Increase Health System Brand Awareness With YouTube (PART 1)

Is YouTube advertising part of your health system’s marketing strategy? If not, consider these three facts:

  • Video is the king of content: Our brains are designed to absorb and retain audiovisual information.
  • YouTube is the go-to video platform: It reaches more U.S. adults than all cable TV networks combined.
  • 55% of marketers currently use YouTube: That’s a sizeable share, but there’s plenty of room to stand out.

For healthcare systems trying to attract and retain new patients, YouTube ads can be a highly effective vehicle. With an intrinsically engaging medium, a huge reach, and easy-to-use targeting and tracking tools, the possibilities abound. But to optimize your ROI, you need a sound strategy from the start.

In this two-part blog series, we’ll look at how YouTube advertising can benefit healthcare systems, the different types of YouTube ads, and tips for creating content that informs, entertains, and converts.

How Healthcare Systems Can Leverage YouTube

YouTube is the second most visited website after Google, with billions of views every day from every corner of the world. It allows creators a high level of control when it comes to tailoring paid content to defined regions and interests. This combination of breadth and precision gives healthcare systems an unmatched opportunity to boost brand awareness, educate targeted demographics, and increase consumer base.

Targeting Your Ideal Audiences

Targeting can be tricky for healthcare systems – medical providers need to be very careful to adhere to current regulations, policies, and advertising platform parameters regarding demographic and geographic factors. But the beauty of YouTube is that its targeting tools can go beyond the standard criteria. Leveraging state-of-the-art AI technology, advertisers can zero in on specific age and lifestyles activities. Affinity segments like “running enthusiasts” can be used to build brand awareness. And in-market audiences actively researching “plantar fasciitis” can be pinpointed to drive engagements. Some use cases include:

  • A campaign to drive patients to a new sports medicine department uses affinity segments and keywords to target weekend athletes.
  • A new breast center creates custom audiences by layering keywords with recently visited websites.

Being There for Life’s Moments

On Google, your prospects might be searching for “best oncology practice” but on YouTube, they’re much more likely to be searching for things like “treatment options and survival rates for breast cancer.” That calls for a more nuanced approach to keyword research, but it means you have the opportunity to more naturally reach prospects at significant decision points. Consider these case studies:

  • A health system targets users searching for pediatric care with ads for open appointments in July for back-to-school physicals.
  • A rheumatologist delivers ads for an effective arthritis treatment to users who visit the AARP website frequently.

Retargeting Your Prospects

YouTube’s campaign controls also enable you to remarket to people who have interacted with your brand in some way but haven’t made a commitment. You can customize the content that they see based on what actions they’ve already taken and what your desired outcome is. We’ve implemented many creative retargeting campaigns that draw from a range of data sources, like:

  • A healthcare system targets previews of new diabetes informational videos to users who have viewed, liked, saved, or shared previous diabetes videos.
  • A healthcare provider delivers a “How Can We Help?” message to people who have abandoned a provider search without making an appointment.

Celebrating Community Connections

People are drawn to engage and connect with other people, which is what makes social proof such an important element in healthcare marketing. Prospective patients are also more likely to trust someone they can relate to rather than an institution. With so many dynamic elements to employ – including dialogue, music, animated graphics, still images, and live footage – video is an ideal medium to tell compelling human stories that convey your organization’s relationships and values. For instance:

  • A patient testimonial (with proper patient signoff) that praises the postoperative care that led to a speedy recovery.
  • The story of a patient’s impossible cancer journey that bonded them with the infusion room staff.
  • A family member credits a provider’s swift and accurate diagnosis with saving their loved one’s life.

Measuring, Learning, Improving

Perhaps YouTube’s most distinctive attribute that sets it apart from traditional channels like TV is the ability to track each element’s performance in real time and nimbly adjust as needed. The site’s robust measurement tools let you see engagement levels, audience demographics, and performance compared to similar ads. Then, you can double down on what’s working and nix what isn’t:

  • A health system regularly runs A/B tests for awareness campaigns with different visuals and reallocates on the fly.
  • A series of animated videos and live action videos about orthopedic treatments is measured for results over time to understand the style that performs best.

Controlling Costs

Last but not least, there’s the question of money. You might know John Wanamaker’s quip: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” With YouTube, that’s less of an issue. Not only can you measure and optimize your individual campaign elements as noted above, but you can also define your own budget and bid preferences:

  • A diabetes awareness campaign is created for the “cost-per-view” strategy, in which payment is made only when a user watches at least 30 seconds of the video or engages with the ad.
  • A bariatric surgery campaign uses the “maximize conversions” strategy, which uses machine learning to target users most likely to convert with a set daily budget.

A Word About HIPAA

The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to YouTube videos. Be sure you have a solid HIPAA social media policy in place before you start creating YouTube videos. HIPAA prohibits the disclosure of ePHI on social media networks like YouTube without the express consent of patients. This includes any text about specific patients as well as images or videos that could result in a patient being identified. Before you create a video, be sure the script or storyboard is reviewed by your legal or compliance department.


In Part 2 of this blog series, we’ll cover the various types of YouTube ads you can choose from and some actionable tips for creating a successful YouTube campaign.

When you work with LIGHTSTREAM, you’ve got a dedicated marketing team with a deep understanding of healthcare systems. We’ve helped healthcare brands all across the country to connect meaningfully with their target audiences. Wondering what we could create together? Get in touch today.