There are multiple layers to healthcare with so many individuals, organisations and groups providing advice, services and treatments. With that – and a little thing called the Internet – comes an absolute overload of information. Not all of that information is necessarily sound, or indeed is the source it’s coming from. So how should providers of healthcare information be doing this, and should they be proactively pushing it at consumers?

Using online search to find things out is now quite simply second nature to the vast majority of Internet users. We’ve also become unknowingly smart around what constitutes a credible source of information. Take things like news, travel and food – subconsciously you know what makes a reliable source for content on those topics online.

But when it comes to healthcare, it’s not always that clear cut.

I think the reason for this is twofold. First, when people are looking for information around their own health, they’re probable more susceptible to being drawn into something with strong claims because quite simply, you want answers. The other reason is the sheer volume of ‘healthcare’ organisations out there. From health and wellbeing, to drug companies, to healthcare providers, to patient support groups, so many people are providing a wealth of information and it can be hard to determine what’s credible.

So with all this in mind, if you are providing health information online, to what extent should you ‘push’ that information through things like placed media and Google ad Words and when is it more suitable to gradually pull users to your own channel(s), where they can find whatever it is they’re looking for?

Health information

There is definitely a role for both, but the strategy behind them will help to determine which tactic is more suitable.

For example, if you have a clear picture of the type of user you’re looking to target, based on age, location, interests etc, a digital media campaign can be a great way to do this. However, the key is to be crystal clear with your message and to provide something that will genuinely draw them into clicking for more information. I recently heard a speaker at a healthcare communications event point out that the average attention span online is now around 2.5 seconds. That is not long to a) draw in the user and then b) keep them on your site, assuming they choose to click. So it has to be useful, genuine and eye-catching (or as some now say, “thumb-stopping”).

On the other side of the coin, a more long-term pull strategy can lead to a more loyal audience that trusts and knows what to expect from the content you’re sharing. In the world of healthcare professionals, WebMD would be a good example of this – an online directory of sorts where users visit with a very specific ‘informational need’ in mind. This of course requires more of an organic approach to content sharing, but through effective SEO and social media usage, this is possible, so long as you have the content to back it up.

This isn’t a case of having to choose one or the other – any content marketing strategy would likely include a combination of both. The key is to always try to put yourself in the shoes of the people you’re looking to reach and then work from there in terms of how to create and promote your message.

At the end of the day, we consume more content than we ever have done before and with that comes higher standards and expectations of users. It’s your job as a marketer, communicator or salesperson to meet and exceed those expectations.