Medico Digital Insights

How TikTok Has Transformed (And Improved) Healthcare and Pharma Marketing

Compliance | Healthcare marketing | Medical Communications | Social media

Read time

9 min


19th September 2023


Written by Jack Carey



While TikTok may be seen as a place for trending challenges and cute animal videos, in the world of healthcare marketing, it’s anything but. 

In recent times, TikTok has completely transformed the face of healthcare and pharma marketing as we know it, allowing more and more medical professionals to reach new audiences, boost brand authority and increase awareness. 

But how have they been doing it? 

Join us as we run through some of the main ways TikTok has changed the world of marketing and highlight what you need to do to create engaging content that converts.

Why TikTok? 

In today’s digital age, healthcare marketing has evolved to focus on delivering a patient-centred, digitally driven and data-informed approach. And that’s why TikTok has thrived. 

TikTok now represents a place where HCPs can inspire other people by simply being themselves, offering increased numbers of engagement opportunities to businesses, unlike any other form of social media. 

Whether it be through sharing product tutorials, challenges, reviews or joining in with certain challenges, TikTok is a unique marketing channel where authenticity is something to be celebrated, rather than shied away from. 

It’s not just Gen Z

While many people assume TikTok is only used by Gen Z and pre-teens, this isn’t the case. 

While these may be two of its biggest audiences, the app also attracts a huge number of celebrities, influencers and other high-profile figures, including well-known healthcare professionals. 

Over recent years, thousands of doctors, dentists, nurses and other medical professionals have flocked to the app, creating tailored content for a variety of unique – yet incredibly important – reasons. 

Whether it be Dr Karan Rajan (@dr.karanr) educating viewers through his medically accurate myth-busting content, Dr Anthony Youn (@doctoryoun) sharing his expert insight on various plastic surgery procedures, or Dr Emeka (@doctor.emeka) spreading awareness on the Black Lives Matter movement, TikTok is so much more than just a social media app. It’s a community. 


Influencers in the wild

♬ original sound – Dr Karan Raj
@doctoryoun Acne issues? Try Murad’s Rapid Relief Acne Sulfur Mask today! @Murad Skincare #muradskincare #murad #muradpartner #skincare ♬ original sound – Doctor Youn
@doctor.emeka #blacklivesmatter #notoracism #fyp #viral #foryoupage #important #message #video ♬ Childish Gambino – This Is America / Post Malone – Congratulations – carneyval

Search engine > social media

While TikTok may offer a great way to help boost rankings on Google, research shows that the app is now being used in a similar way to Google itself, as a more visual form of search engine.  

According to a recent survey, for example, nearly 40% of Generation Z — the primary demographic of TikTok’s 700 million active monthly users — prefer using TikTok to search for information over Google, with 35% using the platform to either follow or research specific brands. 

TikTok also has the highest engagement rate when compared to other popular social media platforms and, in the US alone, consumers currently spend 12.4 hours per week using it – more than double that of YouTube and almost triple that of Instagram. 

Source: eMarketer

As a marketer, these are all important metrics to dig into. 

Rather than using corporate, pushy marketing strategies to drive conversions, TikTok now enables healthcare and pharma marketers to reach consumers using empathy, a sense of humour and accessibility that other social media platforms simply can’t offer in the same way. 

It’s no surprise then that 75% of healthcare marketers are now planning on boosting their total ad spending on the platform moving forward, developing unique strategies that resonate with a more digitally-driven demographic and centre around this new method of search.  

The rise of patient influencers

TikTok isn’t just a great tool for healthcare professionals to use. It also provides patients with a way to share their own stories in a completely transparent way. 

Influencers like Eleri Reece Jones (@elerireecejones), for example, have used the platform to provide real-life insights into her cancer diagnosis, educating thousands of people on what they can expect during the patient journey.    

@elerireecejones Hugs and love #hodgkinslymphoma ♬ Pieces (Solo Piano Version) – Danilo Stankovic

By sharing her story in this way, hundreds of other cancer patients have since come forward to share theirs, creating a community of care and support — a safe space for people to seek reassurance and guidance when facing their own healthcare challenges.

In doing so, this has naturally provided users with a more authentic, ‘behind-the-scenes’ insight into certain health-related issues, helping cut through the noise and enabling consumers to source information and ask questions in a way that other platforms can’t provide. 

Tailored content is king 

TikTok is different from other types of marketing platforms for one key reason: its algorithm. 

The algorithm that TikTok uses allows consumers to see content that’s predominantly centred around their own individual needs and interests. 

As such, the experience each user has while using the app is a lot more tailored than they’d experience on other platforms. This then enables content creators to produce videos that are relevant, engaging and, most importantly, highly effective. 

When it comes to driving brand awareness, this is particularly valuable as it reduces the need to rely on building a social following in the same way as platforms like Instagram or Facebook. 

Instead, marketing through TikTok allows more of a spotlight to be put on the content itself, tapping into the actual wants and needs of target consumers. This, in turn, can offer a variety of benefits to healthcare marketers: 

  • It builds long-lasting relationships – regularly posting valuable content on TikTok attracts followers to your brand, helping you build a community to then engage with, answer questions and even use for future content ideas. 
  • It inspires people – TikTok allows people to be themselves, encouraging people to share their unique perspectives and engage in a way they might not be able to on other social media platforms.
  • It turns brands into influencers – using TikTok allows healthcare brands and professionals to become influencers themselves, sharing useful guidance and information that steers away from the spread of ‘fake news’ over recent years. 
  • It enables creative opportunities – rather than using formulaic ads or content, TikTok makes learning fun, enabling marketers to educate audiences and spread awareness in creative, funny and memorable ways.
  • It is topical and relevant – TikTok creates opportunities for marketers to develop content that is topical and on-trend, allowing providers to add a bit of personality and show consumers that they are human too.   

But what about compliance?

Compliance is a top priority for any social media campaign, especially for pharma brands promoting prescription-only medicines. Many brands may steer clear of TikTok due to compliance concerns, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) provides clear guidance on the use of social media by health and pharma companies, helping them comply with the ABPI Code of Practice. What’s feasible and compliant will vary depending on the organization and product (e.g. a prescription-only medicine vs. medical device vs. consumer health product), but TikTok remains a viable channel for most organisations; whether for product information, brand building, or disease awareness and market priming campaigns.

Using TikTok for your pharma or healthcare brand

Good marketing is all about moving with the times and the rise of TikTok in healthcare exemplifies this perfectly. 

Put simply, failing to embrace the opportunities that TikTok now provides will only leave you playing catch-up, losing out on a huge market of untapped potential. It can’t be ignored.

With this in mind, here are four effective ways to incorporate the platform into your future marketing strategies. 

  1. Embrace influencers

TikTok influencers can take brand awareness to a whole new level and allow you to use their already strong social media following to your advantage. 

If a consumer follows a certain influencer, they are much more likely to trust and value their opinion. Therefore, if that influencer is then shown to vouch for you, your product or your brand, this will naturally drive further awareness and interest. 

Using an influencer as part of your marketing strategy will also allow you to capitalise on viral trends, keeping your brand relevant and sparking new engagement opportunities. 

It could even allow you to start your own viral trends. 

Content like ‘The 75 Hard Challenge’, for instance, has helped spread health awareness over the years, subtly encouraging consumers to prioritise their well-being in a slightly more unconventional marketing method. 

@simonerampf_fitness Replying to @Sandy..Amr #75hard #75hardchallenge #75hardjourney #75hardprogress #womensfitnessmotivation ♬ Euro$tep – West

Here at Medico Digital, we’ve witnessed the strength of influencer marketing numerous times, having created powerful campaigns for several previous clients. This needs to be done carefully of course, to comply with the PMCPA guidelines, but when done right it can have fantastic results.

Working with an influencer on behalf of Bristol Aesthetics, for instance, our campaign resulted in a 370% increase in web traffic and an 8,800% increase in social media-based enquiries in just three months. 

  1. Craft original and tailored content 

Recycling ideas and content from your competitors simply won’t cut it on TikTok. The platform thrives from creativity and authenticity. So, the more genuine you come across, the more likely you will be to succeed. 

Therefore, a good healthcare marketing strategy should focus on developing bespoke content that aligns with TikTok’s concise format. 

Short, visually engaging videos are the best play and can be highly effective across all avenues of healthcare — whether that be debunking health myths, demystifying medical procedures, sharing patient success stories or creating short explainer videos. 

The content you produce should ideally tell a story that’s medically accurate, immediately grabs someone’s attention and leaves them wanting more. While it can be a tricky art to perfect, the rewards are well worth it if and when you do. 

  1. Establish a niche 

With so many content creators on TikTok, standing out from the crowd can be easier said than done. Therefore, it’s important to find a niche. 

Whether you’re trying to promote a brand, clinic or product, it’s important to establish yourself as a go-to source for a specific topic. 

Say, for instance, you are trying to promote a fertility practice. Sharing content that educates consumers on the patient journey and has genuine real-life relevance will help you build trust and loyalty a lot more easily. 

Over time, this will help build your authority, eventually shaping you as one of the gold-standard sources for fertility-related information.

  1. Embrace paid-for advertising opportunities 

In the same way as Facebook and Instagram, TikTok offers a number of paid-for opportunities that can amplify your reach. 

Using avenues like in-feed ads or branded hashtag challenges can not only maximise your visibility but also guarantee your content is being placed and seen by the right people. 

By targeting your audience in this way, you will help create a community of interested consumers that you can then lean on for future creative ideas and opportunities. 

Healthcare and pharma marketing on TikTok: trust in Medico Digital

If there’s one thing you take away from this article, make sure it’s this: TikTok is becoming a powerhouse in the world of healthcare marketing. So it’s important to be ready for the changes and challenges that this will inevitably bring with it. 

Here at Medico Digital, we can use our extensive experience to help you develop an effective and compliant TikTok strategy; creating informative, engaging content and leveraging the power of this growing platform to foster more meaningful connections with your target audience. 

Simply contact us today to get started, or check out some more of our recent case studies to see what we can do. 

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