This Thursday I’ll be in St. Petersburg, Florida speaking to a regional healthcare marketing interest group that is part of the American Marketing Association (AMA). My primary focus will be on the importance of “community building” in healthcare marketing – both online and in person.
I was reminded of the importance of community building late last week when I spoke at a blogger function for one of my firm’s hospital clients. We were hosting a dinner to welcome new bloggers to the fold. They had been recruited through a social media promotion and this was their first opportunity to come together in person and begin the community building process. Being a blogger can be a very lonely process, so we encourage our bloggers from day one to rely on and support one another. We ask them to comment on each other’s blog posts and to share those posts on their social media platforms. Building a following takes time and effort, but can definitely be accelerated if each of the bloggers engages their own social network.
The blogger dinner is their first chance to meet in person, and it is amazing to watch them come together and begin to build a bond. They exchange ideas for blog posts, talk about mutual friends and acquaintances, and begin to find those commonalities that are so important to community. Most significantly, they talk about their kids. For this particular blog, the writers are all moms. The experience of parenting is a commonality that can quickly unite people. We’ve all got our stories to tell – including me. We delight in hearing that others have faced the same challenges that we’re currently facing. When others are sharing stories of tragedy or hardship, we take comfort in knowing we’re not alone – others have lived through these same challenges.
With the blogs and online patient communities we build, our goal is always to build true community. We seek to develop platforms where people can come together, share information, and access whatever quality clinical information we can bring to the conversation. This is far better than the typical course of simply spewing content in the direction of primarily disinterested consumers. And these communities deepen the members’ relationship with the healthcare organization.
Online Health Communities
Numerous articles in medical journals have documented the many benefits of participating in online health communities including emotional support, accountability to help reach health related goals and for adhering to a treatment regimen, motivation and inspiration, and advice from other community members. A survey of members of Inspire.com patient communities found that, from the patient’s perspective, there are three leading benefits of participating in online communities: 1. Access to information and data; 2. emotional support; and 3. the opportunity for the patient to share his or her story to help others.
This Thursday I will talk about this trend and its impact on patients, clinicians, marketers and healthcare organizations. From my perspective, it is time for healthcare marketers to see themselves as community builders. This will lead to more effective communication strategies and, in the long run, better health outcomes.
See you in St. Pete.