Time to Give TikTok a Try: How to Make It Work for Your Healthcare Marketing
// By Melanie Graham //
You might scoff at the idea of launching a healthcare marketing campaign on TikTok. But the truth is, your audience is there and waiting to hear from you. We sat down with Amanda Herriman and Craig Fairfield from Wax Custom Communications to learn how to optimize content for this massively popular platform.
I’ll admit, I’m a TikTok skeptic.
Why would a healthcare marketer spend their limited time and resources on a channel meant for teenagers scouting the latest lip sync challenges and dance routines?
But after sitting down with Amanda Herriman and Craig Fairfield of Wax Custom Communications, I saw the light. And it’s a fast-moving, addictive light set to trending Top-40 music.
“Like any other social media channel, healthcare marketers need to consider TikTok as part of their strategy because their audience is there,” says Herriman, a senior marketing strategist for Wax Custom Communications. “Remember when healthcare marketers were skeptical about joining Facebook? We all ended up going there because that’s where our audience was.”
Herriman and Fairfield are seasoned pros at TikTok marketing and have the data and knowledge to prove it. And for those of you who attended the 2022 Healthcare Internet Conference, you may remember their master class on the subject.
We sat down with the Wax Communications duo to get their advice for healthcare marketers hoping to dip their toes into this highly popular short-form video channel.
Why Should Healthcare Marketers Consider TikTok?
Like Instagram Reels, Facebook Stories, or YouTube Shorts, TikTok is all about short-form video (although longer-form video has made its way to the platform, too). The videos typically feature five or more rapid cuts, have low production value, and are set to trending music.
“It’s so addictive — more addictive than any other social media platform,” Herriman explains. “It’s optimized to feed users’ dopamine, keeping them on the platform and engaged.”
The content is also highly targeted to the user — the algorithm morphs based on the videos you watch and engage with, serving up more of the same and keeping you engrossed. Before you know it, hours have gone by, and you still haven’t left the couch.
While your entire audience may not use TikTok, a good portion likely does. The platform has more than one billion active global users — yes, billion — most of whom range in age from 15 to 40.
“There was a huge shift in TikTok users during the pandemic, and older generations started joining the platform,” Herriman says. “More people were at home and had more time to spend on social media, which opened it up to older age brackets and more users.”
Still not sure TikTok is right for your marketing strategy? Consider these stats:
- Video is the top source of information for 66 percent of people (Source: TechJury)
- Audiences spend an average of 6 hours 48 minutes per week watching online video (Source: TechJury)
- 92 percent of TikTok users take action after watching a video (Source: TikTok for Business)
- 68 percent of TikTok users find ad content different from any other platform (Source: TikTok for Business).
Herriman also points out that the earlier you can join a new channel like TikTok, the sooner you can take advantage of the space — before it becomes saturated with other organizations like yours. Early adopters and trailblazers will have less competition and get in the good graces of the TikTok algorithm.
What Type of Content Performs Best?
Like any other marketing channel, focusing on your audience will help you determine the best content to create for TikTok. It’s not likely you’re going to book appointments for orthopedic surgery or cardiac rehabilitation. But you may find success in wellness content like promoting vaccines or women’s health screenings.
“TikTok is for part of your hospital or health system, not all of it,” says Craig Fairfield, Wax Custom Communications’ managing director. “Think about the different products (or service lines) you’re trying to sell, and which ones would make sense for a TikTok audience.”
Fairfield also points out that answering common health questions or dispelling health myths can be a gold mine of TikTok content.
This approach is the basis for one popular healthcare TikTok channel: @askdoctort. Tessa Commers, MD, focuses her videos on awkward adolescent health questions — perfect for the TikTok audience. She keeps the videos personal and low-production — she’s often just sitting in an armchair wearing casual clothes (not a white coat in a doctor’s office).
“TikTok is about authenticity and looking like an average person who’s just holding a phone and recording a video,” Herriman says. “It’s also important to think about the storyline of the video and breaking it up into five or more scenes or cuts.”
Other tips from TikTok for successful content:
- High-resolution video (720P or higher)
- Full-screen aspect ratio (9:16)
- Sound on
- 21- 34-second duration
- Vertical video orientation
- Clear call-to-action (CTA)
- End frame (usually with the brand logo and a CTA).
How to Get Started
Okay — you’re convinced, you’re intrigued, and you’re ready to give TikTok a try. Before you do, consider these three approaches to TikTok content.
1. Organic Content
This is probably where your head goes first — a channel for your organization that produces original content, hoping it plays well on the TikTok algorithm.
While it may be the quickest and most inexpensive way to get on the platform, it’s also likely the most labor-intensive. You’ll either need to create content from scratch or repurpose existing video content to fit the channel (TikTok for Business has tools for this).
Keep in mind you’ll also need to rely on TikTok’s algorithm for exposure, so it may take time to build engagement with your content. Even big healthcare brands like Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic have only a handful of TikTok followers.
2. Paid Ads
Naturally, TikTok has a paid ad feature. Putting money behind your content can help it get in front of more people and you don’t need to have a dedicated, organic TikTok channel to run ads.
When creating TikTok ads, lean on popular songs, video effects, or other TikTok trends. The TikTok for Business platform makes this data readily available, and you can reference these trends in your TikTok auction ads to boost exposure.
The TikTok ad platform also makes it easy to create content, with ready-made templates and useful tools that can help you repurpose existing video content to fit the TikTok style.
3. Creator (Influencer) Collaboration
Although organic content and paid ads may get your brand on the platform faster, the team at Wax Custom Communications says partnering with TikTok influencers (creators) is the most effective approach to the platform.
“Consumers trust people more than any organization,” Fairfield says. “Even if the influencer labels it as a sponsored post, their followers trust their opinion and they’ll listen. That’s where you find success.”
Like TikTok advertising, an organization doesn’t need its own channel to work with creators on sponsored posts.
So, how do you find the right influencers for your brand?
TikTok includes a creator marketplace where you can browse influencers to find one that fits your content’s audience and strategic objectives. Although this tool is free, it’s limited — which is why Herriman and Fairfield recommend using a third-party tool like Upfluence to find the right influencer and manage the relationship. These platforms have more granular audience filtering and search tools, as well as built-in tools for managing influencer contracts and payments.
“Every time we talk to a healthcare organization about starting on TikTok, they tell us that they don’t have the people to manage it,” Fairfield says. “The best way to get started is to work with a creator or social media influencer who has already built an audience. Work with that creator to make content that satisfies a strategic goal for your organization.”
One of Wax Custom Communications’ most successful campaigns was a partnership with Jenny Lorenzo, a Cuban American comedian with more than 234,000 TikTok followers. The campaign for Community Care Plan (a Florida provider service network) aimed to dispel healthcare myths, specifically within the South Florida-based Hispanic community.
The “Abuela Says” campaign encouraged individuals to seek health advice and treatments from their doctor (not their Abuela). It took advantage of one of Lorenzo’s already popular characters (Abuela) and a TikTok following that fit the campaign’s target audience.
The campaign earned 1.5 million video views and more than 21,500 clicks. On the paid-advertising side, the average cost per view was only $0.03. One post earned more than 130 comments, many from healthcare professionals praising the content.
Considerations Before You Take the TikTok Plunge
Partnering with an influencer can provide a big payoff for your organization. But like the video itself, it’s important not to overproduce creator campaigns. Don’t be afraid to give more creative control to the influencer. After all, their content has grown a following for a reason — don’t mess with success.
For the “Abuela Says” campaign, Wax Communications gathered healthcare myths and facts from doctors and experts. Apart from that, the content was up to the comedian.
“As marketers and creatives, we’re used to controlling the content and writing the ads to fit our brand, but it’s important to give the influencers a seat at the table,” Fairfield says. “Allow them to bring their voice, creativity, and personal brand to the content. Otherwise, the ad may not feel natural, and it could be a big flop.”
Herriman also advises against using your employees and patients as influencers. Lean on those who have already put in the time and effort to build a following and brand on TikTok.
And if you’re looking for a TikTok success benchmark, don’t focus only on healthcare brands, Fairfield advises. Think outside the healthcare box and broaden your inspiration to companies across different industries.
“Don’t compare yourself to other healthcare brands — healthcare runs way behind in marketing trends, anyway,” Fairfield says. “Look at the brands that are doing a good job getting people’s attention and figure out how to apply their tactics to your organization.”
Editor’s note: Despite TikTok’s popularity and potential as a marketing tool, TikTok faces mounting scrutiny over security concerns. At the time of writing, several congressional leaders have threatened to shut TikTok down and President Biden has asked the platform’s China-based parent company to sell its stake in the app. TikTok announced in mid-March that it would update its content and security guidelines “to protect human dignity, and strike a balance between freedom of expression and preventing harm.” The new guidelines take effect on April 21, 2023.
Melanie Graham is a writer and digital/content marketing expert specializing in multichannel content strategies that drive healthcare brand growth and awareness.