If you haven’t heard of TikTok — one of the most popular social media channels — you may have been a little too socially distant over the past two years.
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 newer social media platform.
- TikTok launched in China in 2016 and became global in 2018.
- As of September 2021, TikTok has over one billion monthly active users and is available in over 200 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 7th largest social network, following Facebook, Youtube, WhatsApp Messenger, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WeChat. (And surpassing LinkedIn, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest!)
- TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2020 and so far, it’s also the most downloaded in 2021.
@doctor.siyaWow!! Thank you so much for all your love & support! 🙏🏼❤ #tiktokdoc #educate #mzansi #keeprising♬ Hall of Fame (feat. will.i.am) – The Script
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
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.
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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.
Use TikTok as a resource — even if you’re not posting
If you don’t have the staff, time or skills to post on TikTok, don’t write the platform off just yet. With its growing popularity, influence on the younger generation and ability to set rapid-fire trends, it’s a channel to watch.
Use TikTok as a resource for relevant topics to drive your content marketing. These topics can give you content ideas for blogs, YouTube videos or posts for other social media platforms.
With TikTok’s reputation for sparking dangerous trends and misinformation, be ready to respond with your own content that can set the record straight and keep individuals safe. Keep an eye on what’s trending and see if your organization can offer expertise or a unique point of view.
You can also talk to your clinical team to see if TikTok conversations come up with patients, parents and doctors. These interactions may spark ideas for content, too.
Here are some examples of how healthcare organizations have created content based on TikTok trends.
Address TikTok challenges
Viral TikTok challenges are meant to be fun, but many times can become potentially dangerous.
In response to the Benadryl challenge (taking excessive amounts to get high), Children’s Minnesota wrote a blog post to keep parents vigilant and aware. In another blog post, Hackensack Meridian Health explains that the milk crate challenge (climbing stacked milk crates like stairs) is a fun way to test balance, but a quick way to end up in the emergency room.
Cincinnati Children’s used a Facebook post to spread awareness for another challenge called “dry scooping” (eating protein powder/pre-workout without mixing it with water). They also posted a warning to Twitter about the choking hazard that comes with using magnetic balls as fake tongue piercings.
Spread awareness about TikTok as a platform
Since TikTok is a relatively new social media platform, many people might not know how it works — especially parents with teens and tweens.
Children’s Health Dallas uses a blog article to delve into the safety of TikTok, while Akron Children’s Hospital has a guide for curious parents. Akron Children’s also posted an infographic on Twitter with guidance on how to stay on top of social trends.
Be a credible source
Misinformation on TikTok can go just as viral as any challenge. Having medical professionals weigh in helps people find truth among the noise.
Children’s Minnesota sat down with the Minnesota-based TikTok doctor, Dr. Leslie (whose video you saw above), to record a podcast about what it takes to be a physician on TikTok.
Ochsner Health found the trending topic on TikTok about adding chlorophyll to water and decided to weigh in on their blog. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center did the same with a trending acne remedy.
OSU also showcases its expertise by partnering with news sources that cover a trending TikTok story.
Like any social media channel, TikTok can give you insight into the questions, concerns and topics your audience is talking about. Ultimately, this helps your team deliver the best communication, content and care possible.
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, it’s time 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.
- WriterGirl Marketing Coordinator Katie Snyder contributed to this post.
- This post was updated on October 20, 2021. It was originally posted in October 2020.