Healthcare Marketing For Seniors Goes… Mobile!?

As part of a new series of original content, we welcome this post, written by Candice Rotter, Associate Media Director and our Healthcare Marketing expert.
We handle a large amount of healthcare marketing here at True Media. When working with healthcare providers, one of the most frequent questions I hear is: “My target is older; are they even online?”
The answer to this question is YES. And that’s an emphatic “yes,” because they’re not only online, they’re using digital media at rates that shatter our previous conceptions of the demographic.
The way everyone spends their time with media has shifted dramatically in the past few years. According to eMarketer, time spent within digital media has increased 18% since 2010 for all Americans over 18 (fig 1). What’s even more surprising is the percentage of that growth attributed to seniors. In a second graphic, we can see that seniors are not only online, but the hours they spend with digital media are close behind the hours spent by younger, traditionally media-savvy demographic groups (fig 2).

Time Spent on Major Media by Adults, 2010-2014

Fig 1, courtesy of

Average Monthly Time Spent Online by US Internet Users, by Age and Platform

Fig 2, courtesy of

American adults are spending twelve hours a day with some form of media. TWELVE hours! The real game changer for healthcare marketing is realizing that of that media usage, not only are seniors accessing a large portion of that media via digital sources, but almost half of that digital usage is on a mobile platform.
A few years ago, the primary ways we targeted older audiences was via the evening news, The Andy Griffith Show (which, by the way, still pulls a 12 rating in Florida,) and newspaper. Now that audience has changed; they are playing mobile games, posting pictures on Instagram, and pinning wedding ideas on Pinterest for their nieces and nephews. These people are now watching television, reading a book on their iPad, and shopping for a new pair of boots on their phone, all at the same time.
So, this brings us back to the original point. Older audiences are clearly a part of this digital savvy world, but are they looking online for healthcare information? Again, the answer is YES (fig 3). 43% of 65+ internet users have looked online for a specific disease or medical problem, while 36% have looked up a certain medical treatment of procedure. And not only are they performing searches to get this information, they’re using social networks to get the information they need (fig 4). Year-over-year growth in social networking is the greatest among people 55+, and the percentage of older Americans using popular platforms such as YouTube continues to increase. In fact, in one of our recent promoted YouTube campaigns for Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), Google TrueView saw our highest view rates coming from Adults 65+!
Types of Health Information that US Internet Users Have Looked for Online, by Demographic

Fig 3, courtesy of

Year-Over-Year Growth in Social Networks Greatest Among People Age 55 and Older

Fig 4, courtesy of Arbitron

We need to be looking forward as we address meeting seniors in the marketplace. Soon, it will no longer be valid to pour our resources into traditional media, or even desktop internet usage. The future of the American Senior is on the Smartphone. This target no longer simply spends time online, they spend more time in mobile than they do on desktop. Smartphones are quickly becoming the key piece of technology linking seniors to the services they need. As the penetration of smartphones is expected to double for seniors 55-64 by 2018 (fig 5,) we need to be prepared for a world in which reaching seniors means targeting on-trend media. Now, they’re mastering YouTube- before long, they will be adapting to the six second video with Vine.
US Smartphone User Penetration, by Age 2012-2018

Fig 5, courtesy of

The journey of healthcare is changing every day. With the ability to research and find out information about symptoms or diseases prior to visiting a doctor, the marketing landscape changes immensely. It’s important that your brand has a voice in all segments of the market, in order to influence older Americans in the research phase of the consumer decision journey. Advertising through paid search, video, mobile, display, and social media are all keys to crafting the conversation about what you offer, what sets you apart, what makes you human, and what you can do for your patient.
Ultimately, when you’re creating your marketing strategy, digital can’t be ignored. Everyone is using digital media, and cross-platform delivery, at that. Gone are the days of grandparents glued to Matlock and getting their information from the evening news. This is an age in which the technology gap is closing, and youthful habits are lasting longer into adulthood. Believe it or not, Grandma is quite trendy. It’s important that your strategies are, too.