Two doctors recording a video on a phoneIf you haven’t heard of TikTok — the latest trend in social media — you may have been a little too socially distant this year.

TikTok allows users to create short-form, five- to 60-second, mobile videos using a range of filters, effects and music. Whether your teenage son has been practicing the latest hashtag challenge, or your college-aged daughter has been perfecting the newest dance craze, there’s no doubt about TikTok’s ability to create viral content.

Last week, I decided to finally give in to the hype and download the app. About 45 minutes, dozens of videos and several LOLs later, I could see why it’s so popular. But I wondered … are healthcare organizations marketing on TikTok? I mean, besides all the viral dance videos — can healthcare organizations use TikTok to reach their marketing goals? Therefore, I set out to investigate.

Some TikTok stats and background

First, let’s look at some facts about this new social media platform.

  • TikTok launched in China in 2016 and became global in 2018.
  • TikTok has about 850 million monthly active users and is available in over 150 countries worldwide.
  • 60% of TikTok users are Gen Zers (between age 16-24) and 80% are between age 16-34 (that includes some of the Millennial generation, too).
  • TikTok is the 6th largest social network, following WhatsApp Messenger, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Instagram. (And surpassing LinkedIn, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest!)
  • So far, TikTok is the most downloaded app of 2020.
@drjcofthedcReposting my very first TikTok. Pre-Covid days… with your favorite TikTok Docs. ##tiktokdoc ##fyp ##foryourpage ##throwback ##thefirst ##boom♬ original sound – The Tik Tok Doc

Using TikTok for marketing in healthcare

According to Wallaroo Media, “If your brand’s target audience includes anyone between the age 13 and 40, you should be on TikTok right now.”

Woah. OK. So how do you market on TikTok?

Cleveland Clinic announced in late November 2020 that it launched a TikTok channel. The healthcare leader said it joined forces with the popular social platform to “motivate the public to wear face masks” during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is one of only a few health systems on the platform.

Within 24 hours of launching its channel, Cleveland Clinic’s #MaskUp video had more than one million views.

@clevelandclinicOur healthcare workers are working hard to keep you safe. Show your appreciation. Wash your hands, practice social distancing + wear a mask. ##MaskUp♬ original sound – clevelandclinic

Some other early adopters and most popular brands on TikTok include Chipotle, the NBA and The Washington Post. According to HubSpot, here are three ways these brands use TikTok that you can implement into your own healthcare organization’s marketing strategy:

Engage with your patients — especially younger patients

During my first 45 minutes on TikTok, I noticed two videos from young, female doctors with tips on nutrition and anxiety. Come to find out, these types of videos are quite popular with young people. In fact, reporter Annie Sidransky of Yale Daily News claims she learned more useful sex education from TikTok gynecologists than her high school sex ed class.

@drleslieThe symptoms are similar but treatment and prognosis is different! Talk to your doctor if you want to quit. ##vaping ##ecig ##ad ##sponsored♬ original sound – Doctor Leslie

Use humor

Many of the most popular videos on TikTok are funny. Show a different side of your organization by embracing a little humor. It will help you appear more relatable and trustworthy to your target audience.

Think outside the box

Since TikTok is a newer social media platform, best practices have not been established as of yet. This gives your organization a chance to be creative, do something different and express your unique brand voice.

@208skindocReply to @itsbellabinch I recommend a minimum of spf 30 every day ##learnontiktok ##tiktokpartner ##208SkinDoc ##dermatologist ##sunscreen♬ original sound – Dr Dustin Portela

Cons of TikTok in healthcare

Engaging with patients and sharing useful information are a couple of the pros of marketing on TikTok. But, just like any other social media platform, there are downsides to TikTok as well:

It can spread inaccurate information

While TikTok is a great way for doctors to educate patients, it can also be a hub of misinformation.

It can jeopardize your organization’s reputation with patients

During my first visit on TikTok, I saw three different videos of nurses making fun of their patients. And although these unprofessional medical videos are not the standard, they are out there. Your organization’s content may lose credibility in that environment.

It’s a time commitment

While TikTok is a great way for doctors to reach their younger audience and debunk medical misinformation, it is a time commitment to create good content. It may be difficult to find doctors who have the time (or interest) to get involved.

All in all, it wouldn’t hurt to start a TikTok account for your healthcare organization and play around. You never know — you may go viral!

And now, to go watch some more TikTok videos. For educational purposes, of course!

Looking for help with social media content? Our team of experts specializes in creating custom healthcare content for any digital channel. Drop us a line to learn how we can help you reach your social media marketing goals.


Editor’s note: This post was updated on December 3, 2020.