Featuring your state-of-the-art technology in your healthcare marketing helps educate your potential patients, but people relate to people. Featuring your staff in your hospital social media efforts is a sure bet to making your hospital a social media star.(more…)
Are you satisfied with your hospital’s social media efforts? Perhaps it is time to review and possibly revise your social media strategy. Here are some social media strategy DO’s and DONT’s for healthcare marketers.
Common Mistakes in Hospital Social Media Strategy
FIrst of all, taking a look at what “NOT” to do can be helpful. So here are a few of the “DONTs”.
- Poor planning up front. “We need to be on Facebook” is not enough. Therefore, clearly define the goals, objectives, and metrics for measuring. After all, knowing what success looks like is important.
- No content calendar. Creating a content calendar is an essential part of the process. In addition, the calendar needs to coincide with other hospital communication efforts, local events, and even the seasons.
- No set schedule. Most posting is haphazard. Instead, post content at regular intervals, at opportune times.
- Don’t leave it to marketing. Effective social media execution requires participation from all levels of the facility. Therefore, involve the service line managers, physicians, HR, and department heads.
- No procedure for responding. Because patients and others in the community will attempt to engage with your hospital online, have a system for handling these comments and responses, ahead of time.
Essential Elements of an Effective Healthcare Social Media Strategy
In addition, your social media strategy should answer many of these questions.
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- What does success look like? Furthermore, how will we measure success?
- Who is responsible? In addition, who is on the team?
- What are the priorities?
- Who are the target audiences?
- Where will the content come from? Also, what about photos?
- How will we involve doctors and other professionals?
- What is the posting schedule?
- How and who will handle comments and responses?
- What level of integration will there be with other communication efforts and channels?
- What about boosted posts? And if so, what about budget?
In conclusion, if you are looking to improve your hospital’s social media efforts, a review of the basics may go a long way.
ABOUT JIMMY WARREN
Early to bed, early to rise, work like crazy and advertise! Jimmy Warren is president of TotalCom Marketing Communications and has over 30 years experience helping many kinds of businesses build a strong brand. A large portion of that experience has been helping hospitals and healthcare organizations. He loves the ‘weird’, interesting and extremely talented people he gets to work with every day – that includes co-workers and clients. Outside of work he enjoys his grand kids, traveling and any kind of good ole fashion Alabama sports. Roll Tide!
The use of social media continues to grow. Facebook now claims over 1 billion users worldwide. It’s not just a phase; online social networking is here to stay. And because of its use and its staying power, it should be included in the marketing strategy of every hospital and every healthcare organization. It’s where consumers are. And for long periods of time. And consumers expect your presence there. And other social media sites have impressive numbers of users too. Here are a few interesting facts:
1. 1 million websites have integrated with Facebook. Not only are consumers engaged on Facebook, other websites have links to Facebook multiplying and compounding access.
2. 80% of users prefer to connect to brands on Facebook. Consumers expect to find our brands on Facebook. They want to use the site to gather information about the brand and if they are brand loyalists they want engagement. This is particularly pertinent to hospital marketers. Your consumers expect you to have a presence in social media
3. 25% of Facebook uses don’t set any of their privacy settings. There’s been much talk recently about privacy. Facebook has changed the way privacy settings are selected. But even with that, a full one-fourth of uses have not bothered with their privacy settings.
4. 25% of Facebook users check their account at least five times per day. Facebook users visit the network a lot. Returning to it to post or just check their newsfeed happens throughout the day. Users are checking in on a regular basis.
5. YouTube reaches more U.S. adults 18-34 than any cable network. Even with the tremendous growth of cable networks among younger adults, YouTube reaches more of them. Of course one video would not reach as many consumers as a schedule of spots run on major cable networks but YouTube is extremely popular. It’s time to consider using video in your marketing strategy. Start simple but don’t miss out on the opportunity to reach a big base of consumers.
As healthcare marketers it seems a bit overwhelming. The strength and power of Social media and the various platforms and sites and how consumers utilize online social media can become almost too much to get your arms around. And of course once started the monster has to be fed. You can’t set it up and watch it go. It requires time and effort.
But the numbers speak for themselves. And active social media strategy is important. Hospital marketing departments can’t be present on all social media sites. But choose the one (or ones) that fit your hospital’s marketing objectives and do it well. Don’t overstretch your capabilities. Examine the numbers and see what’s best for your healthcare organization and then make a commitment to be active and to make it as effective as possible.
Statistics accredited to Belle Beth Cooper writing for the Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com).
As social networking sites grow, healthcare marketers must keep a close watch on which ones could be a useful marketing tool. Hospital marketers can’t actively participate on all social platforms so it’s important to know which ones are most effective. Although a primarily a business social network, Linkedin has been growing at a very rapid pace. Here are two statistics, which are important:
1. A new member joins LinkedIn every 2 seconds. LinkedIn is one of the fastest growing social sites and has become one of the more dominant ones. Mainly a site for professionals who want to connect for business purposes, it usefulness to hospital marketers is probably limited. Except perhaps for HR.
2. LinkedIn users are less active than users of other social media sites.
Although LinkedIn is growing extremely fast, its percentage of active users trail other sites. This makes sense since Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+ are used for socializing, LinkedIn is more for professional use. So users of LinkedIn don’t visit or use it nearly as often as the other dominant social networking sites. Credibility is higher on LinkedIn and it’s more useful for business purposes.
For healthcare marketers, LinkedIn is not your first choice for a social media strategy. The other sites are more useful and efficient. They are much more for participatory content and engagement. With that said, as noted earlier, LinkedIn could be a very useful tool for HR as they seek and recruit professional talent.
Statistics accredited to Belle Beth Cooper writing for the Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com).
Hospitals that understand this impact and leverage them within their organizations will be better positioned to meet the needs of today’s consumers
Michelle McNickle, writing for Healthcare Finance News, referenced a report by the Health Research Institute at PwC US in outlining the impact of social media on the healthcare industry. The information contained it the article is very useful for healthcare marketers. The article is reprinted here:
According to a recent report by the Health Research Institute at PwC US, nine distinct uses of social media are helping companies to have an impact on the healthcare business, and to take a more active and engaged role in managing individuals’ health.
“Organizations should coordinate internally to effectively integrate information from the social media space and connect with their customers in more meaningful ways that provide value and increase trust,” the report read. “Insights from social media also offer instant feedback on products or services, along with new ideas for innovation. Organizations that can incorporate this information into their operations will be better positioned to meet the needs of today’s consumers.”
The report outlined nine additional ways social media is impacting the business side of healthcare.
1. Communication is shifting to public, more open forums. Which means less money spent on mailings, websites, and other marketing initiatives. According to the report, four characteristics of social media have altered the nature of interactions among people and organizations: user-generated content, community, rapid distribution, and open, two-way dialogue. “In the past, a company would connect with its customers via mail or a website, but today’s dialogue has shifted to open, public forums that reach many more individuals,” read the report. “Early adopters of social media in the health sector are not waiting for customers to come to them.” Ed Bennett, who oversees social media efforts at the University of Maryland Medical Center, agreed. “If you want to connect with people and be part of their community, you need to go where the community is,” he said. “You need to be connecting before you are actually needed.”
2. Patients (or consumers) are taking a more active role in their healthcare. Social media presents new opportunities for how individuals manage their health, the report noted, whether researching a certain illness or joining a support group. “The virtual aspect of social media enhances communications by creating a comfortable, often anonymous, environment for engaging and exchanging information.” In addition, patients are using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to better educate themselves. When faced with an important health decision, the report read, social media can provide a new avenue of information and dialogue. “Some may share a health goal to generate support or engage in a patient community to interact with other patients,” it read.
3. Increased access to information means patients are demanding more transparency. Laura Clapper, MD, CMO of the online community OneRecovery, compared healthcare’s use of social media with that of a bank’s. “As more people go online to interact with their banks and make purchases, they want to do this with their doctors, health plans, and condition and disease management as well,” she said. According to the report, many industry insiders referenced social media site PatientsLikeMe, an eight-year-old health data-sharing platform, as an example of how more than 140,000 patients are connecting with each other. “Social networks will peel back every corner of the health system and drive transparency on cost, value, and outcomes,” said Jamie Heywood, co-founder and chairman of PatientsLikeMe. “The information asymmetry that patients experience will be leveled, allowing the average patient to evaluate and improve his or her conditions, as well as the system’s performance.”
4. More instant feedback can help both consumers and organizations. With patients more actively taking to social media to express opinions, grievances, and experiences, they expect faster response times from organizations, the report read. “Truly social brands will listen to what customers are saying and feeling and use that insight to adapt and create products and services,” said Kelly Colbert, director of strategic advertising at insurer WellPoint. In addition to improving services and creating products to better meet the needs of patients, social media has taken on a more practical approach to basic, day-to-day operations within an organization. For example, according to the report, 49 percent of those polled expect to hear from their doctor when requesting an appointment or follow-up via social media within a few hours.
5. Social information is impacting how and when patients select treatment and providers. It’s no secret consumers are increasingly turning toward social media to make healthcare-related decisions, like what physician to see and when to seek a second opinion. For example, according to the report, 40 percent of those polled said information found in social media would affect the way they coped with a chronic condition, their approach to diet and exercise, and their selection of a specific doctor. “Across the health industry, consumers seem to value information and services that will help them make their healthcare easier to manage,” the report read.
6. Social media allows for higher levels of trust. According to the report, consumer survey respondents said they would be most likely to trust information posted via social media (from doctors, hospitals, etc.) and, they’d be most likely to share information with providers via social media. The reason individuals trust their doctors the most? Human relationships, the report detailed. “You want to trust and connect with the people providing you the care,” said Kathryn Armstrong, senior producer of web communications at Lehigh Valley Health Network. “It’s easier to trust a person than an organization.” Healthcare providers have the ability to form human relationships and connect with their patients, the report added, which ultimately leads to increased trust.
7. Social media is evolving from a marketing tool into a business strategy. Although 82 percent of respondents said their social media efforts are managed by their marketing department, the report showcased how social media’s use is extending into customer service, innovation, and service/product development. “As people go through life events and their health journey, they have changing interests in health,” said Ann Sherry, senior director of Kaiser Permanente’s Internet services. “They want and need different tools and different interactions.” Having a social media strategy isn’t’ enough, she added. “It’s about social strategy.”
8. Providers can use social media as an outcomes-based measurement. The industry is shifting toward outcomes-based measurement, due in part to provisions in the Affordable Care Act, like Medicare’s Value-Based Purchasing and accountable care, read the report. “Social media can offer a unique mechanism for collaborating with other organizations/partners to coordinate care,” it read. The report advised using social media to support meaningful use efforts, all while defining a digital strategy and clear usage guidelines. “A hospital’s or physician’s first encounter with a patient is often through its online presence,” it read. “Providers should take advantage of the trust consumers have for them over other health companies.”
9. Health insurers can use social media to help focus on population health. According to the report, health insurers understand that focusing on the individual population will be key, as more partnerships in population health are formed and insurance exchanges bring in 12 million newly insured individuals in 2014, and up to 28 million by 2019. By casting your company as a “patient advocate,” it continued, you’ll get a jump start on understanding the needs of potential members and determining which needs can be met through social media. Additionally, it noted, organizations should begin to determine an approach to data aggregation and understanding the direct and indirect benefits of social media.
Consumers have become very savvy and bold in their use of social media to express anger and dissatisfaction against corporations and organizations.
Many hospitals are reluctant to become active in social media. Some have no presence at all and others have very limited engagement. Some are reluctant due to compliance issues and others are just afraid of the potential for negative comments. Why provide a venue for negative comments is the argument? And the hesitations are understandable.
BUT, the lack of engagement in social media by a hospital doesn’t mean the conversations aren’t happening. Our reluctance doesn’t stop the conversations. And even more alarming, consumers are becoming more strident and sophisticated in their use of social media to express anger and dissatisfaction.
Here are just a couple of examples. A college student in Washington D.C. used a petition on Change.org to try to pressure Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to reverse it’s denial of rehabilitation coverage for his father. A mother launched a social media campaign against Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia after it denied a transplant to her child because, as the mother contended, her child was developmentally disabled. Both organizations I’m sure based their decision upon existing standards, policies and practices. But that didn’t stop the individuals from initiating a social media campaign and engaging many others in their effort to damage the brand’s reputation. These individuals were acting emotionally out of anger and outrage, and maybe hopelessness. Many consumers have found that traditional appeals do not get the results desired and so they turn to social media guerrilla tactics. They hope they can create enough pressure to get their desired result and if not, they will damage the brand.
Now the big question for all hospital marketers: is there a campaign being conducted against your hospital right now, that you are not aware of? Are disgruntled patients (rightly or wrongly) fanning the flame, attacking your brand and soliciting others to do the same? If you ignore social media, don’t want to have anything to do with it, or take it lightly, it could be happening.
Every hospital should have means to monitor social network activity about their brand. Every hospital should have a social media presence so that if negative things are being said the hospital can join the conversation and attempt to talk the offended party offline to address the issues. And every hospital should be engaged in social networks to demonstrate the hospital’s concern and responsiveness to concerns and complaints.
Hospitals should engage authentically in social media networks and be part of the human discussion rather than being perceived as unengaged and detached. Remember, there could be conversations going on right now about your brand that you need to be aware of. And in which you should be participating.
Your brand must be an integral part of your social media strategy.
More healthcare marketers are adopting social media as a component of their marketing efforts. But it must reflect our brand. Social media provides the opportunity to humanize the brand and empower it.
Heidi Cohen identified five tactics for using social media to cultivate a brand and expand its reach. Her comments appeared in SmartBlog on Social Media.
1. Give your brand a human voice (or other sounds) on social media.
A brand can be humanized by how it sounds. Corporate speak doesn’t resonate with consumers. Instead, consider your brand’s language, accent and other noises. Sound like a human.
2. Enhance the visual signals associated wit your brand.
Carefully consider colors, images, icons, type and photographs to make sure they enhance your brand and communicate the brand’s personality.
3. Tell your brand’s story.
Brands aren’t a collection of facts or products or services. They’re about stories. Stories of the company, employees and customers told in a human voice. Give your brand a personality. Create with stories.
4. Develop and incorporate a culture into your brand.
A unique corporate culture is important to community building. Create a special language, actions and attributes to set your brand apart from the competition.
5. Brand your employees.
Brands need real people to represent their organization. It provides a human face. It builds trust and sincerity. Brand employees and let employees project the brand.
Social media can be very useful to hospital marketers. And it’s important to let your brand shine through in those social media efforts. Social media is a unique opportunity to humanize your brand, to create a brand personality and to connect your brand to your consumers.
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:
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
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.