Google AdWords has traditionally dominated the online advertising space. However, recent reports have shown significant growth in social media advertising and a declining growth in Google advertising. It appears that Google may be losing its position as the stronghold in online advertising. According to the data below from Yahoo and Morgan Stanley Research, current trends project Facebook surpassing Google in advertising growth:

But what does this mean for healthcare and how you should spend your marketing dollars?

Understanding the Data

[If you would like to skip the explanation and jump to the conclusion, click here]

It is important to understand that the Facebook/Google data is showing where people are spending their money, not what is driving results. Marketing is often trendy and based on assumption or emotion. With Facebook lowering the costs and barriers for entry, there’s no surprise that social media is currently seeing a significant increase in market share. This trend is worth paying attention to from a marketer’s perspective, but it may not signify a good investment.

The chart below is showing the year over year change in US advertising revenue for multiple major platforms:

It’s important to note that this graph also represents the percentage of growth. Although Facebook is growing faster, that does not mean it is overtaking Google for they are both still growing. There are more people spending new money in Facebook than Google, but both are taking in more advertising revenue than they were before.

Facebook’s quicker growth is interesting, but could simply be caused by the recent buzz around social media (though it is still difficult to put a specific ROI on the platform). Although Facebook is no longer considered a “new” medium, it’s still luring late adopters who are new to the platform. Meanwhile, most late adopters have already begun advertising with Google.

Understanding the Differences in Advertising Platforms

The effectiveness of the platforms is also determined by how they are typically used. People use Google to gather information. While users turn to Facebook to consult friends for recommendations, they don’t specifically seek out information like they do with Google. It’s more common for them to spend time on Facebook, stumble upon interesting information, and see (even interact with) ads.

Due to the differing uses of the mediums, differing results occur across different industries. Therefore, different strategies are required. For example, impulse purchases are a natural target for Facebook advertising. The ads are quickly seen and users may quickly spend $20 on a whim for a new wallet or to join the Dollar Shave Club. However, they are not likely to see an ad for a surgeon (especially at the exact point that they are in need of that specific type of surgeon) and request an appointment. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that social media advertising should be discounted in the healthcare industry.

Implications for Healthcare

Both of these mediums are needed for healthcare. They serve different purposes and need to be used accordingly. Google is viable for users doing research. It is a great platform for targeting users searching for specific information and issues that your product or service can address. Facebook is a useful marketing tool in campaigns gears towards an existing patient base and/or awareness advertising.

For example, many laypeople are not aware of the concept of orthopedic urgent care. As a result, they do not search for it (though strategic keywords and ads with Google PPC advertising can help). With Facebook, ads can be created to build awareness. They may not drive immediate leads (which makes the effectiveness very hard to track – often like a billboard), but they do give a potential patient familiarity with the practice and service, creating brand recognition and awareness for when the need strikes.

Ad dollars should be spent wisely. At this time for healthcare, we still do not recommend spending significant money in social media, as there are other more directly profitable alternatives. We recommend that an average healthcare practice sanction $100-$300/month in direct advertising fees for social media, but no more. Because of the low cost of Facebook advertising, this amount is effective with smart goals.

Finally, it is very difficult, if not impossible to directly track ROI through social media, as mentioned above. Social media helps build trust over time. (Think about how you become familiar with a product after repeatedly seeing it on TV and in stores. Then, when you actually need it, it’s implanted in the back of your mind.) But, it’s not an entity that you can see a direct correlation of ad dollar to revenue. Nor can you expect a steady proportional increase per dollar spent.

Spending Marketing Dollars on Your Practice

So where should you spend your practice’s marketing dollars? At Points Group, we specialize in holistic marketing and strategy for healthcare, and have put together an entire guide to help you determine the best place to invest your marketing budget. Click here to download the guide for free.

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