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Managing the Social Media Slice of Your Marketing Plan

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Computer displaying social media marketing strategy[Community Manager Series Installment] The successful implementation of social media is the responsibility — and the credit — of your community manager. Every healthcare marketing situation requires a custom plan that artfully blends each of many strategies and tactics. There is no one-size-fits-all list of how-to steps.

Successfully achieving the goals and objectives in marketing in general, or social media in particular, is part of the creative challenge. That said, every community manager for social media has some solid fundamentals that apply to growing the business. If this is a clean, fresh start, or if this is a performance tune-up, here are some of the important guidelines to consider:

Begin with “social listening.” The core component of social media is not about you or your interests, it is about your audience. It is their questions, problems and interests that drive the social conversation. As we’ve shared in the past, “listening first shapes the agenda and what fuels social interaction.”

Carefully audit the current picture. Make a written assessment of the present landscape, considering where you are in the mind of the audience, what social platforms and activities are currently in play, and what strengths and weaknesses exist in your operation and the competition.

Don’t get carried away or overwhelmed. Social media isn’t a novelty; it has a serious business purpose. The trouble is, the options are considerable. There are dozens (and dozens) of SM platforms and approaches, and most hospitals and providers can’t afford to (or need to) play in every game. Determine when and where there is a good social media fit, and prioritize for optimum payback.

RELATED: Mastering Social Media for Your Healthcare Marketing

Define your business goals. Social media is an important ingredient—one of many—for a marketing plan. Establish where it fits and how it works with other marketing elements. Specify the primary and secondary objectives.

Align goals with key business objectives. The value of a social media strategy is in helping achieve key performance indicators (KPI). Business leaders, bosses and administrators understand the value of goals that help the business succeed. Define goals in terms that are specific, measurable, realistic and timely (SMART). Use quantifiable and trackable metrics. Measure and report progress regularly.

Deeply understand your audience. Social media success is closely linked to understanding and delivering what your audience needs and/or wants. Content and elements that you publish will be memorable, compelling and relevant to solving their problems, offering shareable articles or answering questions. Listen to what they discuss or ask online. This is about them.

Identify the prime social connecting points between you and your audience. You can’t reach everyone or everywhere, so focus on where you will reach the most audience personas. The odds are they are among popular social media platforms. Although the number of monthly visitors is staggering, each of these platforms differs in user demographics, how it works and what may or may not be useful for healthcare marketing.

Facebook (2,000,000,000 monthly visitors); free social networking site where registered users exchange personal profiles, photos/videos, brief messages and activities, mainly among friends, family and colleagues.

YouTube (1,000,000,000); a video sharing platform and search engine where users can post or access posted videos on virtually any subject. YouTube is owned by Google and is the second largest search engine.

Instagram (700,000,000); a free photo-sharing network where users can edit and upload photos and brief videos. Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Twitter (328,000,000); a free microblogging service that facilitates the broadcast of brief, 140-character posts among registered users.

Reddit (250,000,000); a social news aggregation and discussion website where registered members can reference and/or promote content, text posts or direct links.

Tumblr (550,000,000); a topic-searchable micro-blogging and social forum oriented to creative expression by users on nearly any topic; acquired by Yahoo!

LinkedIn (500,000,000); an online network primarily for business professionals. Biographical and experience information is often organized by industry or area of professional interest, such as doctors and physicians, healthcare providers, hospital or healthcare management or marketing.

Other social media platforms; there are dozens of smaller and/or specialized sites and apps where users can find, exchange or discuss information. Sometimes these are defined by user criteria (doctors only, for example), or by a broad or specific subject (healthy living or cancer patients, for example).

Your proprietary website, blog and articles; hospitals, individual practices, health systems or practitioners often facilitate their own platforms for social interaction.

Inventory your directory listings. Every provider is listed with dozens of online directory pages, physician review and rating sites, insurance providers, and searchable “find a doctor” listings. Typically, there are more than you know, and, often, the data is missing or incorrect.

Understand your competition. Be aware of what the competition is doing—and not doing. Identify strengths and weaknesses. And, in particular, look for things that distinguish you as unique and better than the competition in the marketplace.

Commit time and resources to achieve goals. Social media is designed for low-cost, easy use. But achieving serious business objectives requires a serious commitment of time, effort and budget. Dedicate sufficient resources to match objectives. (Or adjust objectives to thrive within available resources.) Don’t begin until resources and goals align.

A social media strategy that produces measurable results…

With a tip of the hat to the immense popularity of Facebook and others, social media is now part of the digital fabric of society. Not surprisingly, the platforms pop up, pop out, change, morph with others, or are absorbed by competitors. In short, it’s a fluid landscape that requires monitoring and adjustments. Have a good plan, but be flexible and open to change.

RELATED REFERENCE: For more on this topic read: 10 Commandments for Success in the Art of Social Media. And watch for additional articles in this continuing education series.


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