By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
The popularity of social media in its various forms—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blog, etc.—is a fairly recent phenomenon. And for a large segment of society, it is social media that stitches together the blanket of connectivity that we can’t seem to do without.
At last count, about 73 percent of online adults used social media sites regularly. The numbers skew a bit female, and a bit younger, but social networking is fairly pervasive and nearly ubiquitous. [Pew Social Networking Fact Sheet]
As a result, social media is an excellent resource in the marketing toolbox of physician’s offices, group practices, hospitals and others in the healthcare spectrum. But—and this is where the problem comes into the picture—for some healthcare entities the social media presence is less effective than it could be.
Many experienced social media users produce good to excellent results. But others, it seems, never get enough traction and their results rank poor to frustrating. Although every situation that we diagnose is unique in its strengths and weaknesses, we’ve identified core ideas that can improve Return-on-Investment, and often, take the effort to the next higher level of effectiveness.
Upgrade your social media persona…
Generally, these tips apply to more than one social media platform. For starters, we’ll assume that you have a written plan, specific goals, a social media policy, assigned responsibilities and a clearly defined target audience(s). (If you don’t have these, you’ll need this foundation before you can build further.) Then…
Maintain a consistent focus. If your social media presence is for business, then stick to business. It’s a common mistake to publish or tweet material that jumps between business and personal topics. That isn’t to say that your tone of voice can’t be friendly, personable and/or reflect your personality. But an audience that expects authoritative information will be confused by weekend cheer-tweets for your old college team.
It’s a dialog, not a monologue. Social media output—having someone do a little “post here” and “tweet there”—is less than half of the real task. The higher level of social media success requires an active, interesting and ongoing discussion that involves and engages your connections.
Listen at least as much as you speak. A corollary to dialog is the need to monitor what’s being said, asked or discussed within the social gathering point. Listen carefully (and often) to identify new discussion topics, questions and answers, and to provide observations, comments or corrections. (By extension, be aware of what the competition is doing, saying or discussing.)
Concentrate on quality and type of content. Social media posts, regardless of the platform, should be authoritative, add value, be helpful, inspire sharing and/or be original. Can you ask a provocative question? How can you make a “dry fact” have greater interest to the audience? What can you provide that is new, or have a different perspective?
Credibility of content. Check your facts and details. Provide attribution, sources and references when appropriate. And don’t rely on auto-correct for spelling.
Use monitoring tools and analytics. Computer- and Internet-based social media has far more analytics-power under the hood than most people realize. Consider using a social media software (such as SproutSocial or others) to reveal details about your audience demographics, trends and usage, and engagement.
Give social media a front seat in the office. Too often we find a detailed Internet marketing plan that leaves “social media stuff” to get done as a secondary (i.e. afterthought) chore, or by a junior staff person. Effective social media placement, and quantifiable results, requires consistent and qualified care and attention. If it’s not really important, the neighbor’s middle school kid will be adequate.
For additional reading about social media, click through to our previous posts, Features, Advantages and Benefits of Social Media in Healthcare and Social Media ROI in Physician Marketing & Advertising.