How Facebook's Algorithm Update Will Impact Medical Marketers

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Updates to Facebook’s algorithm create marketing challenges, but also new opportunities to strengthen personal relationships between patients and practices.

For most medical marketers, Facebook has long been a reliable way to reach target audiences, both through organic traffic on company pages and paid posts in users’ Newsfeeds. Facebook pages in particular offered medical practices a way to communicate with current patients, share relevant content, and attract new patients for free.

But recent updates to Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm are causing major waves in the marketing community. Whereas thrifty medical marketers may have been able to lean on organic traffic to Facebook pages in the past, this revamped algorithm will render such traffic all but irrelevant.

In order to predict what this means for medical organizations advertising on the platform going forward, it’s essential to understand what these updates do and what content they’ll affect.

What’s Different in Facebook’s Algorithm Update?

Facebook has almost always mixed content from friends with promoted content from brands, but the company’s prominent role in the 2016 U.S. election has made it rethink the purpose and architecture of its Newsfeed. The new algorithm leans more heavily toward content from friends and family than news and content from brand pages, and prioritizes content that creates engagement – that is, likes and comments.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, these adjustments are designed to promote more meaningful interactions on a social media platform that’s become known for an overabundance of clickbait, memes, and low-quality content. With this update, content that users actually care about – and that they’re more likely to interact with – rises to the top.

The algorithm changes won’t affect paid posts, but they bode poorly for Facebook page owners, who may discover fewer and fewer of their updates showing up in followers’ feeds. Organic traffic to brand pages will inevitably slow down even more than it already has, rendering this once-fruitful channel all but obsolete.

How Can Medical Marketers Adapt?

Though the news of this update may sound dire for advertisers, medical marketers simply have to shift their approach on the platform. For most companies, the algorithm change presents an opportunity to reassess how they invest in Facebook. It may not be worth posting as frequently to your practice’s Facebook page, for example, as it’s likely that your target audience won’t see the posts.

This doesn’t mean you shouId abandon your page, though – medical marketers simply need to think strategically. Since the new algorithm will place a premium on personal content shared between engaged users, influencers with the power to change audience opinion and drive interactions will be an indispensable asset — especially when it comes to earning patient trust for medical organizations and practices that rely on positive reviews and referrals.

Ultimately, the algorithm update makes paid Facebook advertising essential for medical marketers interested in maintaining a presence on the platform. Facebook’s highly personalized targeting capabilities make it the ideal platform to connect with interested patients, all while avoiding the pitfalls of the algorithm change.

Since organic traffic will be, in essence, non-existent for brands and businesses advertising on the platform, developing a robust paid digital marketing program — and honing the skills to maintain and enhance that online presence — will be key.

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