Marketing Firm Alabama

Healthcare Marketing: Five More Social Media Mistakes

Social media mistakes damage reputations and brands.  Learn from the mistakes of others.

Although not specifically directed to healthcare and hospital marketers, an article written by A.J Ghergich, CEO of Authority Domains, and appearing in SmartBlogs from SmartBrief offers some very helpful comments about mistakes brands involved in social media should avoid.  The article is repeated here in its entirety.

Imagine you built up a vast social media following — but because of one small oversight, your reputation started to crumble right before your eyes. Sadly, this scenario is not that farfetched, because some businesses leap into the social media arena without understanding how to maintain a relationship with their customers while avoiding some obvious pitfalls.

By studying some mistakes by other companies that have resulted in negative exposure, you can learn how your business can avoid a similar fate. Here are five easy-to-avoid mistakes.

  • Being crass about current events. Last year, designer Kenneth Cole used the publicity of an international crisis in Cairo to post about his products. He even used the hashtag #Cairo to try to build buzz and reach others who were searching for tweets on the crisis. The reaction was so strong that you won’t find Kenneth Cole’s old Twitter account anymore. It has been replaced. Reacting to current events can be plus for your brand, but consider how some people might react if it looks like you’re trying to capitalize on a very serious situation. Be respectful and tread lightly when talking about current events. Take a minute to put yourself in another person’s shoes and ask how your post could be perceived. It’s possible that if Kenneth Cole had taken a few extra minutes to think through his tweet, he may have decided not to publish it.
  • Getting too personal. Be careful when posting personal content, whether or not you feel it is valuable. Your customers consider your social accounts the face of your brand. Bob Parsons, Go Daddy founder, posted a video of his trip to Zimbabwe on his blog. In the video, Parsons told the audience how he kills elephants because they damage crops, which endangers the lives of the starving locals. After Parsons published the video, the media outlets ran with the story, and some customers boycotted Go Daddy and its services. Though Parsons explained the story in more detail, the damage had already been done. Regardless of whether Parsons was doing a good deed, this type of personal content is not appropriate for customers. Occasional personal content is effective for creating connections with your customers, but keep it light and don’t antagonize people.
  • Being spammy. Resist the temptation to capitalize on the popularity of another company to promote your products. Habitat UK tried to take advantage of the trending topics #Apple, #iPhone and others to acquire some traffic. Unfortunately, the strategy backfired because the tweets had nothing to do with Apple computers or any of its products. Tweeters posted negative messages to Habitat UK’s account, complaining about its “spammy” behavior. Your customers are not stupid. They know when you are trying to manipulate the system. Stay genuine, and don’t piggyback on other companies’ successes. It will only make you look desperate.
  • Putting your account in the wrong hands. The people who tweet or posts on your company’s behalf have the fate of your company’s image in their hands. What they post could potentially damage your reputation. Invest enough resources into finding the right people who will put their opinions aside and prioritize the integrity of your company. Ensure your social media managers understand the essence of your company culture and how you want your brand portrayed.
  • Pretending your mistake didn’t happen. If you ever make a mistake, own up to it and apologize. Your customers will respect you for admitting your mistakes and you can save your brand from any negative backlash. People forgive transparent mistakes much more than they excuse complete denial.

Like all marketers, those in healthcare would be wise to learn from the types of mistakes mentioned and not repeat them.

Healthcare Marketing: Day of Week and Time of Day Affects Social Media Engagement

Research indicates some days and times are better for launching social media campaigns.

As healthcare marketers we take great time and effort making sure our message is just right.  And we are careful to make sure we are using the correct media to reach our target audience.  But what about timing?

YesMail Interactive conducted a comprehensive three-month study of consumer engagement with online campaigns.  The research was summarized by John Loetsier in VB News.    The research of major retail brands conducting online social campaigns indicated most of the campaigns are deployed on Fridays.  But Tuesday is a better day for consumer engagement.  Fridays make sense because that’s when retailers try to reach consumers –before their weekend shopping.  But social media doesn’t work the same.  Maybe because consumers are shopping or doing weekend activities, Friday is not a good time for online engagement.   Too much clutter and a lot less engagement. Tuesday was a significantly more successful day than any other.  And, as you would suspect, Sunday offered the lowest level of engagement.

Another finding was the quantity of social media campaigns did not improve engagement.  In fact, the companies that had fewer campaigns had higher levels of engagement.

Not only is the day of the week important but also is the time of day.  The research indicated the time of day clearly affected the level of engagement but it varied based on the target audience.  For those brands trying to reach college students, the best time of day for a social media launch is between 10PM and Midnight Eastern.  Success depended on understanding when your potential consumers are most likely to be interested and engage with the information you are sending.  The key is to launch the campaign when it’s good for your target audience, not just when it’s ready or when it’s most convenient for you.

Although this research consisted of mostly retail brands, the take-aways are very insightful for healthcare marketers.  For those who conduct social media campaigns it would prove useful to know what days are better to initiate a campaign and to understand the target audience well enough to know what time of day they are most likely ready to engage in the campaign.  Your social media campaign is not something to get completed by the end of the week and send it out to get the task accomplished.  Success requires you to be much more thoughtful and deliberate.

Healthcare Marketing: Key Influencers are Physicians

Guest Blog Post By Ian Orekondy, Director of Digital Media – UBM Medica

Patients Value Healthcare Professionals for Health Information More Than Any Other Source

After hospitals across the country ramped up their marketing efforts and increased their advertising targeted to patients, research shows that patients continue to cite their physicians as the most valued influence on their healthcare decisions.

So many forward-thinking hospitals are increasingly focusing on cultivating stronger relationships with physicians in their market areas in order to:

  • Ensure awareness of key hospital services
  • Grow referrals
  • Support physicians
  • Improve care and quality outcomes.

More Than Physician Relations

Some hospitals are hiring physician liaisons to meet with certain physicians, but many hospitals are going further and partnering with trusted medical journals and online publications to strengthen hospital-physician relationships.  They do this by delivering valuable content to physicians to help them manage and grow their medical practice. Additionally, as shown in several recent hospital marketing surveys, many hospital marketers are increasing their focus on digital marketing, and are now figuring out how to scale their physician-targeted digital marketing programs.

Wait, Are Physicians Really Online? Absolutely:

  • 81% of physicians now own a smartphone (mostly the iPhone) (Manhattan Research)
  • 62% of physicians own a tablet (mostly the iPad) (Manhattan Research)

They are using these devices throughout the day:

  • 78% of surveyed physicians access health-websites via mobile devices
  • And physician-targeted mobile apps help with diagnosis at the point of care.
  • Some hospital marketers are still surprised to learn physicians are now opening their emails more than ever, exchanging emails with patients, and perhaps most importantly for hospitals, they are opening emails from sources they trust to deliver them valuable clinical and practice management content.  Physician-targeted email open rates are now routinely in line with consumer/patient-targeted email campaigns.

So how can your hospital engage physicians online?

Valuable Content + Precise Targeting = Engaged Physicians

Focus on providing value:

  • Tools: Diagnostic or prediction tools can provide significant value for physicians. For example, Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York hosts “Prediction Tools” on the healthcare professional section of their website.  Oncologists and other physicians anywhere can use these tools to predict cancer outcomes or assess risk based on specific characteristics of a patient and of his or her disease.
  • Content:  Help them save time and money.  Physicians are struggling with the business side of medicine, so providing content that helps them manage their practice is a great way to build a stronger relationship with physicians.
  • Resources: Many hospitals provide physician directories, directions to give to patients, and CME opportunities – all online.

Demonstrate that you value physicians’ input:

  • Creating an online poll and distributing it online to all physicians in your market area is an easy way to engage physicians with your hospital, and gather valuable feedback at the same time.  Ask them about a potential policy change, what changes they’d like to see, or simply ask about their overall satisfaction with the referral process.  Doing this on a regular basis can pay large dividends.

Ensure that your physician-focused content gains the right physician audience.

  • Relying on search engines, YouTube and Facebook works very well when targeting patients, but these tactics lose their effectiveness when it comes to targeting physicians.
  • Find a partner (usually a company that already has built trusted relationships with physicians) that can reach and deploy your content to physicians in your market area.  Often, even if your hospital has its own physician email list, a good partner can de-duplicate your physician emails from their own list of engaged physicians, and deploy your content only to the physicians you don’t already reach.
  • These partners can syndicate your physician-focused videos, PDFs, polls and other resources, and they can often supplement your content or even help you with production.

To recap, physicians are still the most influential sources of information for patients, and they are now fully engaged online.  There are now many ways for hospitals to strengthen their relationships with physicians in ways that reflect their needs, save them time and money, and ultimately wins your hospital more business and improves outcomes for your patient population.

Is your hospital already focused on marketing to physicians? Or is your competitor?

Ian Orekondy is Director of Digital Media at UBM Medica, building custom marketing programs for hospitals and pharmaceutical brands. He also blogs at, and you can connect with him on Twitter @iano1000. Use hashtag #hospitalmarketing.

Healthcare Marketing: Death of Newspapers – Implications for Marketers

As newspapers close, convert to more digital content or reduce the number of publishing days, the implications for marketers are significant.

Advance Publications has announced that the New Orleans Times-Picayune, The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and the Mobile Press-Register will all reduce their daily publications to only three times per week. This is a startling announcement in many ways.  These newspapers each have long histories, with the Mobile paper having published a daily for over a century. And it’s surprising for it to be happening in major markets like New Orleans and Birmingham.  This follows other newspapers that have either closed  (Tucson Citizen, Rocky Mountain News, Baltimore Examiner, Cincinnati Post) and others that have adopted hybrid online/print or online only models (Seattle Post Intelligencer, Detroit News/Free Press and the Ann Arbor News).

Despite the fact that some larger newspapers like the New York Times are seeing success with paid digital subscriptions and Warren Buffet recently made a $143 million investment in the newspaper business by purchasing the 63 newspapers owned by Media General, change is coming sooner rather than later for the news industry.

Printing on dead trees doesn’t make as much sense anymore. The harsh reality is that printed newspapers are no longer the dominant method of receiving news and information.  Twenty-four hour broadcast news networks and the internet make news reporting and the receiving of breaking news instantaneous.  It won’t wait till the print presses run. And the media habits of younger generations who depend on the web for almost all of their news will make print news even more obsolete.

For guys like me who look forward to reading the newspaper every morning, this is difficult to comprehend.  And as these changes occur, the implications for healthcare marketers are real and substantial.  Here are just a few ways marketers will be affected:

  • News provided to newspapers may not be published in a timely manner unless they offer a strong digital alternative. 
  • Digital and broadcast news do not offer the depth of information as newspaper.  It will be more difficult to explain complex issues
  • With fewer editions, the competition for space will be greater.  No more getting a story because it’s a slow day.
  • Newspapers will no longer provide the print frequency or timeliness for our advertising.
  • Advertising in digital and broadcast formats is much more limiting than print.  We will not be able to tell a story or deliver a message as completely as in a print ad.

In many ways, inevitable changes to the newspaper industry will make our jobs more difficult.  From the perspective of utilizing both earned and unearned media, we will have to adapt.  Adapt more to a digital age of reporting and messaging.  It will require a change for us all.

Healthcare Marketing: QR Codes Effective for Hospitals?

QR codes can be effective for healthcare marketing, but they have limitations.

They’re everywhere these days.  You see them often.  In magazines, newspaper ads, retail stores, on product packaging and in many unexpected places.  Quick Response Codes, better known as QR Codes, with the black and white patterned squares that can be scanned by a Smartphone to link to a web page, registration form, contact info, etc.  QR codes link print and the web and allows tracking of its use.  And they are becoming more and more prevalent.  Their use increased 1600% last year.

QR codes can be very effective, disseminating useful information to the consumer.  The code can provide additional information, show a video, provide a place to respond, offer surveys and many other creative uses.  QR codes have many positive attributes for healthcare marketers but also some limitations.  A listing of both are offered here:

Positive attributes

1.    Easy to create
2.    Basically free
3.    Can be printed on almost anything
4.    Can disseminate a large amount of information
5.    Provide information in a private setting


1.    Not everyone has Smartphone…only 35% of population
2.    The linked website must be compatible with mobile platform
3.    Smartphone must be close to the QR code
4.    Phone must have the appropriate app to read the code

QR codes can be very successful for healthcare marketers.  But their use should be strategic.  It should fulfill a consumer need.  And it should be easy to use

Healthcare Marketing: Decisions without Considering Consumer Costly

Recent snafus prove that we should think from the consumer’s perspective.  And not about what’s best for our organization’s operations.

Recently Facebook made changes to its social network’s interface.  This was closely on the heels of earlier changes that Facebook users weren’t even used to yet.  And users were not happy.  Then Netflix customers who were already unhappy with a price increase were then angered more when the company announced it was separating its streaming video offering from its video rental business to create a new company.

Two very successful corporations who had great loyalty and good will but unilaterally made decisions, which were good operationally without considering the impact on consumers.  It’s a mistake many companies make.  Although not as widely discussed and criticized as these two.   Both of these companies thought they could do anything they wanted and consumers would accept it.  They never even considered what the consumer would think.  It was good operationally for each of them and that was the basis of their decision.

So a management decision that made complete sense internally backfired because no one bothered to consider or ask what their customers thought. And now they’re paying a large cost in public perception, consumer loyalty and sales.  Their brand has been tarnished.

Healthcare organizations sometimes make the same mistake.  In an effort to cut costs, improve efficiency and increase productivity, hospitals and healthcare organizations make decisions that make sense internally but may not be received well by patients.

It proves that we need to listen to the consumer and evaluate every decision from the customer’s perspective.  In a very competitive marketplace with pressures on the bottom-line organizations can ill afford to alienate customers.  Decisions made without considering the consumer may save money but it could cost far more in business, consumer locality and brand perception.

Of course we know this.  But sometimes we forget.  We look at decisions from every angle except from the viewpoint of the consumer.  Sometimes it takes highly publicized snafus like Facebook and Netflix to remind us that what our customers think is of extreme importance.  May we not get so removed from our customers that we repeat the mistake. 


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.

Hospital Marketing: Dealing with Angry Customers/Patients Part 1

Every hospital has unhappy customers.  The question is not if you have them but what will you do with them?

Every hospital makes mistakes.  With as many patients that come through our doors and with as many varied points of contact, it‘s inevitable there will be unhappy customers.  Plus, many customers are not in the best frame of mind to begin with, which means they are often easily agitated.  No matter how much customer service is stressed, there will be screw-ups.  There will be disgruntled customers.

Instead of looking at such occurrences as a disaster, it can become a positive branding experience if handled properly.  Instead of an upset customer who becomes a noisy distracter, the goal is to convert him into a brand loyalist who sings the hospital’s praises.  The unhappy customer should not be viewed as the enemy but as an opportunity to characterize the brand as responsive and caring.

So what do you do when you make a mistake?   Four simple steps:

1.  Apologize.  Disarm the angry customer by apologizing upfront.

2.  Listen and empathize.  Listen and don’t try to defend the hospital. Let the customer know your hospital cares.

3.  Address the problem.  Try to fix the problem and satisfy the customer as much as possible.

4. Offer to correct the problem.  The customer wants to know the hospital will do everything possible to prevent the problem from happening again.

5.  Follow up.  Contact the customer and let them know what has been done to fix the problem.  This is essential for customer satisfaction.

Research indicates it costs five times more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.  So it’s important to keep customers, even the ones that have bad experiences.  Solving customer problems not only keeps customers, it also helps build brand loyalty.

Healthcare Marketing: Don’t Let the Volume of the Patient’s Voice Drown Out Yours

Although consumers have a louder voice than ever before, make no mistake about it, you still own and control your brand.  Marketers are still responsible for the brand’s narrative.   

“The consumer is now in control.”  You hear it often.  You’ve probably read it in some of my blogs.  But is it ultimately true?  Yes consumers have a louder voice.  Yes consumers have new and expanded ways to exert their influence on a brand.  But ultimately brands still control themselves.  And we must not forget that.

Look at some of the ways consumers can now influence a brand:

  • DVRs allow consumers to skip past television commercials
  • Use of social media to critique or criticize a brand
  • Provide content and produce ads for brands
  • The myriad of opportunities to give input and suggestions to brands
  • The many avenues available to hold brands’ feet to the fire and make them accountable.

So it is true, consumers can now influence brands in ways never before available.  And that’s probably a good thing.  But that doesn’t give them ultimate controlIt just requires brand managers and companies to be more responsible and more diligent.

True consumers can use DVRs to skip commercials but they have always had that right.  No advertiser has ever been able to force a consumer to see or watch or hear it ads.  It’s still incumbent on advertisers to attract and hold the attention of consumers to see and hear its messages.

Groupon saw and felt the backlash for it’s ill-advised Super Bowl spots.  The company was forced to pull the ad and apologize.  But is that an example of consumer control or thoughtlessness by the brand?

Consumers can now create content for brands.  Many brands are soliciting consumer assistance with the content of their advertising.  But would anyone just laud the brand building power of consumer directed spots for Doritos and Pepsi in recent years?  If consumers now have control of the brand, it’s because brands have given it over to them.

And some would point to consumer reaction to Gap’s effort to modernize its logo only to repeal its efforts at the appearance of consumer complaint in social media.  But was their backpedaling justified?  Only a very some percentage of GAP customers weighed in on the issue.  I contend the vast majority of their customers didn’t care.  And compare that to the Sci-Fi channel that would endure widespread disapproval when they changed their name to Syfi.  But the network did not waver and as result, now the network is setting new levels of viewership and success.

True, consumers have more voice.  A louder voice.  But that is no excuse for a marketer to give up control of its brand.  It requires more work, more accountability, more thoughtfulness and more discernment.  But the brand is still responsible for itself.   It’s a cop-out to concede ultimate control to the consumer.  Sure brands should react and respond to the needs and desires of consumers.  And letting consumers have input is essential in today’s marketplace (as if it hasn’t been before).  Ultimate control however still rests with the brand.

Mike Wolfsohn, Chief Creative Officer at High Wide and Handsome , contributed an article on this topic recently in Ad Age   and stated, “It’s critical to distinguish a consumer’s increased ability to amplify a brand’s successes and failures from his or her actual control over the story a brand tells.  In the purest sense, consumers have always wielded immense influence with their wallet.  That their votes are now cast on public websites long before the ballots are counted on confidential P&Ls only makes it easier for marketers to react more quickly.”  

For healthcare marketers, as well as all marketers, we still control our brand.   Yes it requires more work to shepherd a brand in a more complex media environment, but it is still within our control.  Unless we choose to give that control away.  But we must not.  Now more that ever, we should seek consumer input, listen to their leanings and use that information to have even more control over our brands than we have ever had before.