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Hospital Marketing: Understanding Why Social Media Users Follow Certain Brands and Companies

Consumers actively use social media to follow a brand not because they have a strong passion for the brand but primarily for the discounts and promotions. Tampon "Free"

In the November 8th issue of MediaPostNews Online Media Daily,  Mark Walsh cited a recent survey by Razorfish  that indicated consumers don’t follow companies in social media just because they love the brand but they follow to get deals.  The study concluded that social media is not about building awareness but it’s more about enticing consumers with specific offers.

In the survey of 1000 “connected consumers”, 44% of those who followed a brand on Twitter said the primary reason was access to exclusive deals and 37% of Facebook and MySpace brand followers cited special deals as their main reason.   The study referenced Starbucks who has accumulated 5 million fans on Facebook because they offered coupons for free pastries and ice cream.  And Whole Foods was cited as the top brand on Twitter with 1.5 million followers because they promote weekly specials and shopping tips.

Razorfish group vice president of experience planning and editor of the study, Garrick Schmitt stressed that marketers need to shift focus from brand awareness and impressions to creating campaigns that drive people to make purchases and spread the word about products and services to friends.

Admittedly, it’s pretty difficult for hospitals to offer discounts and special offers.  However, the finding is still revealing.  Hospitals should use social media to do more than just build brand awareness.  The mediums should be used to truly engage the consumer.  Helpful information, tips, medical advice, offers for free screenings, etc should be a central component of a hospital’s use of social media.  It truly is about engagement and about giving the consumer a reason to follow or become a friend of the hospital.  It’s all about the consumer.  They want to receive a benefit.  It’s about giving them something useful and worthwhile. Otherwise they will not stay with the brand.  

Other interesting information from the study:

  • 40% have befriended a brand on Facebook or Twitter
  • 77% have watched a commercial or video ad on YouTube with some frequency
  • 73% have posted a product or brand review on sites such as Amazon, Yelp, Facebook or Twitter
  • 70% have participated in brand-sponsored contests or sweepstakes

Consumers are connected.  They are active participants in social media.  Hospitals should meet consumers there.

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Healthcare Marketing: Take a Lesson from Starbucks on Social Media

Starbucks has become the most popular brand on Facebook because they are engaging with their customers.

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Starbucks recently surpassed Coca-Cola as the most popular brand on Facebook with over 3.6 million fans. The Altimeter Group also named it the “Most Engaged Brand”.  Why has Starbucks been so successful with their social media efforts? Alexander Wheeler, Digital Strategy Director for Starbucks credits really listening to the conversation and engaging in the discussion in a way that makes sense.  

Hospitals are beginning to use social media.  In many cases it’s experimental, just trying it.  And in too many cases it’s a half-hearted effort.  Certainly, a hospital won’t rival Starbucks but it would be worthwhile to learn how to make use of social media effectively.  It’s more than just entry now and then.  It’s more than just slapping up a page and sending occasional tweets.  It’s about listening to the consumer and engaging them where they are, with information that’s important to them. 

Alexander continues, “It isn’t a PR indicative; its alleviating and creating great consumer value and great consumer relationships.”  It’s about using the medium to build relationships.  Its listening and responding to needs and interest.  It’s not just about being where people are, but it’s about being relevant and creating valuable experiences.

Starbucks has the advantage of using social media to promote events like Red Day and Free Pastry Day.  It’s pretty hard for hospitals to do that.  But Starbucks has received over 75,000 ideas from their social community.  They are engaging their fans and followers.  They are building relationships.

Hospital marketers can get more than just a cup of Joe from Starbucks.

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