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The Biology and Psychology of Online Patient Persuasion

In the digital world of social media, compliments come in the form of likes, comments and shares. Whether users are on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, they are constantly engaging online. Now more than ever, businesses are using social media to push content, promote products or services and persuade consumers. In fact, according to SproutSocial, “After following a brand on social media, consumers continue to engage in various ways. Ninety-one percent visit the brand’s website or app, 89% will buy from the brand and 85% will recommend the brand to a family or friend.” So, what causes consumers to click that comment or share button, leading them down the funnel towards purchase action and loyalty? The answer to this very prevalent question is the biology and psychology of social media.

What Is the Biology of Social Media?

I know us marketers like to stay away from terms like biology, however, let’s take a trip down memory lane to your high school biology class just this once. It’s important for us to understand the science behind why our consumers are so quick to spend so much time scrolling through their social media platforms. There are two chemicals our brains produce when we are on social media which play a major role in why consumers continue coming back for more.

  • Dopamine is a chemical that people produce that influences their mood and feelings. According to Buffer.com, Dopamine causes us to “seek, desire, and search”, and is stimulated by “unpredictability, by small bits of information, and by reward cues—pretty much the exact conditions of social media.” For example, every time a consumer sees a scary fact about what not taking care of themselves can do to their overall health, they will be intrigued to learn more and keep listening to the physician videos on your Facebook page.
  • Oxytocin is a chemical that is released when you are kissed or hugged. It tends to make you feel happier, loved and less-stressed. By receiving a like or a positive comment on a social media post, consumers release oxytocin and automatically get an increased feel of positive emotions.

What Is the Psychology of Social Media?

Understanding the “why” that drives our consumer behaviors on social media is another important thing to note for a marketer. People post and engage on social media because they are motivated by something. In healthcare, our online audience may feel persuaded to read about, learn about and share about health-related topics. Here are a couple of psychological reasons our online consumers are persuaded to engaging with your facility:

  • They resonate with the content that is being posted. Whether it’s a patient testimonial video or a Facebook review, everyone has been impacted by a hospital before. They’ve either personally had an experience or have a loved one who has. When consumers connect with the content you post, they are more likely to engage and take the next step towards choosing your hospital for care.
  • They fear getting sick and having to come to a hospital. In healthcare, a large amount of our online content consists of health observance tips, health-related topics and awareness reminders for different checkups, such as mammograms or colonoscopies. When our existing patients or online consumers see a post about what can happen if you don’t treat a certain illness, they are persuaded to take that next step and make an appointment.

As healthcare marketers, we are selling a service that most people don’t want to buy. However, it is a service that is needed by all. Understanding the biological and psychological elements that influence your audience’s behaviors is essential in knowing what type of content to include in your social media marketing plan.

Did you enjoy this post? Learn more about three methods all healthcare marketers can use to study consumer behavior on my last post.

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