As America’s healthcare delivery systems have reinvented themselves, many social media platforms have become important marketing instruments for patient engagement, service line awareness, new business development and similar communications objectives. Each social media channel—such as Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter and many others—has its own distinct purpose and personality. This educational series provides marketing professionals, hospital executives and medical practice providers with an overview for marketing planning and effective social media implementation.
The ideal social media fit for your organizational purpose and goals is…well, that depends.
As you’ve likely already decided, there is no simple answer, no universal digital tool, and to make things even more challenging, each of the many options is constantly evolving. In this continuing series of guides, we’ll take a top-down look at each of the primary players as an overview perspective to help you determine which social media is best for you.
Less than two decades ago, the early history of the World Wide Web included budding “social” characteristics such as embryonic email (1971) and academic bulletin board (1979). By the turn of the new millennium, online social networks were forming; Friendster (2002), MySpace (2003), and LinkedIn (2003) being early examples. And Facebook was just getting started.
The roots of social networking services include Facebook, launched in February, 2004, by and for students at Harvard University. In the (nearly) ten years since, Facebook has become the most popular social networking site (#1; eBiz|MBA, December, 2013) with 800-million estimated unique monthly visitors.
Their Mission Statement
“Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.” [Facebook]
Social Proof: Much of what is shared on Facebook is simply personal notes and photos. But its inter-connected structure is highly suitable for individuals and business entities to engage individuals and groups who “like” a message or page. Social proof is closely related to word-of-mouth.
Targeting: Facebook is strong on connections and influence, but may be difficult to focus on a narrowly defined target audience or group.
Business Pages: Initially directed to connections among people, Facebook now includes pages for businesses, companies, medical facilities and practices, products and brands. Over 16 million local business pages have been created as of mid-2013. [Facebook]
Personable: Facebook pages—commonly at secondary Internet presence after the primary healthcare website—are often casual and friendly. This can afford a “professional” medical practice or business with an informal tone of voice involvement with organizational brand.
Visual elements: Photographs, cartoons, short videos and other graphic elements are appealing and useful for readers. Photo uploads total 300 million per day. [Gizmodo]
Page structure: Unlike a custom website, a Facebook presence has limited flexibility in terms of layout, secondary pages and functionality. Given this template environment, however, individuals and business entities are able to present their image and their branding messages. Limitations on page structure are a tradeoff for the shareability and connectivity among users.
Advertising options: Facebook is free of charge to the member/user. This popular platform, however, has several paid advertising solutions available, beginning with a business page, connecting and engaging fans of the page, and the ability to create a Facebook ad. Targeting options include focus by location, gender, age, likes and interests and other criteria. Facebook provides more information beginning on this page.
Facebook is the largest of the social media platforms available for hospital healthcare marketing tasks. Its wide popularity and its ease of use make it suitable for many (if not most) situations. Its primary intent—for connecting and sharing among friends—provide major benefits for involving and engaging prospective patients in healthcare.
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