How TikTok Can Be Used for Healthcare Marketers

The social media landscape has changed irrevocably, and it’s all thanks to the now-gargantuan platform TikTok. But should you use TikTok in your marketing strategy, especially since it seems to be tailored toward younger users? 

Absolutely. Today, let’s explore the user demographics of TikTok, how TikTok can be used for healthcare marketing and awareness, and more.

An overview of TikTok and its users

A quick recap: TikTok is a short-form video-sharing app that allows users to create and share videos that range in length from three seconds to three minutes long on any topic. The average TikTok video in 2023 was 34 seconds. In the past few years, they’ve also scaled to include a more dedicated effort for paid advertising. 

The simplicity and ease of sharing short-form videos on the platform has resulted in competitors releasing similar content types, like Instagram Reels, in order to remain relevant – especially across Millennial and Gen Z audiences. TikTok’s algorithm plays a crucial role in curating this engaging content for users, prioritizing what they see based on their interests and behaviors. 

TikTok initially launched in the U.S. in late 2018 and has continued to increase in popularity year after year, capturing a large share of the percentage of U.S. adult time spent on a social media platform. 

According to Statista, worldwide TikTok users should reach approximately 900 million by the end of 2024. They might even surpass 1 billion by the end of 2025! Perhaps more importantly, the average time spent on TikTok has increased year-over-year, capping at 55.8 minutes per session by the end of 2023. 

A bar chart of TikTok‘s number of active users worldwide from 2020-2025.

It’s clear that TikTok is a major disruptor in the digital landscape. In addition to pulling consumers away from other social platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat, it also has been pulling searches away from the top two search engines, Google and YouTube! 

Nearly half of Gen Z is using TikTok and Instagram for search instead of Google, according to a survey from Search Engine Land. Why? Simply put, users believe TikTok presents relatable and personalized answers (the fact that searched-for information appears in video format doesn’t hurt, either). 

Infographic of why Google’s users use TikTok as a source of discovering something new, learning something new, and inspiration.

With women still overseeing or directing many families’ healthcare concerns and appointments today, Gen Z women’s professed preference for TikTok over Google (from that same Search Engine Land survey) will have a significant impact on the healthcare industry and its marketing efforts. 

So, where is healthcare’s place on TikTok’s platform?  

There has been an emphasis on education, awareness, and learning on the TikTok platform since the onset of the pandemic. This has largely been supported by the #LearnOnTikTok initiative – educational how-tos, tutorials, fun facts, and informative video snippets are popular amongst Gen Z and younger Millennials.  

TikTok’s health-and-wellness credibility has been bolstered by providers posting organically on the app to expand public health messages, spread awareness on timely topics, and teach younger audiences about specific conditions or initiatives.  

As more people aged 18-34 continue to adopt TikTok as an educational and informational platform, there is an opportunity to use it as a way to communicate preventative care, general wellness, and other critical topics. 

Put another way, TikTok is already being used for healthcare awareness, information, and searching. It’s no longer important to ask whether your healthcare brand should leverage this platform; it’s time to ask how. 

Survey of U.S teens who say they use a specific set of apps or sites such as YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and more.

TikTok’s audience tends to skew younger than other social media channels, with 45% of the audience under the age of 25. For comparison, only 16% of Facebook’s audience is currently 25 or younger. The stats are even lower for teenagers. Pew Research found that only 32% of 13-to-17-year-olds use Facebook at all. 

Facebook and Instagram, which recently maintained control over most adults aged 18-34, have both seen usage drop compared to TikTok. Statista, for example, indicates that only about 61% of Instagram users are in this vital age group. This audience is critical for introduction into healthcare systems through primary care, which is often an entry point into the system that then extends into more specialty service lines. 

As Gen Z ages, it will be critical to continue to reach them within the TikTok platform because it captures a large percentage of the U.S. population that is not active on another platform. These are emerging healthcare decision-makers – for themselves, children, and potentially parents in the coming years – so ensuring they have an understanding of a healthcare system and what it has to offer is critical long-term. 

Furthermore, it’s imperative to provide personalized content to searchers for medical brands or healthcare providers. These days, people want services and suggestions tailored to their needs, particularly when it comes to telemedicine. With TikTok, your brand or office has the potential to directly reach out to new patients, provide them with immediate advice or value, and showcase your office, your personnel, or other elements of your service. 

The bottom line: With video allowing for the strongest brand recognition and unaided recall across digital formats, TikTok is positioned to be a strong platform for awareness-based campaigns targeting Gen Z and Millennials. 

Should healthcare marketers shift entirely to TikTok?

While the core audience of adults 25+ is more active on alternative platforms like Facebook and Instagram with more stringent brand safety, there is still a place for TikTok at the table. We don’t recommend a wholesale shift in the overall paid social strategy that specifically prioritizes TikTok over other platforms. Still, we do recommend beginning to form an organic and paid strategy for TikTok soon. 

We suggest testing two ad formats, TopView or In-Feed Ads, layering on both Zefr brand safety and audience segments for Interests and Behaviors aligned with your intended audience as a starting point into the paid side of the platform. From an organic perspective, content will likely perform best if it is tailored to the TikTok platform and refreshed weekly. 

What about brand safety on TikTok?

Brand safety is a concern for any healthcare system or brand. Late last year, TikTok announced new features and partnerships in hopes of continuing to attract more advertisers to the app, including some of the more highly regulated industries, such as healthcare. 

TikTok took the following steps to help support advertisers looking to place ads in their space: 

  • Added Viewability Partners 
    • TikTok focused on partnering with DoubleVerify and MOAT to help verify viewability. This addition is to help answer the critical question: Do my ads have a chance to be seen by real people? 
  • TikTok Inventory Filter 
    • The TikTok Inventory Filter is built on machine-learning technology that classifies video, text, audio, and other attributes based on the perceived level of risk. This allows advertisers to make decisions about which kind of inventory they’d like to run adjacent to, allowing for more protection of brand guidelines and preservation of brand reputation. 
  • Added Brand Suitability Partners 
    • TikTok is now partnering with Integral Ad Science (IAS) and Zefr. They hope that by working with these brands, campaigns will run adjacent to verified content. Additionally, TikTok has partnered with OpenSlate since 2020, which gives TikTok the tools it needs to keep the platform a safe place for brand partners. 

Wrap up

TikTok can be a powerful awareness driver with short-form (15 seconds or less) educational content promoting preventative wellness, fun facts, tips, and tricks for parents with children, etc. Because of the strong presence of users 18-34 on the app regularly consuming content, it will help reach key decision-makers in the household that may enter through Primary Care or Pediatrics and then extend over time into other service lines within the system. TikTok is projected to have almost 900 million users across all demos by the end of 2024, surpassing Snapchat and Pinterest, and there is growth across all demographics. 

Want to give TikTok marketing a try? We’re happy to connect to discuss your options further. 

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