Who Follows Healthcare Providers on Social Media

Surprise! The biggest followers of clinics and hospitals on social media are young adults, specifically those from ages 18–24. According to a recent Russell Herder survey of 1,000 U.S. adults (via iHealthBeat), they follow at a rate of 21.1%, which almost doubles the rate of the 25–44 age group.

What Percentage of U.S. Adults Follow a Health Care Provider on a Social Media Website?

The accompanying chart illustrates by age group, What percentage of U.S. adults follow a healthcare provider on a social media website?

What does this mean to hospital marketers?
Well, for one thing, marketers should already know that young adults aged 18–29 constitute the largest demographic for social networking sites. Many might discount the significance of young adults’ social media connection to hospitals, factoring in the typically less frequent (and less advanced) healthcare consumption among this group. However, maybe this particular sign of youthful allegiance to hospitals could be more important in the future, when these young adults turn into middle-aged ones who start families and create kids that need healthcare. Additionally, as they get even further into adulthood, they will be more likely to use the system for their own health issues, and the allegiances of their youth could hold sway in a powerful way.

To the contrary, as you would expect, boomers/seniors were on the low end of provider ‘follow’ rates at 7.9% and 3%, respectively. The key thing to remember about these numbers is that boomers, who follow at an 8% rate today, are likely to boost the ‘senior’ rates in a few years because they are rapidly approaching the ‘senior’ category as a group. Even if their rates of social media engagement only held steady, they would represent more than a doubling of the current senior follower rates. This means that hospitals need to be thinking about the best ways to market to boomers on social media today as well as in their 3-year and 5-year plans.

90% of boomers are online. Furthermore, about 34% of online seniors use sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Considering that only 3% of seniors currently follow a clinic or hospital on social media, the potential exists to attract or solidify connections with many more of them who already use social media.

The survey also found that urban communities were slightly more likely than suburban to be following providers and that people making $25-49K were slightly more likely to be following than those making above $50K or even $75K. It’s been demonstrated before that Twitter use is generally higher in urban populations, but the correlation of the lower (note: not lowest) income bracket and the urban group being more likely than the respective wealthier or suburban/rural groups to follow a hospital on social media is striking. Even if the urban group were just giving hospitals ‘likes’ on Facebook, I would still wonder about the implications of the higher percentage of people in urban areas to follow healthcare providers on social media.

Maybe we’ll get a follow-up study. If any readers find one, please send it my way.

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