Millennials are a different breed. They’re constantly plugged in to the internet—whether it’s through their laptops, smartphones, smart watches, television, video game consoles, or toasters.

Okay, that last one was a joke, but we’re not exactly far off from that kind of Brave New World.

Digital innovations (particularly social media and mobile technology) are powerful tools that we ought to embrace rather than fear—especially when it comes to healthcare marketing. Social media marketing improves your healthcare brand’s accessibility for younger consumers. Traditional forms of advertising (radio, TV, magazine ads) are designed with a baby boomer audience in mind, and they’re more effective for a generation that didn’t grow up in the age of high speed Wi-Fi. Millennials are generally less receptive to these types of ads, but social media tends to influence them to a larger degree.

According to the Center for Marketing Research at UMass Dartmouth, millennials have a worldwide collective purchasing power of about $2.45 trillion and they make up almost one third of the U.S. population (29%). It’s no wonder they’re considered the most coveted demographic for healthcare marketing. But how can your healthcare brand better engage these individuals? The key is to focus a significant portion of your marketing on social media.

Many brands make the mistake of treating social media as a way to get the word out about their company, but they fail to engage in any meaningful dialogue with their followers. The most successful healthcare providers incorporate these three steps into their social media marketing strategy:

1. They monitor what consumers are writing about their brand online, whether through Yelp, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere.

2. They respond to reviews online, retweet followers’ tweets on a regular basis, and reply to comments and direct messages.

3. They use this feedback to improve their services.

Unique content creation is an essential piece of any respectable social media campaign, but authenticity is what separates a good campaign from a great one. When Domino’s owned up to their subpar pizza quality and redesigned their advertising to recognize the fact that their customers disliked their old recipe (to put it nicely), sales rose dramatically. Regardless of your industry, it’s important to keep things real in your social media campaign. Millennials want to feel like they’re connecting with humans… not a corporation. Connecting with consumers in an authentic way also inspires loyalty, with 62% of millennials claiming that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they’re more likely to become a loyal customer.

In addition to authentic content creation, quality content curation plays a pivotal role in social media marketing. Successful healthcare organizations encourage user created content (UCG) whenever possible, and allow consumers to personally connect with their brand. A healthcare provider could try to persuade a young adult to purchase health insurance, but a Reddit post from a 20 year-old who underwent an appendectomy (a procedure which cost $50,000 but was lowered to $11,000 with insurance) sends a much more convincing message to the consumer. A company that has its pulse on the social media conversation can incorporate pieces like the Reddit post into its marketing strategy.

It’s about time that more healthcare organizations take digital media seriously. The healthcare industry tends to lag behind other sectors when it comes to technology adoption, and only one third of hospitals have full time employees dedicated to social media marketing. For many healthcare providers, creating an entire social media marketing department simply isn’t an option. Sometimes it just makes sense to hire a marketing agency that specializes in social media to handle the job. The payoff of having a solid social media campaign is undeniable.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Social media should be an integral part of any healthcare marketing campaign, especially if millennials are the target demographic.

How would you rate your company’s social media marketing?