Hospital Marketing: Politics Teaches Valuable Lessons about Social Media

 A “like”, “follow” or “re-tweet” is not necessarily a brand endorsement.  

As healthcare marketers begin to experiment and utilize social media, questions arise about how to measure its effectiveness.   Some would argue that a “likes” and  “followers” are an indication of brand endorsement.   Well politics may be teaching us that’s not necessarily true.

Micah Sifry reporting for CNN,  examines the impact of social media on the current GOP presidential campaign.  What he discovered is there really is no valid correlation between twitter buzz and Facebook followers to a candidate’s success at the polls.

There is a lot of monitoring of each of the candidate’s social media activity.  It is natural to assume a growth in the number of followers and a high occurrence of re-tweets are both indicative of support and success.  But actually, the actual votes at the polls show that social media activity appears to be more an indication of notoriety and celebrity.

Herman Cain had a great following on Facebook and created a tremendous amount of social network activity (although admittedly some of it was negative) but he is no longer in the race.  Newt Gingrich’s 1.4 million followers on Twitter would indicate strong grassroots popularity and support. But a closer view shows half of those accounts are outside the US and half the accounts are inactive.  His number of accounts is a function of longevity and notoriety.  Rick Santorun’s early success came from social activity but not the online kind.  His support came from social activity even more local and personal than online social networks.  It was the work of the evangelical church.  And his surprise showing overloaded his website and he was not ready to fully take advantage of his success.

Clay Johnson seems to be prophetic by stating in his book The Information Diet, there are empty information calories and to eat them is to do so at your own risk, for they can make you really dumb. In other words a link, or a follow, or a retweet is about as meaningful as a glance or a nod and certainly not an endorsement.

As healthcare marketers we are tempted to believe the notion that social media activity or likes or links are indications of brand endorsement and loyalty.  We often tout our social media success by citing such numbers. But if the current political campaigns teach us any thing, it’s that these conclusions are not necessarily true.

We shouldn’t ignore social media.  We should embrace it as a legitimate marketing tool.  But the numbers for number sake shouldn’t fool us. The effectiveness of social media is difficult to measure.  We are still learning how to interpret the data and how viable the data actually is.

“Likes”, “followers” and “re-tweets” may just simply indicate a fairly low level of interest.  The real challenge is converting those glances or nods into something useful.

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