Growing Your Practice on Facebook, Part 3: Advertising

June 20th, 2017 by Search Influence Alumni

In our previous blogs, you’ve learned that Facebook is crucial for promoting your medical practice and that shareable content is the number one component of your social media strategy.

As the next step in your journey to increase your social presence, Facebook ads are another highly effective way to promote your practice online. In this blog post, we’ll answer your questions about the importance of paid promotions on Facebook, the difference between promoted posts and ads, the primary advantages of Facebook ads, and whether your ad copy complies with HIPAA and other guidelines.

Why Not Just Use Free Posts?

With so many opportunities to post for free on Facebook, it might seem like paid promotions aren’t necessary. However, due to recent Facebook algorithm updates, overtly promotional posts are receiving less organic distribution on the platform. This is due to a Facebook survey in which users named highly promotional posts as the number one thing they would like to see less of in their news feeds. As a result, your followers will be unlikely to see any of your posts that push products, urge people to enter contests, or reuse advertising content. Below are some examples of highly promotional posts.

Image of a highly promotional Facebook post - Search Influence

Image of an overtly promotional post on Facebook - Search Influence

However, in the same survey, Facebook users reported that they aren’t bothered by promotional content when it has been identified as advertising. This means that paid promotions are not only ways to get around Facebook’s algorithm updates and reach your target audience, but also ways to engage your followers without coming across as annoying or spammy.

What’s the Difference Between Promoted Posts and Ads?

The two main types of paid promotions on Facebook are promoted posts and advertisements. Understanding the difference can help you determine where each best fits into your social media strategy.

Promoted posts are formatted like traditional free posts, but they are marked as sponsored content and appear higher in your followers’ news feeds. The main advantage of promoted posts is that you can test them out as free posts before investing in them. If one of your free posts is performing especially well, Facebook will often prompt you to “boost” or promote it. Promoted posts can also be easier to use because they follow the traditional Facebook post format.

Advertisements, on the other hand, can follow a wide range of formats. Facebook’s Ads Guide allows you to customize based on your campaign’s objective, be it brand awareness, lead generation, website traffic, or one of many others. The guide can also walk you through the different ad placements, focusing on which fields will be included in which type of ad. As shown in the images below, mobile and desktop news feed ads have space for social information, business name, text, images or videos, and a call to action.

Image of Facebook's Ads Guide for mobile feeds - Search Influence

Right column ads, on the other hand, only have space for text and images or videos:

Image of Facebook's Ads Guide for right column information - Search Influence

While all of these options make advertisements a bit more challenging than promoted posts, they also allow ads to achieve more diverse objectives. Promoted posts are great for growing brand awareness and driving engagement, but if you have goals outside of social media—for example, getting potential patients to fill out a consultation form on your website—then Facebook ads are the better way to go.

What Are the Main Benefits of Facebook Ads?

The reason why ads are more effective than promoted posts for driving off-Facebook conversions is the call to action (CTA) button. While exact numbers vary based on the industry, type of content, and action the reader is being called to do, statistics show that conversion rates increase dramatically when a CTA is present. While CTAs can be included in the text of a promoted post, the CTA button in ads allows your message to stand out even more. More importantly, it explicitly tells readers what action you want them to take, and allows them to accomplish it with just one simple click. Facebook also provides an easy drop down menu of popular CTAs for you to choose from, ranging from “Contact Us” to “Download” to “Watch More.”

The second major benefit of Facebook ads is the platform’s detailed targeting options. These are available for promoted posts as well, and they can be set or altered within Facebook’s Ads Manager. While traditional advertising channels, like billboards or newspaper ads, can’t guarantee that your message reaches your goal demographic, Facebook ads can be carefully targeted to the people you want them to reach. For example, if you run a geriatrics practice in New Orleans, you can ensure that Facebook shows your ads to users aged 65+ in the Greater New Orleans area. Using Facebook’s targeting feature allows you to run a more efficient ad campaign. You can direct your time and money only toward the demographics that are most likely to become your patients, without wasting advertising resources on anyone else.

What Legal and Ethical Guidelines Govern Medical Facebook Ads?

As you’re certainly aware, the medical industry is heavily regulated. Everyone from the American College of Physicians to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to Facebook itself has rules for medical advertisements. If you break them, your ads will likely be taken down, and in some cases, legal action may even ensue. While Facebook’s Advertising Policies provide a detailed list of prohibited and restricted content, the two biggest red flags for physicians are misleading content and patient confidentiality violations.

Misleading content includes anything that could be considered deceptive or ambiguous to patients. The most obvious examples are photoshopped images or exaggerated guarantees; however, even subtle wording variations can lead to misleading content violations. For example, it’s generally okay for a physician to claim that Botox can contribute to a more youthful appearance. Yet, it could be considered misleading to claim that Botox will make patients look ten years younger or eliminate signs of aging. Although these statements are quite similar, only the first one is acceptable because it does not make any specific promises about the product’s outcomes. Some of the best precautions against misleading content include citing studies or journal articles whenever claims are made, and labeling all non-patient photos with the word “model.”

While misleading content might get your practice in trouble with Facebook, violating HIPAA rules about patient confidentiality can get your practice in trouble with the law. As with misleading content, some precautions are obvious. For example, you should never post any identifying information about patients, such as names or faces. However, many HIPAA violations are less apparent. For example, it is prohibited to post images that do not clearly identify a patient, such as a rash on someone’s foot, unless you have clear legal permission to do so. Similarly, be careful that no pictures of the office have patients or medical records in the background. To avoid any issues, require patients to sign a consent form before using their images, or stick to model-labeled images and stock photos.

Interested in learning more? Don’t forget to check back for the next post in our medical industry blog series, which will help you reach your target audience.

For more information about getting started with Facebook Advertising for your hospital or practice, contact us here.


Ads Guide Mobile Feed

Ads Guide Right Column