The best-performing hospitals from a marketing standpoint are hospitals that are active parts of their communities. That doesn’t just mean donating to the local park and recreation league or hosting a fundraiser. It also means getting out into the community through event marketing.
Social media is often misunderstood. It’s important we understand the truth about social media. Only when we do can it be effective for us.
There are a lot of misconceptions about social media. Everyone knows how pervasive it is. Everyone knows how socially and culturally engaging it is. Everyone knows we need to be participating in it. But it’s important we understand the truth about it. Dimple Thakkar, CEO of Synhergy Marketing outlined some of the important truths about social media in an article in iMedia Connection.
Here are the truths we must accept and embrace:
1. Social media and advertising are NOT synonymous.
Advertising is about selling. It’s about buying exposure. It’s about pushing brands and products and services. But social media is not like that. It’s not like traditional advertising. It’s not about buying exposure or pushing your brand. Social media is not about screaming, “look at me” and “buy me”. It’s more about interacting and building relationships.
2. Are you interrupting or interacting?
People hate being interrupted. No one likes to be interrupted in the middle of a conversation. But that’s what brands do everyday in social media. Consumers use social media to build and maintain relationships. In social media, credibility cannot be bought. It has to be earned. Use social media to create meaningful relationships.
3. A “Like” is not the same as an “Engaged Like”.
It’s not about how many followers you have. You could have thousands but unless they are engaged with your brand they are not worth very much. Brand loyalist and brand advocates are what count. Don’t be fooled.
4. The ROI in social media is relationships.
To evaluate social media in terms of dollars and cents is useless. Because social media is not about the number of procedures but about relationships. Relationships lead to business but it is not about the business, it’s about the relationship. And about those brand advocates recommending your brand to their family and friends. Sure you may not be able to quantify it in dollars but that’s difficult. But it doesn’t mean it’s not important.
5. Social media marketing is an investment, not an expense.
With traditional marketing, you lay out an expense and you expect to get a corresponding return. At least that is what we strive for. But with social media it takes time to build relationships. To be engaging. To build credibility. And to build loyalty. There are no shortcuts. With social media the consumer is in control. They control the message. Our purpose is to engage in the conversation in a meaningful way.
Traditional advertising is a challenge. How do we break through the clutter and be heard? How do we get the exposure we want in a splintered media marketplace? How do we make our message resonate with the consumer? Social media is also challenging. In different ways. Is’ not easy, it’s not cheap, it doesn’t happen quickly. The consumer wants to be social and they control the pace and depth of the relationship. And sometimes that’s hard for healthcare marketers to accept. But the truth will set us free!
Despite Facebook’s hopes, the site has not proven to be effective as a commerce site. It’s about people being social.
There have been bold predictions by experts and great hope by Facebook executives that Facebook would become a viable and even dominant site for doing business. Because of its over 850 million members, some even predicted it could become as big as Amazon. But that is not proving to be the case.
It is proving to be true that consumers prefer commerce sites for doing business and social sites for being social and they don’t want to mix the two. While some analysts predicted Facebook would combine shopping with social interaction, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Just in the last few months, J.C. Penney, GameStop, Gap and Nordstrom have abandoned their Facebook storefronts. They never gained traction. There was no advantage to shopping the major retailers on Facebook over the company’s website. Their regular websites were already convenient and consumers preferred shopping there.
Facebook and other social media sites are just that – social sites. Social media sites are more for hanging out, like one does with their friends at a bar. It’s not for commerce. Companies can use social sites to communicate sales, product offerings, etc in an unobtrusive manner but that’s about as far as it goes. Users apparently don’t want to shop there. They just want to catch up and interact with their social contacts and friends on the web.
So what does this have to do with healthcare marketers? It’s important to understand, that social networking sites are about socializing and not about pushing our products and service lines. It’s about providing useful information, bringing people with similar interests and concerns together, it’s about engagement and it’s about building relationships.
To try to use Facebook, or any other social media site, as a tool to push our services and sell our product lines will be futile. Just like the person who is always trying to “sell you” in social settings soon becomes the person to avoid, brands that use social networking sites to push services will also soon be avoided. We don’t need to be antisocial and never show up in social situations. We need to be there. But we need to be engaging and build relationships so when a business situation occurs, the brand has credibility and consumers know us and like us.