TikTok and other social media sites have helped Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to target ‘harder to reach’ younger people and generate meaningful engagement with the local community, says its social media manager, Holly Felstead

Like lots of NHS trusts, our social media presence really took off during covid. Being the local face of the NHS, all eyes were on us as a reliable source of information, so we used this as an opportunity to reach out to more people in our community with social content.

While social media has been adopted by many NHS trusts, TikTok is still a fairly new platform for most. Some may have shied away from it due to its reputation as a ‘fun’, creative channel; it might not be perceived as aligning well with health-related content from NHS providers. Unlike local authorities and police forces, there are few NHS trusts using TikTok as a comms platform.

Injection of engagement

However, in the past few years our engagement on social media platforms has grown at a fast rate. We launched our first campaign on Facebook with 1,000 users. We now have around 19,000 users on our dedicated Facebook page, which had an injection of engagement at the beginning of 2020, during the pandemic. We also run social campaigns on X (formally Twitter), LinkedIn and Instagram. But TikTok is our most engaged social media platform. Since we adopted it over the past year, it’s been growing very quickly in comparison to any other channel.

We run awareness campaigns throughout the year on our different social platforms, particularly with positive staff stories being showcased across our socials. Recognition of our staff is very important to us, so we set up ‘Thank-you Thursday’ where we give a shout out to a member of staff on our social channels every week.

Over two years we’ve recognised a member of staff almost every Thursday and had such positive feedback and engagement as a result. It’s been an inclusive campaign for all our staff across many different teams and sites. Since its launch, we’ve reached 250,000 people and had over 600 comments and 5,000 likes across all the posts, primarily on Facebook and LinkedIn.

When you are working with five different social media channels you need everything in one place. To run our campaigns and monitor engagement we use Orlo’s social media management platform. From there we can schedule and manage our posts across all of our channels. It also comes with features like Social Listening and a centralised approval system so that other members of the comms team can create posts and submit them for review before they’re published. This is essential for us to ensure everything is going out with the right tone of voice and to the right platform.

Reflecting on our campaigns is a crucial part of understanding engagement and impact on our communities. From the platform we can analyse comments, likes and shares on different campaigns and view stats like our top ten posts, broken down by metric and channel, over a specific period of time. On TikTok we also look at saves, an important metric for us, as it shows us that people are interested and want to re-engage with us.

Reaching younger people

One of the reasons we joined TikTok was to target younger members of the community more effectively who’ve been harder to reach. Nearly 70 per cent of our audience on TikTok is aged between 17-34. Many people over the age of 30 are watching content and using it as a search platform but not necessarily posting on it.

Since last summer we’ve been running hugely successful campaigns on the TikTok platform.

We’ve worked closely with different departments in the trust on new TikTok campaigns, making sure we always align our content with our core objectives of patient engagement, educating the public and to drive recruitment. We produced a series of important and life-saving videos for TikTok on topics like ‘What to do if you have a diabetic hypo’, ‘Signs of Sepsis’ and ‘How to use an EpiPen’. For all these videos we had 1,100 saves, an important indication to us that people would come back to the video again. The Stroke video alone reached around 250,000 people and in total all the videos reached around 450,000 TikTok users. We’ll be continuing to introduce more TikTok campaigns to educate our community and have plans to involve more departments across the trust.

In social media it is hard to measure specific outcomes, but we had a lot of feedback and engagement on TikTok videos especially; people have thanked us for sharing them, asked us questions and individuals have then shared their own personal experiences. We were able to go back to the medical teams and share advice to people who reached out to us. Even if one of these videos can help just one person and save a life, it is worthwhile.

Social media is always changing, but with the right support and resources, TikTok especially can be a powerful platform to reach audiences both young and old to generate meaningful engagement and conversations for healthcare organisations.

Holly Felstead is social media manager at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust