Healthcare Marketing: Real Time Responses Can Lead to Bad Times

Rather than reacting in “real time” in social media, responses should be carefully and strategically planned.

There is a lot of talk these days about “real time” media.  With social media, brands have the ability to respond and react almost immediately.  In “real time” as it’s referred to.  And many pundits claim this as an advantage of social media.  But is that really the smartest thing for our healthcare brands?

Leigh Dow, founder and managing director of Dow Media Group writing for Smart Blog on Social Media questioned the wisdom of real time responses.  She gave two examples of real time responses that were not so good:

  • Micky Arison, owner of the Miami Heat, was fined $500,000 after using Twitter as a sounding board about what he thought about the NBA lockout.
  • Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce created a media firestorm when he implied victims of the Aurora, Colorado shooting held some blame by not being armed.

These are examples, and there are many others, why social media should not be used for random stream of consciousness.  This is true personally but it’s also true for our brands.  Brands invest a tremendous amount of time, effort and money in building brand reputation and equity.  But when discipline and planning is not used in social media, a brand can be decimated as quickly as you can press, “Send.” 

“If you are doing social media right, little of your communication is in real time,” states Dow.  “Your communication should be the culmination of careful strategy and planning.  If you are doing it right, you have completed an extensive exercise in developing a social media strategy, channel mapping, implementation plans, an editorial calendar, roles and responsibilities, policies and guidelines, and a scorecard for tracking results.  That doesn’t fell very real time to me.”

Some had lauded social media as a great tool when your brand has a crisis.  And yes it can be very useful but it shouldn’t negate the need for a very careful and measured response.  That means making sure you have all the facts and you understand the situation and then deliberately considering how your brand should respond.

Dow gives JetBlue as an example of a brand that did it well.   When one of its flight attendants had a mental breakdown and, as a result cursed a passenger and quit his job very dramatically, social media networks were a buzz.  Instead of feeling the need to respond in “real time”, JetBlue had a more measured and calculated response.  Shortly after the incident the airline updated Twitter and it’s blog by stating that it was aware of what had happened and was working to verify details and would report only what it knew was accurate.  The company continued frequent updates as they learned the facts and carefully planned a response.  As brand protectors our requirement is not to give an immediate responses but to be accurate and responsible.

She gives examples when it’s appropriate to use social media in real time:

  • Monitoring what people are saying about your brand
  • Racking what people are saying about your competition
  • Helping a customer with a customer service question

We have all written emails, letters, notes or memos as an immediate response to a situation but after letting it sit for a bit, returned to it and decided that was not the way we wanted to communicate.  After having a chance to reflect a bit, we decided the words or tone were not what we wanted.  Social media is the same.  Sometimes in an effort to be in “real time” we can create situations that are not so good for our brand.  Because every post, response, or tweet has legs and can never be retrieved.  Careful thought and preparation should go into every social media response.

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