Do Facebook likes really result in higher patient volume for your urgent care center? If you find the value of a Facebook “like” elusive, you’re not alone. That’s why a team at Harvard Business School (HBS) decided to conduct an in-depth study on whether simply “liking” a brand on Facebook actually influences purchasing behavior.
The results may surprise you.
The Value of a Facebook Like
HBS conducted 23 experiments over four years involving 18,000 participants. They used A/B testing to explore an interesting counterfactual: what followers would have done had they not followed a brand on Facebook. What did they find? Social media endorsements alone don’t influence real life behavior in any meaningful way.
It turns out marketers are muddling Facebook likes into a metric that means something that it doesn’t.
HBS found that marketers were confusing cause with causation. In other words, marketers assumed Facebook likes directly lead to purchases. However, what marketers failed to take into account was that the endorsers already had a favorable opinion of the brand, which is the real reason why they were making purchases after liking a brand’s Facebook page.
So are Facebook likes a meaningless metric? Not exactly.
How Your Urgent Care Should Use Facebook Likes
Just because social media endorsements don’t work the way marketers think they do doesn’t mean they can’t be used to drive sales – or in the case of your urgent care center, drive patient volume. In HBS’ final experiment, they studied whether targeting content to “liking” and “non-liking” groups would impact conversion rates. HBS used two groups of Discovery Vitality customers: one that liked the brand’s Facebook page and one that didn’t. They then targeted content to both groups on Facebook and found that the conversion rate was higher in the group that liked the brand on Facebook. Why did targeting to the “liking” group work? It effectively uses the push/pull marketing technique.
Traditional marketing is all push marketing, blasting out ads to consumers. Pull marketing via social media channels asks consumers to come to marketers. With the explosion of social media marketing, marketers had essentially abandoned push marketing in lieu of less pushy marketing techniques. However, the HBS study demonstrates that combining the two techniques by targeting content to receptive consumers is the most effective means of reaching consumers.
Urgent care centers can capitalize on this push/pull marketing strategy by:
- Boosting specific Facebook posts. Boosting posts allows you to target content to a specific audience on Facebook, making sure your messaging gets in front of your most engaged consumers. The most effective strategy is to let a post get some organic traction first before boosting it.
- Targeting specific Facebook posts. You don’t have to boost a post to target it to a specific audience. Create audience segments and experiment with different campaigns to see what combinations are the most effective for your urgent care center.
- Highlight positive reviews and testimonials. The HBS team also noted in its research that savvy marketing firms go beyond garnering social media likes and find ways to highlight well-written positive reviews. Did a patient send you a Facebook message with a glowing review of a provider? Are patients using the reviews section of your Facebook page to post amazing testimonials? Find ways to highlight them in your marketing messages.
The True Value of a Facebook Like
Although there’s no direct connection between a Facebook like and a sale, the HBS team’s research shows social media connects your urgent care with highly engaged consumers. The struggle marketers have in demonstrating the ROI of social media marketing stems from using the tool incorrectly. Rather than casting a wide net and wasting your marketing dollars, use social media to target your messaging to people who actually want what you’re selling.
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