TotalCom Marketing

female businesswoman talking with senior doctor in hospital - creating better hospital marketing strategies

Grow Your Patient Base With These 3 Hospital Marketing Strategies

Every hospital and health system wants to grow its patient base. That is the job of hospital marketing: to increase brand awareness and build positive relationships between the hospital and potential patients.

There are a lot of methods that hospitals currently use to market themselves. From buying billboards to airing TV commercials, creating a Facebook page, and even sending out direct mail, marketing strategies can work together to create a total-package approach that targets a patient from multiple angles.

Here, we’ll focus on three marketing methods in particular that, when combined with strategic goals, can get more patients.

 

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of getting your website and its pages to rank near the top of the page whenever someone searches for something you do.

When people look up “family medicine,” or “orthopedic surgery,” you want that particular page on your website to show up first. This is because an estimated 49.5% of all clicks on the first page of a search go to the first two positions. Another 9.5% goes to the third, and another 7.9% goes to the fourth – which means the first four searches account for 68% of all clicks.

You do not want to be near the bottom. Optimizing for search means doing things on the page and on the backend of your page/site to make your pages stand out and appear at the top.

SEO can be very complicated, so it is important to work with SEO specialists who know all the tips, tricks, and best practices to get your web pages to rank well.

 

Pay-per-click (PPC) Advertising

Paid advertising is necessary to get your name out there as much as possible. Organic or earned media can only go so far.

One of the most cost-effective ways to get attention from the right people at the right time is PPC advertising. PPC broadly refers to a system in which you pay someone – Google,

Facebook, an individual website, etc. – for every click that you get on one of your ads.

So, those banner ads you see on a website fall under PPC, but those are more clearly defined as display advertising, and PPC in a more specific context refers to the text ads that appear in search results on Google and Bing.

The beauty of PPC advertising is you pay only when someone clicks. You do not pay per impression (although you can if you choose).

 

Email Newsletter Marketing

Your existing patients are one of the best resources you have to increase business. You can your marketing by sending out email newsletters.

If you make these emails informative, engaging, easy and fun to read, you will have more success. Talk about patient stories and other human interest stories, and refrain from plugging the hospital too much.

What this does is twofold:

  1. Your patients can spread the word via email to their friends and family (especially if you ask them to)
  2. Your previous or current patients can come to you for additional services

Staying in touch with patients through email is always a good idea. Adopt a robust and creative email newsletter campaign and you will attain more patients and more revenue through word-of-mouth marketing.

 

There are many other things you can do as a part of a hospital marketing plan. The above strategies work well with each other and go great with other hospital marketing strategies as well, such as social media marketing and content marketing.

woman painting wall - DIY research for your organization

Do it Yourself Primary Research for Healthcare Marketers: Another Favorite Session from SHSMD ’18

Whether it is budget, time, or both, many healthcare marketers do not have the opportunity to attend SHSMD Connections (Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development annual conference).  We are fortunate at TotalCom Marketing that we get to attend most years, so I thought I would share highlights from several of the presentations.

This is from “How to Conduct Your Own Fast, Affordable Consumer Research” presented by  Camille Baxter, Chief Business Development Officer, Insight Medical Genetics; Megan Springmeyer, Director of Client Development, Cint and Roger Straus, The Blackstone Group, and is a multi-part series. It includes points made in the presentation as well as my own primary research experience.

Pinterest, YouTube and blogs have made it possible for us to move from “I don’t know how, better call someone” to “Let me find a video to learn how”. Now we are all DIY’ing everything in our personal lives from painting a room to repairing the dryer to making a kids Halloween costume. And with some success.

DIY is not just for home repairs and hobbies though. There are certain projects we as healthcare marketers can confidently tackle ourselves – primary research is one – in certain situations, however.

Primary research, research that is not already available, in invaluable for making hospital marketing and communication decisions. Understanding what others believe about your hospital’s brand before re-branding; deciding whether or not to implement a new program for heart patients; knowing why nurses choose to work at our hospital for recruitment messaging – are just a few examples of when we need to ask our own questions.

The options for primary research are hiring a specialized firm or doing it ourselves. But how do you know which is right for your situation?

 

When to Consider DIY Primary Research

  • You need the information next week
  • There’s no or little budget
  • You know what you want to ask
  • Respondents are ready and willing to participate (or you know how to purchase)
  • You have the tools to implement and manage a survey
  • Sophisticated analysis and reporting is not needed

  

Sometimes You Need to Hire a Research Professional, But When?

  • Your research will help support a decision for a major investment or hospital strategy decision
  • The audience is large or high level
  • Your audience is narrow and external
  • You need sophisticated analysis and reporting

 

If your hospital research project qualifies for DIY, here’s how to get started.

 Close-up Of A Woman's Hand Filling Survey Form On Laptop - DIY research

The situation

It will soon be time to reprint the baby booklets/pregnancy guides your OB/GYNs distribute to expecting moms. Due to the number of pages, they are somewhat expensive to print. The hospital service line manager said there’s no need, the moms-to-be don’t seem to want them anymore. The physicians’ office manager says the physicians want to continue to distribute them. What’s marketing to do? Primary DIY research, of course.

 

Step 1: Determine your hypothesis

In this situation, our hypothesis might be: Do expectant moms want pregnancy guides/baby booklets from their OB/GYN? If yes, what content is most valuable and what is least valuable to our audience?

Step 2: Determine the audience

In this example, our target audience might be women within a 100-mile radius who have had a full term pregnancy and delivery in the past 24 months. Hint: be prepared to increase or decrease the parameters to ensure enough respondents.

Step 3: Determine how will you use what you learn

For our scenario, we will use the results to decide whether or not to re-print baby booklets/pregnancy guides and if so, based on respondent preferences, evaluate if the content needs changing.

Step 4: Understand ahead of time who in your organization will receive the survey results and what kind of reporting will they require.

In this example, marketing will need to share a summary of the results as well as charts and recommendation with the office manager, physicians and service line manager. A simple one page summary with supporting details attached should be sufficient. Note: the simpler the questionnaire, the simpler the analysis and reporting. Also, have a goal in mind that will ensure that you’re making an informed decision. Maybe you need over 50% of respondents to say that they used the book at least once, or answers must average saying that they felt the booklet was at least “somewhat helpful.”

Step 5: Determine what survey tools should be used

Sources are available to help you manage your primary research survey from start to finish including developing your questionnaire, finding respondents, distributing your survey, analyzing the results and reporting the findings. Qualtrics, ZOHO, Poll Daddy and Survey Monkey are a few options with Survey Monkey being a popular one. At TotalCom Marketing we have used Survey Monkey and find it user-friendly for both researcher and respondents.

Step 6: Develop your survey and questions

Tips for using Survey Monkey can be a series of blog posts unto themselves. Below are some best practices. Some are from the presentation at SHSMD Connections, some from Survey Monkey and some from my personal experience at TotalCom Marketing.

  • Utilize the questionnaire templates and customize based on your needs
  • Write the questions using the language and definitions that your audience uses
  • Create questions that are to the point and easy to understand
  • Each question should ask only one question (no shotgun approach)
  • Group like questions together
  • Do not be biased or leading with your questions
  • Make no assumptions
  • Don’t let curiosity get the better of you. Avoid asking other questions “just because we would like to know”
  • Keep your survey as short and brief as possible
  • Ask the easiest-to-answer, least invasive, less personal questions in the beginning
  • Avoid yes-no questions
  • Avoid open-ended questions (difficult when it comes time to tally results)
  • Use words, not numbers (e.g., use phrases such as “more likely” and “less likely” rather than “on a scale of 1 to 10”)
  • Let respondents know why you need this information and how you will use it
  • Let respondents know how many questions or how much time the questionnaire will require of their time
  • Ask respondents for their help with the decision you are trying to make – people like to help others
  • Custom brand your survey with your logo, colors, etc. Respondents feel more comfortable when they know where the survey came from and will be more likely to answer your questions. (Note however sometimes it is more appropriate for the survey to come from a third party)
  • Don’t have a CRM of potential respondents? No problem, you can purchase a targeted audience from Survey Monkey based on geography and many demographic and psychographic characteristics. While in the Survey Monkey dashboard, there is a tool to help you determine if your audience is large enough (or not). Learn more about purchasing respondents here.
  • Proof and edit your survey. Edit and proof your survey. Proof and edit your survey again.
  • Test your survey with others in your department, co-workers and peers and ask for feedback.

 

Sample questions

To continue with our example of the baby booklets/pregnancy guides, some sample survey questions might include. Note these are just sample questions for illustration purposes.

  1. Have you had a full term pregnancy and delivery in the past 24 months? (Note: This question is a filter to narrow down our target audience. If the answer is no, then we politely thank the participant for their time)

Yes
No

  1. When you were expecting did your OB/GYN or hospital give you a booklet or guide about your pregnancy? The guide may or may not have contained information such as about what to expect during your pregnancy, how to care for yourself while you are expecting, post-partum care, etc. (Note: This is another filter question that allows us to survey only those that are in our target audience. IF the answer is no then we thank the participant and discontinue the survey)

Yes
No

  1. How would you rate the overall value of the booklet as it related to your pregnancy?

No value
Some value
Very valuable
Extremely valuable

  1. How often did you refer to the booklet during the course of your pregnancy and post-partum recovery?

Never
1 – 2 times
3 – 4 times
5 or more times

 

Content: Think back to the content in your pregnancy booklet (Note: See how we grouped like questions?)

  1. How helpful did you find the section “When to Call Your Doctor During Pregnancy”

Information was not in my booklet
Little or no help
Somewhat helpful
Very helpful

  1. How helpful did you find the section “Important Phone Numbers During Your Pregnancy”

Information was not in my booklet
Little or no help
Somewhat helpful
Very helpful

  1. How helpful did you find the section “Food and Activities to Avoid During Pregnancy”

Information was not in my booklet
Little or no help
Somewhat helpful
Very helpful

  1. How helpful did you find the section in your booklet “Post-partum Care”

Information was not in my booklet
Little or no help
Somewhat helpful
Very helpful

 

Step 7: Send out survey – but you don’t have to necessarily wait

In Survey Monkey you can actually monitor the status of your survey project in real time to see how many responses you have and as your results come in, you can get a view of the responses.

 

Step 8: Analyze and report

Let the fun begin! Sometimes the results are a surprise and sometimes they confirm what we as healthcare marketers already know. In Survey Monkey you can view summaries of each survey question or drill down and browse individual survey responses. You can even use their “Rules” tool to filter and compare the results for more specific answers such as respondents from within a certain zip code or age. In addition, a paid Survey Monkey plan allows you to download and export your survey results, choose from different chart types (pie, bar graph, line graph, etc) or even create your own charts. The results including the summary, chart and details are easy to import into your report or can be emailed.

 

Other ways primary research can be beneficial

Information gathered in primary research can be beneficial to healthcare marketers for obvious reasons. We can get answers to questions about our hospital services, use the data to make decisions that are rooted in fact rather than opinion and often times use the information again in the future as we have a better understanding of our audiences and what is relevant to them. Also important, primary research can help elevate the role of hospital marketing from executional to strategic.

In summary, there are times when primary research is needed but we do not have the luxury of getting outside help. Sometimes we have to do it ourselves – and we can.

 

Need help getting started with DIY primary research for your healthcare organization? Contact me, Lori Moore, Senior Account Manager for TotalCom Marketing Communications by email or phone at 205.345.7363.

Favorite Sessions from SHSMD Connections ’18: How to Use Facebook Live for Your Hospital

Smiling businesswoman talking on camera - marketing your hospital on Facebook Live videoI realize there are many healthcare marketers that do not have the opportunity to attend SHSMD Connections (Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development annual conference). Sometimes it is budget, sometimes it is time away (and sometimes both). We are fortunate at TotalCom Marketing that we get to attend most years, so I thought I would share some of the highlights from several of the presentations at SHSMD Connections ‘18 held in Seattle this month. There were several that were really helpful, so this will be a multi-part series.

The first session I attended on day one was a “how to” for using Facebook Live. It was presented by the communications team at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System. They have been successfully using Facebook Live since it launched and offered some helpful insight for getting started or just doing it better.

 

About Facebook Live

Facebook Live is a marketing tool that can prove quite helpful in meeting your organization’s social media objectives (and more). It is immediate, authentic, interactive and a great way to connect and engage with your audience.

 

Reasons Why You Should Consider Using Facebook Live

  • For now, at least, the Facebook algorithm favors Facebook Live. We have all seen a decline in engagement with our posts, Facebook Live is a way to help overcome this. Facebook will even send your page followers a notification when start or schedule.
  • You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make Facebook Live work for your organization.
  • Facebook Live is another way to connect with patients where they are spending considerable amounts of time each day – on Facebook.

 

Get Started with Facebook Live

  • woman in headphones sat laptop - engaging with audience by answering Facebook live questionsYou don’t have to have a special video camera, an iPhone works great.
  • Polish up your efforts with a few extra items including a camera mount, tripod, lapel mics to isolate sound and simple lighting. Also, Mevo (“a tv studio in your pocket”) is an app (and more) that allows you to look like you’ve got multiple cameras, allows for on-the-fly editing, is easy to use, requires no video editing experience and can really take your live stream to the next level. Learn more at getmevo.com.

 

Tips for Best Results

  • Always have two people to manage the live stream as it is more than one person can do alone, especially if you get a lot of engagement on your video.
  • Make sure you have a strong internet connection. VERY IMPORTANT.
  • Promote your live stream in advance. Promote not only on Facebook but Instagram and any other social channels you use. Ask your audience to sign up for a reminder.
  • As per social media best practices, don’t use Facebook Live to sell, but rather to establish your organization or employee as a thought leader and a resource to the community you serve.
  • Keep your production authentic. It is ok that your Facebook Live stream is not Spielberg quality.
  • Strategy first and tactics next. Use Facebook Live for the benefit of the audience, not just because it is fun and cool.
  • Engage with your audience. If people comment questions, answer them in your live video. After the video is over, respond to all of the comment questions so others have the answers, too.
  • Have a lengthy event? Don’t just “set it and forget it”. Best to break up the event into manageable snippets, do interviews in between highlights. Remember to announce often where you are and what you are doing for those who tune in later.
  • Lunch is a good time to go live, as are evenings. However, the majority of the engagement is AFTER the fact.
  • Look outside of healthcare at organizations and brands that are successfully using Facebook Live. Here are a few brands effectively using Facebook Live.
  • Practice, practice, practice… Use Facebook Live personally to learn how. But no worries, you can change the settings for Facebook Live so no one else sees it, in the “Select Privacy” mode, choose “Only me”.
  • Be sure to use Facebook analytics to provide insight and learn how you can fine tune and improve your Facebook Live efforts.
  • Facebook also offers these tips for using Facebook Live

 

Ways to Use Facebook Live

  • Use in place of, or in addition to a press release. News departments are short staffed and they can’t always cover events. For media outlets not able to attend, send them a link to the stream. They can then use some of the footage and include your event in their news report.
  • Interview physicians or demonstrate new technology and procedures.
  • Boost the value of your sponsorships so that you get more than just your logo on a flyer or t-shirt.
  • Appeal to your audience’s curiosity. The examples the presenters gave was about taking a tour of the electrophysiology lab or showcase a renovation.
  • Promote events at your hospital. But always ask, “Is this important to our audience? Is it relevant?” Don’t go live just for the sake of it.

 

Are you using Facebook Live for your hospital or healthcare organization? We would love to see how you are doing it. Share with us, won’t you?

 

Blog post written by Lori Moore, Senior Account Manager for TotalCom Marketing Communications. Reach Lori Moore by email or phone at 205.345.7363.

iPhone X Facial Recognition

Could the iPhone X Change Digital Advertising?

You took the plunge about the iPhone X and you’re not even sure if you’re supposed to say iPhone X or iPhone ten.

But what’s the big difference between this model and the one you had before collecting a new monthly payment added to your stack of bills?

Facial recognition is the big difference. Are you unlocking your phone or is it unlocking you? This could bring in a new era for marketers. Since the announcement of the iPhone X, facial recognition has quickly become the topic of dinner conversations everywhere. Facial recognition used to be reserved for top secret labs or something you saw the President use in a movie. But now we have access to it as well (celebrities, they’re just like us!)

While this feature is marketed as a security function for unlocking your phone, a consumer device used by the masses is a seriously powerful technology.

It is said 90% of personal communications is nonverbal. Every day there are instances where we don’t understand the nonverbal cues of the person on the other end of our screens. We use emojis and GIFs to try and share emotion within our digital interactions.

For all of us in the communications business, we know good experiences lead to trust and loyalty while bad experiences lead to brand rejection. So what could we do as marketers if we were able to obtain real-time reactions from a consumers? Imagine a world where we have access to consumer’s facial expressions and emotional cues in reaction to products and brands?

If we could access the facial cues from patients waiting for an extended time in the emergency room? The excitement on someone’s face when they try out a restaurant’s new dish. Or the skepticism on your face when you’re indulging in a purchase you shouldn’t be.

Currently, Apple is keeping detailed facial recognition data local on the phone and not storing it on its servers. App makers can use the iPhone X, with the user’s permission, to read a rough map of a stream of facial expressions. While Apple may never store this information for public use, it’s interesting to think about a world where we design advertisements based on the most unique human feature. This technology would tell us more about our consumers than we’ve ever known before.

Digital advertising can be hard to keep up with, let us do the work for you. Contact TotalCom today.

unified hospital marketing and branding

Tips for Creating a Unified Hospital Marketing Brand

Take a look at all of your branded material online — your social media profiles, your website, the blogs you create, the emails you send out, your graphics, your display ads, and anything else that is associated with your brand.

If you were to remove the logos, would all those pieces look similar/related? Would there still be a unified, consistent look among all of those elements — or would you not be able to tell they even came from the same company?

If the latter, you may have a problem with brand consistency for your hospital marketing campaign.

Learn more about why brand consistency is important and how you can build a stronger, more unified brand for your hospital.

Why Brand Consistency Matters

People have an innate ability to recognize patterns. We also have an innate ability to recognize and associate with brands, in that we notice what makes a brand stand out and recognize those elements when we see them later — and also, we build positive or negative connections between a brand and our opinion of it.

For example, seeing a physical example of McDonald’s “Golden Arches” is commonplace. We all know what those arches mean, just as we know what it means when we read McDonald’s tagline, “I’m Lovin’ It” or see one of the company’s advertisements. You could remove the logo entirely from the restaurants and the company’s marketing materials and you’d still be able to tell from the company’s consistent use of various other brand elements that you were standing in a McDonald’s (or reading/viewing a McDonald’s advertisement). And of course, every time you notice one of these elements, you experience emotions and thoughts about the brand (good or bad).

Brand consistency matters because it’s these strong brand connections that ultimately drive business. This is especially important when it comes to hospital marketing. A hospital isn’t a place people go because they want to — they only go there when they need to. And since no one knows exactly when he or she is going to experience that need, it’s important to ensure that your brand is “top of mind” when the time comes. Otherwise, your customer could choose another provider.

The simple truth is, people choose whomever has the strongest, most memorable brand. But you can’t make your brand strong or memorable without also making it consistent, and ensuring that it delivers the same message, no matter where your audience sees it.

Creating Brand Consistency

First and foremost, your hospital should have a brand guide. This is a document that codifies all that the brand is — not just how it looks, but also the brand messages to be communicated. This guide is where you spell out slogans, taglines, core values, messages, talking points, and the like —anything, that is, that can be used to create a message that a potential patient will encounter.

Of course, how a brand looks does also matter, tremendously. That’s why a style guide should be a part of the brand guide. The style guide dictates, to the finest detail, how the brand will look — which is key to ensuring consistency in any graphic you create, whether it’s a Facebook page, a print ad, a display ad, a social media post, an infographic, or a logo for a TV commercial.

Your guide can get very specific in detailing brand directions for each medium. For example, if you run ads on television, your guide can dictate what branding elements will be in each commercial. If you post on social media and create images for the post, you can stipulate what each image must look like and contain.

Everyone on your team needs to have the brand guide and be on board with it. This is crucial for successful hospital marketing. Otherwise, you’ll have different people creating different things — applying brand elements inconsistently across marketing materials. And that lack of consistency dilutes your brand.

Periodically, check your brand and review it to make sure it’s:

  • Coherent
  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Cohesive
  • Convincing

All of these qualities need to be in place, especially the cohesive aspect. Your brand should have the same uniform appearance wherever it appears. Checking it on a regular basis — maybe once a quarter — not only gives you opportunities to revise it if needed, but also keeps everyone on the same page.

Get Better Hospital Marketing with TotalCom

If you’re interested in advancing your hospital marketing campaign with consistent branding across all media, contact TotalCom Marketing. We’d be more than happy to help create winning branding campaigns that improve recognition and build trust within your market.

Hospital Marketing: Social Media Facts to Consider for 2014 (Part 1 of 4)

This isn’t your kid’s social media anymore!  Adults are getting in on the action.

mature adults on hospital websiteHealthcare marketers often think social media is for the younger generation.  Valuable yes, but a vehicle to reach and engage a younger audience.  But that has been changing and continues to change.  Here are two facts we can’t ignore:

1. Facebook is already a predominantly adult social network and now the fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55-63 year olds.  This demographic has grown 79% since 2012.   And the 45-54 age bracket is the fastest growing demographic on both Facebook and Google+.  Within this demo, Facebook has grown 46% and Google+ 56%.

For hospital marketers this is a prime target audience.  And their increasing use of these three platforms certainly makes social media extremely viable. Our social media strategy should not be to just to engage young adults.  We must make sure our strategy and messaging is targeting older adults and their needs and interests.

2.  And if that isn’t enough to get our attention, social media is now the number one activity on the web, surpassing porn (thankfully!).  Social media is now the most common activity online.  When you’re on Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest there are more people doing the same things than anything else on the web. 

It’s clear that social media is not just a fad. With new platforms and new users, it has become a habit and it continues to grow. As healthcare marketers we can’t ignore it.  It has become a necessity.  It should be an important component of our overall marketing strategy.  Especially since its use is becoming so common within a key target demo.

Statistics accredited to Belle Beth Cooper writing for the Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com).

 

Healthcare Marketing: 5 Social Media Suggestions for Hospitals

111773023Here are 5 excellent suggestions offered by Marianne Aiello in an article for HealthcareLeaders Media.  It’s republished in its entirety.

In 2013 the new millennium officially became a teenager. And like all teenagers, it is seriously addicted to social media. Really, mom and dad should consider limiting its data plan.

Hospitals, however, are still playing catch up in the social media space. There are plenty of excuses, from staffing problems to technical ditziness.  But none is acceptable anymore. MySpace, the granddaddy of social media, was created ten years ago. It’s time the healthcare industry got with it.

 An infographic by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group highlights just where hospitals stand in the social space. Only 26% use social media. No, that is not a typo—just one-quarter of hospitals in the US use any type of social media. Of those,

  • 84% are on Facebook
  • 64% are on Twitter
  • 46% are on YouTube
  • 12% blog

So that’s where we stand. Now let’s look at healthcare consumers.

About one-third of consumers use social sites for health-related matters. And these patients are sharing their experiences, with 44% of respondents saying they were likely or very likely to share a positive experience they had with a hospital.

More notably, 40% said they were likely or very likely to share a negative experience they had with a hospital.

So like it or not, patients are talking about your organization on social media sites. It’s a hospital marketer’s duty to be there to listen, share successes, and respond to complaints. Let’s take a tip from the newly pimple-faced millennium and get social.

Here are five resolutions all hospital marketers should make for the coming year.

1.    Tell powerful patient stories.

Perhaps the greatest value of social media is the ability to quickly and easily connect with patients. From there, it’s up to the marketer to make this connection meaningful.

Often, the best way to accomplish this is by telling meaningful, powerful patient stories. Luckily for us, these stories already exist out there. We just have to find them. 

To do this, track any keyword or hashtag that relates to your organization. A third party platform such as HootSuite can facilitate this. If you don’t find much, start soliciting  patient stories.

From there, you can share them on Facebook, re-tweet them on Twitter, or write up a blog post, which you can then link to on Facebook and Twitter. In some cases, YouTube may be the best storytelling medium. 

There are countless ways to share positive patient experiences through social media. And the more often you do it, the easier the process will become.

2.    Do something innovative.

Another benefit of social media campaigns versus traditional marketing campaigns is that you can afford to take more risks. 

If a marketing campaign bombs, you’ve wasted money on print materials and advertising space. But, in most cases, if a social media campaign misses the mark you’re only real cost is the time it took to execute it. 

Besides, in social media taking a risk can pay off big.

Here are some ideas to get your gears turning:

  • Live-tweet a surgery to highlight a service line
  • Experiment with fundraising through Facebook
  • Set up a weekly doc Q&A time on Twitter
  • Use social media to attract new physicians and staff
  • Ask a patient to live-tweet a “day in the life” at your organization

Get creative and see what sticks. As a bonus, local press love to cover innovative hospital social marketing efforts.

3.    Take a hard look at risk management. 

Of course, using social media to promote your organization has its risks. As much as people enjoy sharing positive feedback online, they seem to enjoy sharing negative feedback even more. It’s the nature of the beast. But this is absolutely not a reason to avoid social media altogether.

Like I said before, social media is about 10 years old. Most people using social media aren’t new. Therefore, most people using social media know that the anonymity users have on some sites turn people into hate-filled harping conspiracy theorists. 

You can just tell when a commenter has taken a couple crazy pills. Most internet users put everything they read online through a filter and, for marketers, this acts as a barrier of sorts. 

That said, there are some steps you should take to mitigate your social media risk. Make sure that you have a comprehensive social media policy for employees and that the policy is up to date. 

Employees should sign a document stating that they understand they are not to post any patient information or any negative comments about the organization. 

I’m amazed at how often I see a high school classmate post on Facebook about how much they hate their nursing job and mentioning the hospital by name. 

It’s also important to make sure all providers understand where the boundary lies when communicating with patients on social media. While you’re at it, ask physicians if they have a public Twitter account or blog where they postulate about anything healthcare related. 

Doctors  represent your organization, so it’s critical to know what they’re putting out there. Social media savvy docs can also be great allies when formulating a new campaign

4.    Keep an eye on your peers.

The healthcare industry as a whole is behind the curve, but many hospitals are true social media standouts. Keep an eye on these organizations to see how they launch campaigns, respond to criticism, and deal with employees. 

The Mayo Clinic tops the list of social media trailblazers and provides helpful information to other organizations through its Center for Social Media.

 UPMC is also a top organization to go to for social media tips, especially it’s well maintained Facebook page.

And if you’re looking for Twitter inspiration, check out Brigham and Women’s account. They tweet a variety of posts on anything from health topics to hospital rankings to volunteer opportunities.

5.    Track everything.

None of this counts if you can’t view the statistics that tell you which efforts are working, which fell flat, which are tapering off, and which have found a second life. Keep count of your followers and likes, of how many people clicked your links, of how long visitors stayed on that blog post. 

This information will help you better tailor future social campaigns and give you solid numbers to report to your superiors.

With these five resolutions, hospital marketers should be able to commit to having a strong presence in the social media world now and for years to come—or at least until the millennium gets its braces off.

 

            

     

Healthcare Marketing: Real Time Responses Can Lead to Bad Times

Rather than reacting in “real time” in social media, responses should be carefully and strategically planned.

There is a lot of talk these days about “real time” media.  With social media, brands have the ability to respond and react almost immediately.  In “real time” as it’s referred to.  And many pundits claim this as an advantage of social media.  But is that really the smartest thing for our healthcare brands?

Leigh Dow, founder and managing director of Dow Media Group writing for Smart Blog on Social Media questioned the wisdom of real time responses.  She gave two examples of real time responses that were not so good:

  • Micky Arison, owner of the Miami Heat, was fined $500,000 after using Twitter as a sounding board about what he thought about the NBA lockout.
  • Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce created a media firestorm when he implied victims of the Aurora, Colorado shooting held some blame by not being armed.

These are examples, and there are many others, why social media should not be used for random stream of consciousness.  This is true personally but it’s also true for our brands.  Brands invest a tremendous amount of time, effort and money in building brand reputation and equity.  But when discipline and planning is not used in social media, a brand can be decimated as quickly as you can press, “Send.” 

“If you are doing social media right, little of your communication is in real time,” states Dow.  “Your communication should be the culmination of careful strategy and planning.  If you are doing it right, you have completed an extensive exercise in developing a social media strategy, channel mapping, implementation plans, an editorial calendar, roles and responsibilities, policies and guidelines, and a scorecard for tracking results.  That doesn’t fell very real time to me.”

Some had lauded social media as a great tool when your brand has a crisis.  And yes it can be very useful but it shouldn’t negate the need for a very careful and measured response.  That means making sure you have all the facts and you understand the situation and then deliberately considering how your brand should respond.

Dow gives JetBlue as an example of a brand that did it well.   When one of its flight attendants had a mental breakdown and, as a result cursed a passenger and quit his job very dramatically, social media networks were a buzz.  Instead of feeling the need to respond in “real time”, JetBlue had a more measured and calculated response.  Shortly after the incident the airline updated Twitter and it’s blog by stating that it was aware of what had happened and was working to verify details and would report only what it knew was accurate.  The company continued frequent updates as they learned the facts and carefully planned a response.  As brand protectors our requirement is not to give an immediate responses but to be accurate and responsible.

She gives examples when it’s appropriate to use social media in real time:

  • Monitoring what people are saying about your brand
  • Racking what people are saying about your competition
  • Helping a customer with a customer service question

We have all written emails, letters, notes or memos as an immediate response to a situation but after letting it sit for a bit, returned to it and decided that was not the way we wanted to communicate.  After having a chance to reflect a bit, we decided the words or tone were not what we wanted.  Social media is the same.  Sometimes in an effort to be in “real time” we can create situations that are not so good for our brand.  Because every post, response, or tweet has legs and can never be retrieved.  Careful thought and preparation should go into every social media response.

Hospital Marketing: Making the Case for Mobile

The facts are overwhelming when considering whether your hospital should go mobile.  The small screen is the place to be.

An astonishing fact: there are 48 million people in the world who have mobile phones but do not have electricity in their homes.  That shows the impact of mobile on our lives.  It’s estimated that the off-grid, on-net population will reach 138 million by 2015.

Ann Tracy Mueller posted on healthcarecommunications.com statistics showing the use of mobile is growing exponentially. Citing Kevin Roberts from a Cisco report in his Blogging Innovation site, the case is made for the impact of mobile and the need for healthcare marketers to be mobile-savvy and mobile-ready.

  • Global mobile traffic nearly tripled for the third year in a row in 2010.
  • Mobile video traffic will exceed 50 percent of all mobile data traffic for the first time in 2011.
  • In early 2010, iPhone use was at least four times higher than that of any other smart phone platform. By the end of 2010, iPhone use was only 1.75 times higher than that of number two, Android.
  • There will be 788 million mobile-only Internet users by 2015, up 56-fold from 14 million at the end of 2010.
  • There will be more than 7.1 billion mobile-connected devices in 2015, roughly equivalent to the world’s population by then (7.2 billion).

The numbers are staggering.  But they are understandable.  Think how much you use your mobile device.  How much you see the people around you using there’s.  How many people do you know who don’t have a mobile phone?  Probably not many.  The numbers are clear.  The stats are obvious.

As healthcare marketers, in the very least, we need to make sure our internet presence is mobile-friendly.  And we should be exploring ways to create and use mobile apps to market our hospital.  Information is being accessed from mobile devices, including information about one’s health.  We must make sure our health information and information about our organization and services are easily mobile-accessible.

Not convinced yet?  Here’s one more bit of information from Roberts that should remove any doubt about the need for our hospital to be mobile-friendly:

“The average smartphone will generate 1.3 gigabytes of traffic per month in 2015, 16 times more than the 2010 average of 79 megabytes per month.  Growth in the next five years will see global mobile traffic reach 6.3 exabytes per month by 2015. How big is that? It’s been suggested that every word ever spoken by human beings would equate to five exabytes. So six every month is a lot of chatter!”

 

Healthcare Marketing: 20% of Time Spent Online is with Social Networks

Social media sites reach 82% of the online population and Facebook reaches over ½ of the world’s population.

Social media continues to show amazing growth.  In “It’s A Social World”, ComScore has issued a report concerning the growth and impact of social media.  Without a doubt social media has become the most popular online activity.  In 2007 social media represented only 6% of online activity but that has now increased to 20%. Over 1.2 billion people globally use social media sites.

The report verified that women spend more than 30% more time online than men.  Social networking is no longer a young person’s activity as the participation now spans all age groups.   And Facebook now reaches 55 billion people, which is more than half of the world’s population.   Despite the hype for mobile access and marketing, it still captures just a fraction of the fixed-line connection.

The study just proves again the impact of social media.  The extensiveness of social networking.  But it does not answer, for healthcare marketers, the question of how to take full advantage of this massive audience.  Savvy healthcare marketers have experimented with some success.  But there are so many unanswered questions. We continue to learn and hopefully grow smarter.  But with limited resources and some of the limitations of healthcare marketing, it’s still a learning process.   There is still much to be explored as we attempt new tactics and new ideas.  Stay tuned….there will be much to come.