-wide issue, providers and health plan administrators must work on better communicating (or as we like to think about it, marketing) to patients and members.”
The goal for this would be to build a community through a channel that is widely used by consumers, offers an easy and accessible method of communication, and innately causes the consumer to see the brand as a friend rather than just a service provider: TikTok. Merely having a TikTok account would cause a mindset change showing that the brand is tapped into the latest trends and understands the current digital landscape. How the brand uses the account (which we will go over later in this article), however, would determine if they can shift the public perception.
2. Audience targeting limitations
Although targeting across any digital platform is going to be limited due to privacy regulations, TikTok’s algorithm has a unique ability to find and curate these small communities within the platform and serve the right content to the right audience. There is #chronicillnesstok, #diabetestook, #crohnstok, and pretty much a “tok” for every corner of healthcare. By utilizing content buckets and TikTok SEO strategies you can organically reach this audience, creating an even more meaningful connection.
3. Balancing authority with relatability in creative messaging
In many traditional marketing mediums, the healthcare industry has maintained a more formal voice. Though healthcare companies should have an authoritative sector of their brand voice, in the current digital landscape, that same voice won’t work everywhere. A platform like TikTok allows brands to take an informal approach to the way their audience sees them. Jokes you maybe wouldn’t make on LinkedIn fit well into the TikTok culture.
This is a place of self-deprecating humor, self-awareness, and breaking through the fourth wall. The strings should be a lot looser on this platform, and they must be in order for a brand to thrive here.
For TikTok specifically, there is more regulation around the community guidelines and restrictions for paid advertising. Here is a quick overview of the restrictions to keep in mind:
- Ads for pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and medicines must target 18+ users and comply with local laws of the target country. Over-the-counter or prescription drugs must be approved by the regional regulating authority and may not contain misleading or inaccurate claims. We do allow advertisements for brick and mortar pharmacies and online pharmacies that are certified by a third-party licensing organization such as the NABP or LegitScript or regional equivalent. Proof of licensing may be necessary for approval.
Ads promoting weight loss/management fasting products or services.
- Ads promoting weight loss/management supplements (including fat burning pills, appetite suppressants, weight loss or detox teas or lollipops).
- Invasive cosmetic procedures such as rhinoplasty, face/lip fillers and microdermabrasion cannot be advertised on the platform.
Though TikTok especially is a much more flexible channel in terms of personality and humor that can be used, brands still want to follow community guidelines to prevent any account shut downs or penalties.
Identifying the target audience on TikTok for healthcare companies
According to Wallaroo Media, 80% of TikTok users are between the ages of 16-34. This platform, though not only for young people, is primarily made up of Gen Z and young Millennials. Therefore, the content should be catered to this audience, and healthcare companies should keep this in mind when strategizing how to use this platform. TikTok should be used as the channel to reach the younger generation, curate the current messaging around the industry, and create loyalists from the future (and present) consumers.
What content should healthcare companies put on TikTok?
First, there are two main lenses that should be used to figure out what content to put out on TikTok. Across any account, you want to consider
Content Bucket: The category of content you are talking about (e.g.: Health education, current health news, relatable industry topics, etc.). This answers the question, “What are we going to talk about?” and serves as guardrails to align your content with your brand values and interests across other platforms as well.
Content Delivery: How are you presenting the content? Through a vlog, trending sound, direct-to-camera, skit… You get the idea. This answers the question “How are we going to tell the story” and this can greatly affect how your audience receives the information. You could be talking about the same topic but in two different delivery formats and your audience may be much more receptive to one over the other.
Second, all brands should identify what their personality looks like on a platform such as this one. On TikTok, you may be known for the crazy stories working in healthcare, for jokes that call out relatable experiences within the industry, or for being the first to break news or advancements. In any regard, we encourage you to reach into the funny, quirky, out-there parts of your personality. Simple education content will not cut it. You have to deliver it in a fun way, make a joke about it, be uncannily timely with the content, or a mix of all of these in order to see the results you are looking for.
Health communities on TikTok
Something that makes TikTok unique is its curation of niche communities. The TikTok algorithm is very good at creating these “Tok” corners for consumers to find videos related to their interests/experiences. For example, “T1Tok” is the community around Type 1 diabetics and their families. Creators who talk about Type 1 Diabetes and use keywords and hashtags such as #T1, #Type1, or #T1D can connect with other people in this community to share tips, struggles, and relatable experiences.
If healthcare brands cater to a specific niche of people (Examples: Chronic Illness, Diabetes, PCOS, ect) then they can do keyword research on TikTok and find out more about what these communities are talking about, what trends they are paying attention to, and what topics they are interested in. This not only helps to inform the content strategy but can also serve as a place for community research for advertising, website copy, and other marketing and product development purposes.
Example videos for healthcare companies
There are several angles a healthcare company can take to posting on TikTok, so here are a few examples to visualize what your brand may align with.
The healthcare industry can be a bit of a scary place, but if you can be a light in the dark that is a great corner of the internet to sit in! People love to see people win, hero stories, etc. and sharing those stories in an exciting way is a great way to gain views and brand awareness. For example, MDLawrenceWerlin used their fertility clinic’s fun way of announcing patients’ pregnancy results to share wins and provide encouragement for those struggling with fertility. This provided a great way to approach a hard subject with lightheartedness and positivity.
Education with a twist
Like we said, a simple educational video is not going to gain the views and engagement you are looking for, no matter how interesting the topic is. TikTok, and most platforms for that matter, is saturated with educational content, so you have to put your own spin on it. Medicine Explained does exactly that while also remaining completely faceless. Instead of just sitting in front of the camera and talking about subjects like “Can I swim on my period?”, this account uses a visual + voiceover format to tell a story while they talk on the subject.
Work culture related
A large part of TikTok culture is humanizing a brand and creating content that is relatable to a group of people. This is why behind-the-scenes content of work culture and skits/memes relating to the experience of a workplace do very well. For example, @Nurse.John has created an entire platform by portraying funny skits about the crazy experiences of being a nurse.
However, this doesn’t have to be approached with skits. This can also be done through short, meme-like content using trending sounds. For example, this video by Children’s Hospital New Orleans shows a funny work-related experience in a bite-sized video using a trending sound. Trending sounds are not just for “the kids” and are in fact a tool that healthcare companies can use to connect with their audience.
How to leverage trends and TikTok culture
Though trending sounds may seem intimidating for brands to use, particularly brands that have traditionally had very restricted messaging, they can be an easy-to-use tool to reach new audiences and communicate brand personality in a unique way. Trending sounds can be done through lip-syncs, popular dances, or even “mini skits”. The key to using them well is understanding the joke or purpose behind the trend and then spinning it in a way that is applicable to the brand.
Here is an example from Nationwide Children’s Hospital of how this can be done well. This trend includes a specific song and the creator making a sort of this or that game on the screen. These types of gamification trends are a prime opportunity to create engagement with the audience and explore new ways to convey information. They have used this trend to create a fun, educational video on when to go to urgent care vs. the emergency room. This is not only helpful and vital information, but they also delivered it in a way that was native to the platform, fun to watch, and they did the trend correctly (which is arguably the most important!).
How to use TikTok for cross-promotion
Short-form video does not and should not solely be used for TikTok. Especially if you are already creating content, brands should leverage their content on Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. The audiences on these platforms tend to be different from one another, so we recommend tracking the content that does best on each and delegating your content accordingly. Be sure to pay attention to platform culture and content length restrictions when delegating to get the most out of your content. For more information on cross-platform promotion, check out this blog post!
Short-form video platforms, specifically TikTok, can be the answer to the restrictions that the healthcare industry has traditionally had with other marketing mediums. Though there will always be advertising limitations, the culture of TikTok gives brands the flexibility to be a bit less sterile and have a bit more fun.