By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Art and science have a special meeting point in social media. And with the proper blend of each, social media has the power to reach, recruit and retain private pay and elective care patients.
For the most part, the “science part” is often the easier side of the equation. The major social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others—are openly available, easy to use, and for the most part, free or low cost.
The science-side technology provides reliable, large-audience communications channels that are mature, stable and virtually ubiquitous. You do need to keep up with the ways and means that various platforms routinely change in their unending quest for enhancements, improvements and new bells-and-whistles. For the most part, however, the science-side takes care of itself, and the use of social media in society today is both popular and far-reaching.
It’s the “art side” of using and mastering social media that is the greater challenge to successfully generating new business in healthcare. There is no list of how-to and what-to-do steps that applies to everyone and everywhere. Your formula for social media success is a creative challenge, and will be a blend of resources, platform selection, time and talent that engages your precisely defined target audience.
There are, however, a number of fundamental rules for success that apply universally in order to use social media effectively grow your business.
Start with social listening. The needs, interests and concerns of your audience are what drive the social conversation. No doubt you will be able to make meaningful contributions to the ongoing discussion(s), but it’s not about you, it’s about them. “Listening first” shapes the agenda and what fuels the social interaction.
Define, and then refine, your audience profile. What you think you know about your target audience is probably general (and slightly vague.) Work to accurately define your target audience in precise detail. The greater the precision, the more exacting and appealing your content can become.
Content is critical. Regardless of the social media format, the content that you create and present is what will engage people, inspire sharing and interaction, and build an enduring relationship. If it’s not interesting, authoritative, timely and/or useful to the audience, well…there is no audience for boring.
Be clear and focused. Develop and use an easily understood social media “voice” for what you say and how you say it. Direct your content to the interests of your target audience and speak to a single idea without distracting clutter, digressions or medical/technical buzzwords. Contribute to the social conversation regularly, frequently and consistently.
Connect with emotional motivators. Educational content is useful, but people will absorb more and move from superficially aware to actively engaged when information inspires a motivating human emotion.
Employ the visual elements. Quite simply, content with compelling and relevant visuals commands greater reader interest and action. Make graphics, color, photos, videos, drawings, charts and animated GIFs a standard element whenever possible and appropriate.
Have a do-able plan, realistic calendar, and dedicated resources. Don’t jump into social media without a roadmap and sufficient support to start and maintain the project. A plan and timetable avoid squandering the money and other resources needed to achieve defined goals.
Enduring relationships are the objective. The key consideration is social engagement, not overt sales. Nobody wants his or her arms twisted; in fact, nobody likes to “be sold.” People do, however, recognize and respect authoritative information, and resonate to helpful or problem-solving ideas. And, ultimately, people like to do business with people they feel they know, like and respect.
Inspire conversations. Ask questions, make comments and invite replies in a way that motivates and encourages discussions. Active conversations engage people, and that reveals their ideas and interests…which, by the way, is fuel for further conversation.
Leverage, promote and cross-promote. Think of your social media plan as an interrelated and cross-connected mix, not as standalone elements. Use email to promote your blog; link Tweets from Twitter to Facebook; and place social media icon/links on you website and Facebook page, for example, to be as visible as possible.
Plus this bonus tip…
Marketing via social media is a powerful and effective means to reach audiences, build lasting connections and grow your professional business. Begin with small bites if necessary and gradually expand your social visibility. It’s far better to commit to a regular, consistent and reliable presence with one or two social platforms than to attempt to make a big splash and fail to sustain it.
And if you’d like, we can help you develop and implement a social media marketing strategy to support your business objectives, build awareness and enhance your reputation. Connect with us right now, and let’s talk.
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