Sunday, August 26, 2012

Are you using social media to engage the healthcare consumer/patient?

To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question? Faced with a dizzying array of possibilities from twitter to facebook to YouTube, LinkedIn, flicker and others, healthcare providers are struggling with developing a comprehensive social media strategy to engage their customers.

Understandable really. Some of the concern comes from not understanding the power and uses of social media and how consumers are the new paparazzi. Some comes from trying to figure out how a social media strategy fits into the overall marketing plan. Some is purely from executive ignorance in not understanding the place and uses of social media in the life of the healthcare consumer.

In many cases its all of the above and others, including and by far the most pervasive, the never ending paralysis by analysis planning loop and engaging in that quest for the perfect best practice before proceeding.

It's not just a facebook page, LinkedIn, blogging, web site or twitter.

This is an opportunity to experiment, to deliver new content, new key messages with non-traditional methods to reach out too and engage in a meaningful way the networked healthcare consumer. An opportunity to engage in dialogue, a dialogue which the patient/healthcare consumer desires to have more than you can imagine.

Follow these steps and you're on your way to developing and implementing a strategically-focused, comprehensive and fully integrated social media strategy:

1. Strategy first, tactics second. Any old road will get you to where you want to go without a clear identifiable strategy. This is no different than a traditional marketing approach. Integrate the tools and techniques of social media into your overall marketing efforts.

2. Be clear about your messages and what value using these tools will bring to your healthcare consumers. The purpose is to engage in a dialogue not shout at them. You have to understand what type of information and content your consumers want. Without that knowledge you can say whatever you want, but chances are no one will be reading, responding or listening.

3. Take an integrated approach. What goes on your web site is also on facebook and used in twitter to drive traffic to you. Twitter is a great way to send out links for health related articles or news and information. Have a video? Post it on YouTube. Writing a healthcare blog? You should be if you're not. Make sure twitter, facebook, YouTube, flicker etc follow you buttons are on your site. Running Back-to- School, Sports or Camp physicals? Put it on twitter, facebook and even those coupon sites like Groupon. Holding a health and wellness event, ditto.

4. Use QR codes with your web site or specific page links or phone number embedded in them to drive them to your site, call center or service line. Through the use of QR codes you can make your print and traditional activities social in nature.

5. Remember at all times your are building brand, perception and experience. This just isn't nice to have, people will remember what you say and do. Be right the first time.

6. Devote resources, budget, time and personnel for the task. Your challenge is to keep in front of your audience with relevant information, all the time. Attention spans are short. If someone sees no changes on a pretty regular basis in your content or information, they will fall away.

7. Measure everything. Evaluate. Adjust based on your findings.

8. Be creative, don't limit yourself to the tried and true or what a competitor is doing. Be an innovator.

9. Use social media with your physicians and employees to communicate, build organizational support and loyalty.

10. Build excitement around what you are doing.

The patient and healthcare consumer of today social media savvy and networked to the nth degree. They expect the same of you.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 4,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide. He is founder of the michael J group, a healthcare marketing consultancy dedicated to creating value through strategic marketing for hospitals and health system regardless of payment mechanism, either fee-for-service or value-based to increase market-share, revenue , brand and demonstrate actual return on marketing investment. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.

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