2010 was the year that many hospitals and healthcare systems found social media. It was a year where healthcare marketers and communicators worked to convince hospital leadership and IT Departments that there was an imperative to move into the realm of social media. However, the vast majority of the involvement in social media that ensued revolved around pushing information out to consumers and followers. There was very little true engagement and there was next to no strategic intent involvement in the use of social media platforms. In fact, some of the case studies we all celebrate as events that show the potential of social media, occurred by chance without planning.
2011 needs to be the year where we are all intentional in the way we use this new set of communications tools – the year of strategic intent. We need to move beyond the fear of what consumers might say, and celebrate the fact that they may indeed give us feedback! What most healthcare marketers haven’t recognized is the amazing opportunity we have, using social networks, to learn from our constituents/followers. These are two-way communications platforms – if we allow them to work as they are intended. Beyond pushing information out, they allow us to listen to our brand constituents and develop a deeper understanding of their needs and expectations. We can engage in conversation with these same individuals, rather than simply talk at them. And we can listen to their conversations with others.
In 2011, healthcare marketers need to learn that piling up followers and friends is a means to an end. Having followers allows us to engage them in discourse and learn from them. Imagine having thousands of consumers readily available and willing to share their insights. That’s huge – and represents the untapped potential of social media in healthcare. Day-in and day-out we should be learning from what individuals share via social networks. Of course, that requires us to listen, not just push information.
Social media also gives us the opportunity to create better informed brand ambassadors. (And yes, some of this does involve pushing information out to your constituents. ) By approaching social media strategically, marketers will begin to recognize the opportunity to put those ambassadors to work on behalf of your brand to help you achieve key business and marketing objectives. Social media can be your channel for mobilizing and activating these individuals. Whether it is managed care negotiation, crisis communication, issue advocacy or a public health issue, we need to build our online communities with the understanding that they are to be nurtured (more listening and sharing) in preparation for the day you have to call upon them. It is at moments like these that the social network will live up to its fullest potential. But equally important are those small moments each day when consumers participate and speak to us through our social networks – helping us to break down barriers and build the bonds that more deeply connect individuals to our organizations.
We’ve spent enough time making the case for hospital involvement in social media. Now let’s get serious about the opportunity that these networks represent. Let’s connect, listen, learn, respond, engage, inform and activate.
If you’d like another perspective on this, check out “Voice Of The Consumer Still In The Woods” by Jack Loechner at http://tinyurl.com/5targtc. In his MediaPost article Jack notes that:
“A new study by MarketTools revealed that 94% of companies do not yet use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to gather customer feedback, despite consumers’ growing engagement with these mediums.”
My thanks to Ted Rubin for inspiring this post. (http://twitter.com/TedRubin)
Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer