Hospital Marketers Should Learn From Retailers: Holidays are Social (Media)

Over half of national retail advertisers embraced social media as part of their media mix for the 2009 holidays.

Just two years ago, only 4% of national retail advertisers utilized social media in their marketing strategies.  But in 2009 more than half  embraced social media.   According to a survey by BDO Seidman, of those retailers using social media, 76% are focusing on Facebook, 50% on Twitter, 14% on MySpace and 14% on YouTube.

Natalie Zmuda and Kunur Patel wrote in the December 7th issue of Advertising Age that Facebook was the second most visited site in the US on Black Friday.  And on that day “4.3% of Facebook users and 2.3% Twitter users visited the website of a top 500 retailer immediately after perusing the social-network site.”

Some of the retailers Zmuda and Patel cited as successfully using social network sites were Best Buy, ebay, JC Penney, Toy ‘R ‘Us and Wal-Mart.  These retailers used a combination of giveaways, support for traditional advertising, customer service, charitable donations and promotion of online specials.  Amazon, Abercrombie and Fitch, Kohl’s, Old Navy and Target were listed as retailers who did not do such a great job utilizing social media.  Their various sins were lack of coordination with traditional media, lack of holiday specials, unanswered consumer complaints and unchecked pages.

This gives a microcosm of how extensive social media is used both successfully and poorly by retailers.  Lessons are abundant for healthcare marketers:

 

  • Social media is a viable option and should be included in a hospital’s marketing strategy.   As can be seen by the dramatic growth in the use of social media, retailers are way ahead in recognizing the value and importance of social networking.
  • When done right, social media can be very effective.  It can create and enhance relationships with consumers.  It can create an ongoing conversation with consumers. 
  • When done poorly, social media can damage a brand.  When a brand isn’t active and engaged and doesn’t respond to consumer comments it sends a message that it’s not consumer-focused.

Social media is growing.  Brands are recognizing the value and benefits of engaging in social media.  Hospital marketers can learn valuable lessons.  Retailers have taught us that indeed the holidays are very social.   

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