Healthcare Marketing: Mistakes Can Speed Thru Social Media at Warp Speed

But mistakes handled correctly can lead to stronger consumer relationships.  

There have been some pretty notorious mistakes that have raced across social media networks.   BP’s response to the gulf oil spill dug a hole that they are still trying to crawl out of.  Response in social media caused Gap to go back to its original logo within days of announcing a new logo.   And one of the latest was Kenneth Cole’s twitter that the real cause of Egypt’s uproar was due to the announcement of Kenneth Cole’s new spring collection.  The tweet was deemed insensitive, inappropriate and self-serving.

The latest snafu prompted Rupal Parekh in Ad Age to outline the “Seven Stages Of Committing A Social Media Sin”.  And she indicated how quickly the stages occur within social space.  Here are the seven stages she outlines:

1.     Gaffe – some brand makes a critical mistake.

2.     Outrage – public anger is expressed via the internet.

3.     Apology – the brand realizes their actions are perceived very negatively and offers an apology.

4.     Parody – unflattering imitations appear.

5.     Humor – consumers go from criticizing the actions to making fun.

6.     Indifference – nobody seems to care anymore.

7.     Repeat – some other brand makes another snafu and moves to center stage of social networks.

One of the amazing things about this outline is that with the Kenneth Cole incident – it sped through all the stages within just 7 hours.  A very short cycle.

The other amazing thing is that at the end of the cycle, the brand had 10% more followers than when the gaffe occurred.

So what can healthcare marketers learn?  First of all mistakes happen.  And sometimes they blindside you.  Consumers sometimes react in very surprising and unexpected ways.  But the most important thing to remember is quick, sincere, authentic responses is usually well received and will lead to dissipating the issue.

Healthcare marketers are not very likely to commit social media sins that will reach the magnitude of negative responses directed toward national brands.  But the lessons learned still apply.  Any gaffe that is addressed in social media, even if in limited local circles, can cause much concern and fear.  But just as we have learned from national brands, timely, honest and transparent responses will reap positive results. In fact, they may provide the opportunity to improve our brand and build even stronger consumer relationships.


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