Digital 101: How, When and Why to Add a Digital Boost to Your Existing Rural Marketing Strategy

Jul. 12, 2021


By Carla Lee, Digital Marketing Strategist Legato Healthcare Marketing

When you hear the words, “digital platform,” do they make you cringe, call for IT support – or create new opportunities to build your brand and increase revenue?

Many of the rural healthcare leaders and marketing professionals the Legato team works with understand the importance of adding digital to their marketing mix. Yet most feel intimidated by a nontraditional approach to building relationships in the community.

Why? Mainly because they’re not sure which digital platforms to use, or when and how to use them.

The Facts

While healthcare as a whole has been late to the digital and social scene, progressive rural hospitals are now following the facts and leveraging the advantages of both. For example:

  • 77% of patients conduct an online search before making an appointment with a physician.[1]
  • 60% of organizations consider customer experience to be the number one way to stand out from the competition over the next three years.[2]
  • For patients who booked appointments, digital content is key to decision-making. Top resources patients tapped into include:
    • Hospital sites: 83%
    • Health information sites: 50%
    • Consumer-generated reviews: 26%[3]

Pick your platform(s)

Before you dive into digital, it’s important to look at all of your options and consider best practices for each platform. Here’s a brief review:

  • Social media: Facebook and LinkedIn are the more popular social media channels for healthcare.
    • Consistency: 2 to 3 posts a week
    • Timing: Tuesdays and Wednesdays are best.
  • Email: Use to humanize your organization, balancing information and entertainment:
    • Consistency: 2/month.
    • Timing: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays get the best open rates.
  • Websites & blogs: A great way to share information.
    • Post blogs and news updates frequently. Blogs are a great way to answer questions to commonly researched symptoms or procedures.
    • Use analytics to inform decisions, ensuring the information and blogs you share are relevant
  • Google business listing: Provides helpful information about your organization. 
    • Create or claim your organization’s listing(s).
    • Monitor listing for user generated content.
    • Always respond to reviews and inquiries, whether they are positive or negative. 
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Helps your organization show up in organic web searches.
    • Leverage on-page SEO: keywords, page titles, meta descriptions and copy to boost organic website traffic.
    • Have a linking strategy to and from the site. 
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC): Online advertising shares what your organization has to offer. 
    • Search campaigns reach healthcare consumers at their moment of need.
    • Display campaigns drive image awareness/message recall; video allows for visual messaging and increased frequency.
  • Target your messaging: Customizing and targeting messaging for service lines is as important as selecting the right channels to convey your message. Here are some best practices to follow:
    • Start with demographics, leveraging what you know about generational diversity (e.g., Boomers, Gen X).
    • Provide general information in addition to information specific to your organization: 7% of Google’s daily searches are health-related (not organization specific or driven). That’s 70,000 searches per minute![4]
    • Guide healthcare consumers through their patient journey – from a search for symptoms and providers – through the point of care and patient feedback channels.

Develop a dedicated digital plan that includes:

  • Organic strategy: Leverage current and future demand for high-value content and video
  • Paid (i.e., advertising) strategy: Utilize targeting (e.g., geographic, demographic, contextual, behavioral).
  • Combine efforts: Tying together these two strategies with the other aforementioned tactics (like choosing the right platform or SE0  work) to be consistent with messaging to reach your target audience.

Measure digital effectiveness

Keep in mind, you can’t manage - or make any kind of improvements - what you can’t measure. For example, Google Analytics allows you to track important metrics, like:


  • Page views: How many people are visiting your site. 
  • Bounce rate: Are visitors to your site leaving right away?
  • Pages per session: How deep do they go into your site?
  • Average session duration: How long do they stay on the site.

Ready to get started?

At Legato, we have the privilege of helping multiple rural hospitals take the first steps into digital. The increased brand recognition, loyalty, and growth in patient and procedure volumes has been significant – often with no increase to our clients’ existing budgets. If you're ready to boost your marketing strategy with digital, connect with a member of Legato’s digital team for your free digital marketing evaluation today! 

[1] Becker's 2019
[2] Digital Onboarding Report 2017
[3] Think With Google-Research Study-The Digital Journal to Wellness