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Mayo Clinic's Digital Marketing Strategy Drives Engagement

 |  By  
   May 06, 2015

Mayo's chief marketing officer talks about the #StrongArmSelfie campaign, his online marketing strategy, and why he thinks it's vital for all hospital marketers to go digital.

If you've noticed a surge of Twitter users sharing photos of themselves flexing their biceps this spring, Mayo Clinic is responsible.

The Rochester, MN-based health system collaborated with Fight Colorectal Cancer's One Million Strong #StrongArmSelfie 2015 campaign in an effort to raise awareness for colorectal cancer screening. And, as the name implies, the movement prompted internet users to share photos that would make Popeye proud.

The social campaign launched on March 1 and comes complete with an anthem, "Stronger Than That," written by country music artist Craig Campbell. Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media produced a video for the song that showcases the health system's staff and highlights the campaign message. It has been viewed more than 14,500 times on YouTube and 43,000 times on Facebook and, impressively, ran on the big screen in New York City's Times Square in March.

The results don't stop there. The #StrongArmSelfie hashtag has been used more than 11,000 times across social platforms, including 3,600 posts on Twitter and 6,900 engagements on "related posts" on Facebook.

These are big numbers for an awareness campaign, and the multi-pronged effort is indicative of how Mayo Clinic approaches its digital marketing strategy: full throttle.

To learn more, I asked John Weston, chief marketing officer for Mayo Clinic, about his online marketing strategy and why he thinks it's vital for all hospital marketers to go digital.

HLM: Hospitals and health systems are traditionally slow to implement the latest marketing trends, but 2015 has already seen an increase in hospitals using online and social marketing strategies. Why do you think digital marketing is an important strategy for hospitals?

Weston: We know that the consumer experience today starts online. Consumers check out symptoms, providers, and treatments, often before even seeing a provider, and in fact, a significant amount of consumers self-diagnose. Digital marketing allows healthcare organizations to meet the consumers where they are, targeting patients at their specific moment of need based upon their specific condition.

For example, most patients aren't interested in polycystic kidney disease. But if you or a loved one just received a diagnosis for polycystic kidney disease, you want specific information about that condition, instead of other general kidney disorders. Patients want real-time information about their specific health concerns at the moment they need it.

HLM: How important is digital marketing to the overall marketing plan at Mayo Clinic?

Weston: It's critical, and not just for Mayo Clinic, but for the industry as a whole. Digital marketing is the primary focus of our marketing efforts. This includes seamless integration of digital social media tools allowing us to connect with patients when they need us, about the condition they are concerned about. The digital ecosystem is how consumers acquire and consume information today—especially health and wellness information. Mayo Clinic is committed to be a part of this digital health and wellness environment.

We also leverage the rich content we have to provide consumers with information about diseases and conditions, even when it is likely they may never become a patient. We view this as part of our moral responsibility—to share our knowledge and expertise to benefit others.

John Weston

HLM: Search Engine Marketing (SEM) seems to have recently begun to gain mainstream traction with hospital marketing. Do you think SEM spending is worth the investment?

Weston: Search engine marketing comes with the price of entry these days. It's something you must do. With changes in the healthcare environment, and increasingly savvy digital consumers, organizations have to do more to get their brands into the consideration set. SEM will always be an important part of the marketer's toolkit.

HLM: Where do you see digital marketing for healthcare heading in the future? Will the bulk of marketing efforts eventually be online?

Weston: I think it will be similar to what we're seeing in other industries. For many there will be a need to grow brand awareness on a broad scale, and some traditional forms of marketing work best for that, but increasingly, digital and content marketing are becoming the mainstay of a marketing portfolio. Our investment in digital continues to grow and represents more than two-thirds of our current activity.

HLM: How does digital marketing enhance patient engagement?

When consumers have a moment of need, their journey goes in three directions. They ask loved ones what they should do, they ask their physician what they should do, and they search online. Mayo Clinic wants to engage consumers in each of these activities with our primary focus on interacting with them digitally.

Marianne Aiello is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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