Healthcare Marketing: Around the Internet in 60 Seconds

It’s mindboggling what happens each minute on the internet.  Like 695,000 Facebook updates, 168 million emails sent, 694,000 search queries and 13,000 iPhone apps downloaded.

Business Insider  revealed two infographics that indicate just some of the things that happen on the internet – every 60 seconds.  Perhaps nothing is as invasive in our lives as the internet.  It’s truly amazing!

Hospital Marketing: Men More Social

Men are even more likely than women to turn to social media networks for healthcare information.  

Women are more likely to make healthcare decisions for their families.  And women are the dominant user of social media.  But despite these facts, surprisingly, men are more likely than women to turn to social media for healthcare purposes.    According to a survey conducted by the accounting firm PwC  men, as a percentage, turn to social media for health information more than women.

Not so surprisingly, the survey indicated nearly a third of all survey respondents used social media for healthcare purposes.  Facebook led all media sites with 18% of those surveyed choosing that site over other options. YouTube was second at 12% followed by blogs (9%), Google (8%) and Twitter (6%).

However, the survey also indicated only 5% of respondents would be persuaded to choose one hospital over another because it had a social media presence. 

The take away for healthcare providers is that social media is a valid medium for communicating with consumers.  And with men.  But it will not necessarily dictate if a consumer chooses our hospital.  Social media certainly provides exposure and provides means to engage consumers. It can certainly influence how a brand is perceived but it alone, is not likely to be the determining factor on whether someone chooses one hospital over another.

Social media is an important tool for healthcare marketers and it can enhance relationships with consumers, but it is not yet the silver bullet some people claim it to be.

Hospital Marketing: Dealing with Angry Patients/Customers Part 2

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

Every hospital will have disgruntled customers from time to time.  But instead of letting the situation create bad ill and tarnish the brand, the situation can be used to show how your hospital cares and even build brand loyalty.

Based on consumer satisfaction research, an article in The Financial Brand listed the expectations of customers once they have issued a complaint.  The list is important for hospitals to understand and use as a guideline for dealing with angry customers.

Customers who have issued complaints expect to:

  • Receive an explanation of how a problem happened
  • Be told how long it will take to resolve a problem
  • Be given progress reports if a problem cannot be solved immediately.
  • Be given useful alternatives if a problem cannot be resolved.
  • Be allowed to talk to someone in authority.
  • Be contacted promptly once the problem is resolved.
  • Be called back when promised.
  • Know whom to contact in the future.
  • Be told about ways the customer’s situation might be used to prevent future problems.

It’s important hospitals address customer issues and fulfill the expectations listed above.  Unsolved problems have a particularly negative impact on both continued loyalty and word-of-mouth recommendations to others. Dissatisfied customers tell far more people about their experience than do satisfied customers.

So it’s imperative to deal with customer complaints and use the opportunity to turn a negative situation into a positive one.  One that can actually build customer loyalty.

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: 25 Interesting Facts about Social Media

In her social media and PR blog, “Commentz“, Sarah Evans and her staff compile a lot of interesting stats. She cherry-picked the most relevant for marketers and recently shared them with Ad Age. They can be quite useful to healthcare marketers.

1. “Social media accounts for one out of every six minutes spent online in US.”

2. “Seventy-seven percent report that they use social media to share their love of a show; 65% use it as a platform to help save their favorite shows; and 35% use it to try to introduce new shows to their friends.”

3. “Facebook users are overall more trusting than non-internet others. Pew reported, 43% of survey participants were more likely than other internet users to feel that most people can be trusted.”

4. “22% of all grandparents in the UK are using social networks, according to Mashable. The study, which collected results from 1,341 grandparents from the UK, showed that 71% of grandparents who use a social network use Facebook, 34% are on Twitter and 9% use the business social network LinkedIn.”

5. “In the first four months after its January 2010 launch in Russia, Facebook use grew by 376%, and today more than 4.5 million people use the site regularly.”

6. “The ‘Weinergate’ scandal caused a significant drop in tweeting politicians. According to VentureBeat, after the scandal ‘the number of tweets by Republican members of Congress dropped by 27 percent, while those of Democrats dropped by 29 percent.'”

7. Instagram “currently has a user base of 4.25 million in only seven months, with ten photos being posted a second.”

8. “It only takes 20 people to bring an online community to a significant level of activity and connectivity.”

9. “Nearly twice as many men (63%) as women (37%) use LinkedIn.”

10. “In the last election Google was the largest player — the Obama campaign directed 45% of its online campaign dollars to the search site.”

11. “59% of adult Facebook users had “liked” a brand as of April, up from 47% the previous September. Uptake among the oldest users appears to have been a major factor in this rise.”

12. “In 2010, 29.3 million readers read some 270 million pages of Post journalism each month, a record for The Washington Post. Of that, 28.1 million did so online and, while [Washington Post] brought in 4.2 million new readers on average each month compared to the previous year, [they] also lost some 35,000 print subscribers in 2010 alone.”

13. “25% of hotels [are] still ignoring social media.”

14. “Businesses are paying Twitter $120,000 to sponsor a promoted trending topic for a day. […] That’s up from $25,000 to $30,000 when the feature was launched in April 2010.”

15. “AOL’s newsroom is now bigger than The New York Times’.”

16. “Mobile is one of the fastest-growing platforms in the world. With 40% of U.S. mobile subscribers regularly browsing the internet on their phone and a projected 12.5% of all e-commerce transactions going mobile by the end of the year, it’s a channel that you need to be aware of. According to Google, mobile web traffic will surpass PC traffic by 2013.”

17. “Twitter is 6-7 times smaller than Facebook.”

18. “There are now 54 million active Mac users around the world.”

19. “130 million books have been downloaded from iBooks.”

20. “Users say they’re more likely to buy if a business answers their questions on Twitter.”

21. “Nearly half (42%) indicated that if they’ve already allocated a portion of their marketing spend to social media, they would increase this spend over the course of the year. Only 8% of those surveyed indicated that they would decrease social media spend.”

22. “13% of online adults use the status update service Twitter, which represents a significant increase from the 8% of online adults who identified themselves as Twitter users in November 2010. 95% of Twitter users own a mobile phone, and half of these users access the service on their handheld device.”

23. “According to HubSpot, small businesses plan to spend 19 percent of budgets on social media vs. only 6 percent in larger businesses. A similar gap is shown for blogging with 10 percent of budgets for small business vs. just 3 percent for large.”

24. “33 percent of its worldwide traffic is inside the United States.”

25. “Facebook has three times as many accounts as Twitter, and 20 percent of Twitter’s users produce at least 80 percent of the site’s content.”



Healthcare Marketing: Even the Most Traditional Institutions are Embracing Social Media

There seems to be a rush on high-profile, epic-proportion weddings as of late. Some royal and some not (as in Kardashian), but what do they have in common other than seven figure budgets? The use of social media to promote, organize and disseminate information of course! 

Even The Royal Wedding was a social media savvy event proving that even the most traditional institutions can embrace social media.

The British Monarchy is about as traditional you can get.  Established, stuffy, outdated, staid, clinging to the past and resistant to change would be some of the was you might describe the British Royals.  And it might sound very similar to your hospital.  And that’s why you can’t fully embrace and use social media.

But the Royal Wedding certainly proved even highly traditional institutions can embrace and effectively use social media.   Shonali Burke  outlined some of the ways the royal family used social media to promote the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

  • Clarence House (named for the official residence of the Prince of Wales) released a steady and strategically timed stream of information from who’s doing the flowers to photographs of those arriving for the event.
  • Created a hashtag to keep tract of wedding wishes coming to the bride and groom via Twitter.
  • Established a Facebook page where one can like the page by sending a RSVP to the wedding.
  • Their Flicker stream was constantly updated.
  • Live-streamed the wedding on YouTube and invited viewers to leave their own video message for the couple.
  • An official Royal Wedding website.

Quite an unexpected turnabout for the kings, queens, princes and princesses of tradition.   They obviously wanted to engage the public and they certainly accomplished that.  And they used the popular mediums of the day.   Certainly there was tremendous traditional media coverage.  That was a given.  But the extensive use of social media is certainly a lesson to learn.

So your hospital and its leadership are traditional.   Let the Monarchy set the example.  True, the royal family has the resources to do it well.  But with a little time, and not much money, healthcare marketers can choose a few of the social networking tools to build relationships and reach an audience that is getting more and more difficult to reach with traditional media.

Surely if one of the most traditional institutions in the world can embrace social media, even the most traditionally-minded hospitals can say “I do.”



Healthcare Marketing: 32 Facebook Post Ideas for Your Hospital

Using Facebook to demystify your hospital can build relationships and create hospital loyalty.  

Every healthcare marketer who manages a Facebook page struggles from time to time for content. One strategy is to use Facebook postings to demystify your hospital, to make it more familiar, less scary and more approachable.  Highlighting hospital activities and team members can give your hospital personality, help build a relationship and enhance your brand.

Jill Celeste, owner of Hound Dog Social Media,  suggests 32 posting topics to engage your fans and make your hospital approachable.

1. Explaining construction and renovation projects

2. Installing new equipment or technology

3. What’s cooking in your cafeteria kitchen?

4. Gift shop sales and new merchandise

5. Employee appreciation events

6. Employees of the month

7. A Day in the Life of …. (highlight a specific job in the hospital)

8. Planting and maintaining your hospital gardens

9. Introduce your security team

10. Explain how to request medical records

11. Pictures of your hospital chapel

12. Meet the chaplain

13. How flowers are delivered

14. How to become a hospital volunteer

15. How to apply for a job at the hospital

16. Explain your ER wait times

17. Highlight your patient safety initiatives

18. Post your visiting hours

19. Feature a support group

20. Highlight your hospital phone operators

21. Post a campus map (or link to it)

22. Promote a hospital lecture or class

23. Take pictures of employees volunteering in the community

24. Welcome new medical staff

25. Explain the wristbands that patients wear

26. What to bring if you’re coming to the hospital

27. Photos from a Foundation event

28. Talk about your free hospital Wi-Fi

29. Link to news stories featuring your hospital

30. Introduce your Board of Trustees

31. Celebrate new accreditations, awards or certifications

32. Announce new programs and services.

These are great idea starters.  And of course the list could go on and on.

Informational content is also extremely important. After all, that’s what consumers expect and want from your hospital.  Health tips and information keeps your fans coming back and helps grow your fan base.  But there should be a mixture of helpful health related content and information that will put a face on your hospital and express the hospital’s personality.


Healthcare Marketing: Mistakes Can Speed Thru Social Media at Warp Speed

But mistakes handled correctly can lead to stronger consumer relationships.  

There have been some pretty notorious mistakes that have raced across social media networks.   BP’s response to the gulf oil spill dug a hole that they are still trying to crawl out of.  Response in social media caused Gap to go back to its original logo within days of announcing a new logo.   And one of the latest was Kenneth Cole’s twitter that the real cause of Egypt’s uproar was due to the announcement of Kenneth Cole’s new spring collection.  The tweet was deemed insensitive, inappropriate and self-serving.

The latest snafu prompted Rupal Parekh in Ad Age to outline the “Seven Stages Of Committing A Social Media Sin”.  And she indicated how quickly the stages occur within social space.  Here are the seven stages she outlines:

1.     Gaffe – some brand makes a critical mistake.

2.     Outrage – public anger is expressed via the internet.

3.     Apology – the brand realizes their actions are perceived very negatively and offers an apology.

4.     Parody – unflattering imitations appear.

5.     Humor – consumers go from criticizing the actions to making fun.

6.     Indifference – nobody seems to care anymore.

7.     Repeat – some other brand makes another snafu and moves to center stage of social networks.

One of the amazing things about this outline is that with the Kenneth Cole incident – it sped through all the stages within just 7 hours.  A very short cycle.

The other amazing thing is that at the end of the cycle, the brand had 10% more followers than when the gaffe occurred.

So what can healthcare marketers learn?  First of all mistakes happen.  And sometimes they blindside you.  Consumers sometimes react in very surprising and unexpected ways.  But the most important thing to remember is quick, sincere, authentic responses is usually well received and will lead to dissipating the issue.

Healthcare marketers are not very likely to commit social media sins that will reach the magnitude of negative responses directed toward national brands.  But the lessons learned still apply.  Any gaffe that is addressed in social media, even if in limited local circles, can cause much concern and fear.  But just as we have learned from national brands, timely, honest and transparent responses will reap positive results. In fact, they may provide the opportunity to improve our brand and build even stronger consumer relationships.


Healthcare Marketing: 10 Tips for More Effective Social Media Marketing

Scientific research indicates that certain proven strategies can enhance social marketing efforts.

Healthcare marketers are striving to improve their social media efforts.  There are a lot of varying strategies espoused, making it difficult to know which ones are most effective.  Social networking is certainly not a proven scientific endeavor.   There are some basic competencies required, but it also involves some degree of art, intuition and luck.

Dan Zarrela describes himself as an award winning social, search and viral marketing scientist.  He is the author of several books and numerous articles about social media.   He is a noted student of social marketing and is recognized as a knowledgeable expert.

Zarrela posted an article discussing how to make social marketing more scientific. His points are excellent and are the basis of the ten tips listed below:

1.  Experiment with different strategies to discover what works. Conduct your own research.  Try different things and learn what is most effective for your hospital.

2.  Audience size is important. Certainly you want a quality audience but quantity is very important.  Hospitals need engaged followers but also need a large number of them.

3.  Find and target your influencers.  Among your fans/followers there are key influencers.  Usually it’s those who were early adopters of social media.   Extra attention and care should be given to them.

4.  Bigger and louder works – to a point. It’s possible to yell over the social media clutter but only for a limited time.   If you yell too much, you will be tuned out.

5.   Personalize the conversation with your audience.   Make it personal and authentic.  Everyone likes hearing his or her name. And to be the center of attention. Know that!  And use it to your advantage.

6.  Avoid link fatigue.  Don’t wear your audience out with too many links.  Your audience will grow tired and lose interest.

7.  Make your brand cool. I know that’s somewhat difficult for hospitals but find ways to help your audience improve their reputations and status by being associated with your brand.

8.  Avoid information voids. Rumors and misperceptions form when there is a lack of information.  Always get out in front of every potential crisis.

9.   Don’t talk too much about yourself. Take it easy on yourself.  No one wants to be engaged in conversation with someone who talks about himself all the time.   How boring is that!

10.  Use call-to action.  As is true with every type of marketing, you ultimately want your audience to take action. Compel your audience to do so.  And make it easy for them to do so.

Healthcare marketers are  still learning when and how to do social marketing effectively.  And we are learning more and more everyday.   Trial and error and experimentation will teach us a lot.  But learning from those who  have experience and who are avid students of social media can certainly improve our learning curve. That’s why tips listed here are so very helpful.


Healthcare Marketing: Have We Lost Our Marketing Way?

Today’s emphasis on social media, analytics and ROI has taken the place of the “Big Idea.”  And brands are weaker because of it.

When you scan the topics of marketing conventions, examined the titles of webinars that are available everyday and study what marketing subjects are most tweeted, you will find the marketing landscape is covered and dominated by new processes and platforms.   All the talk is about social media, digital platforms, analytics, market segmentation and targeting, lead generation and tracking and ROI.   Where is the discussion about  “big ideas”?  About creativity?  About speaking uniquely to the consumers’ hearts and minds?

Now all of these things are important and create exciting opportunities.  But none of them really matter absent the right, break-through idea.   Where is today’s equivalent of Volkswagen’s “Think Small”, DeBeers’ “Diamonds Are Forever”, “The Absolut Bottle” or Avis’ “We Try Harder?”   Oh there are currently some great campaigns but it seems we have too often substituted creativity for things we can compute and measure.

Brands benefit from savvy marketing tactics and superior media planning but great brands are built with great ideas.  Sure there are some new powerful media platforms but they cannot make a bad idea good.  Or a build a great brand from mediocre concepts. All the best new communication platforms and the analytics that go with them can’t capture the heart and soul of a brand.  Or the critical position in the consumers’ minds.

Maybe our first question should be “what” and not “how”.  An architect conceives a great structure before deciding the tools and materials to use.  An artist has an idea for a subject before deciding on the techniques and colors. And a composer hears a grand symphony in his mind before deciding the instruments to use.   And as marketers, we should have a great concept, a big idea, before deciding where to place it.

New tactics and processes can make us more efficient but great brands they do not make.  Great brands come from breakthrough ideasMarketing should be less about analytics and more about inspiration. Less about measured results and more about creativity.   After all, great brands are created and transformed by big ideas.