The words “social media” and “engagement” seem to be joined at the hip. In healthcare marketing—including outreach from a medical practice, or a hospital—social media (SM) is broadly understood to simply mean your choice of tools. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google Plus are most popular and important. That part is easy.
But curiously, the meaning of social media’s companion buzzword, engagement, is often fuzzy. We all agree that it’s important, and we all seem to know it when we see it (or think we do). But its definition wanders around a bit, depending on the SM tool in use, the brand, context, goals, target audience, etc.
One definition that helps pin it down comes from Taylor Ellwood, author of Understanding the Social in Social Media. He writes:
“When I think about engagement in social media, I think of it as an activity where a person is purposefully choosing to interact with other people. S/he is actively interested in participating in the online community and is also actively interested in helping others out. Engagement then really means developing relationships, sustaining them, and consequently creating an environment where people can trust you enough to want to do business with you.”
The compelling marketing value of social media—particularly in the highly personal world of health care—is engagement; the deliberate interaction with, and participation among, people who share a common interest. What’s more, without “engagement,” social media isn’t really social, and it’s not particularly effective.
The over-arching concept behind social media content is that it delivers value to participants, and that it be presented in an interesting way. With great content in mind, here are nine key concepts that help fuel the all-important engagement side of social media:
Conversation: A monolog or a lecture might be instructive or informative, but there's no opportunity for discussion. Converse with people as part of a dialog.
Credibility: Society gives health care providers a head start as authoritative, trained professionals. Share information that is trustworthy and believable.
Emotion: Cold (bland) facts, no matter how authoritative, are far less engaging than information that touches people’s feelings.
Enthusiasm: Share your passion and energy. It’s contagious.
It’s about them: Meaningful relationships are grounded in mutual interests. Traction begins with what the audience needs and wants, and not necessarily with what you want to say.
Listen: You know…the “two ears and one mouth” thing. Regularly monitor what’s being discussed and contribute ideas that are relevant and timely.
One-to-one: Individuals read social media, even within a group. Talk to a person.
Shareable: Not everything “goes viral,” but useful information or actionable ideas inspire people to forward or participate with others.
Visual: It wasn’t always the case, but most social media platforms now accommodate pictures, drawings, charts and even videos. I can write about my cute puppy or I can post an adorable picture; which is faster?
What would you add to this list?
Social media is a valuable and economical tool for healthcare marketing. But its purpose is to reach, inspire and engage a community of like-minded individuals. Our list is a springboard, and we’d like to hear your ideas. What would you add to this list?
For related reading, click through to our previous post titled, Social Media in Healthcare: How to Harness the Marketing Opportunity.