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Your Social Media Strategy: Get Started (or Get Serious)

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

In the retail world, about one in three customers will use social networks to discover or research new products or services, typically this is an early step on their purchase-decision path. In healthcare, the influence of the Internet and social media—where upwards of eight out of ten people look online for health information—is an even stronger factor.

An effective social media strategy needs to be part of your overall marketing plan to reach these consumers. Here are five critical questions to get started (or to get serious) about social media:

Team meeting with social media symbols all over wooden conference table

What are your business goals for social media? Define how you want social media to support your marketing plan and help your overall goals. How does social media interact with other marketing activities? In as specific terms as possible, what are the primary objectives? How will you measure results?

Who, exactly, is your audience? If you already have a well-tuned marketing plan, you should have a clear customer profile. (And if not, you’ll need to step back and outline the characteristics of your ideal buyer.) You’ll need a demographic profile for each target audience group, as well as an understanding of their attitudes, buying habits, and interests.

Which social platform(s) best match this profile? The big-name social media resources (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) have the largest user numbers and they are your best starting point. That said, you may find unique audience opportunities among lesser-known networking groups that have a special interest or purpose that you can connect with logically. Further, your own blog, YouTube channel and the like are opportunities to reach, develop and engage smaller, but high-interest communities.

To illustrate matching, adult women, age 25-34, represent the primary Facebook demographics. Among the Facebook age segments, only the senior slice, (ages 65 and older) has grown dramatically in the past two years.

Twitter, according to Pew Research, “is particularly popular among those under 50 and the college-educated…[with increases among] men…who live in households with an annual household income of $50,000 or more, college graduates, and urbanites.”

The process isn’t rocket science for the major SM options, but keep in mind that (a) you have more than one audience profile to consider, (b) you will likely need to be using more than one social media voice, and (c) because the social media landscape is constantly shifting, statistics will vary.

What resources will be committed to social media? Hard-dollar costs for social media activities are generally lower than, for example, a traditional media campaign. But, social media isn’t without some cost considerations, and you need enough of a budget to be effective. Resource considerations also include people with the knowledge and skill sets to perform or manage the many moving parts.

Consider how often you’ll be actively using social networks. Frequency can vary by situation, but his might mean posting to Facebook five to ten times a week, and to Twitter, perhaps five times a day.

The time required will probably be greater at the outset, plus a continuing allocation of time to maintain a flow of content and regular interaction with audiences. Consider the daily requirement of physician and management time as well as staff time. Other resources may also be needed if you’ll be using photos, videos or regularly producing authoritative text or content.

What about outside resources? The answer is…it depends. Outsourcing social media activities is often a good idea when you need help devising the plan and getting things off to a good start. After that, a realistic assessment of in-house strengths and weaknesses will help guide decisions about outsourcing. (Surprisingly often, in a busy medical practice, using outside resources for special tasks is both efficient and cost effective.)

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

Excerpted from How to Grow Your Cash Healthcare Business - The 7 Arts of Engagement by Mark J. Tager, MD, Stewart Gandolf, MBA; Publisher: ChangeWell Inc.

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