Sunday, October 2, 2016

Are you using social media in actually engaging the healthcare, consumer?

More of a rhetorical question, the other day I was wondering with all the engagement and experience efforts underway if I am an engaged at any level by my insurance plan or health care provider? Putting my marketing hat aside, and looking at the question, I have to say the answer is no.

And it is a major challenge and obstacle that providers face as healthcare becomes retail and healthcare consumer driven in nature on how to engage.

Engagement is human- to-human

Let me repeat; engagement is a human-to- human undertaking. It is not a piece of state disease literature.  It is not a generic newsletter sent monthly with topics that I have little interest. It’s a meaningful interaction that is a two-way conversation about my health status, needs, and options.   A dialogue that is ongoing, not one time.

Patient engagement or any engagement for that matter is a mutually beneficial conversation that is structured to meet the healthcare needs of the individual.  It can take many forms to fit the engagement style of the patient or healthcare consumer.  The implication here is that it is highly individualized.  

In marketing, we call that mass customization.  That is the same information shared with large populations or group of people that appear in nature to the individual to be highly personalized.  But all of the engagement drives mostly the same outcome, to increase knowledge, to make better choices, to empower decision-making, to create brand loyalty and drive revenue. And that engagement effort is delivered across multiple mediums and channels that the targeted individuals desire to receive the information.

Past engagement styles and efforts do not meet today’s healthcare consumer’s needs.

The healthcare consumer and patient lives and reacts to the world that is omnichannel in nature.  They move freely between phone, email, mobile, and desktop, etc., expecting the engagement and experience to be seamless and available at any time of their choosing.

It’s easy to talk about the rationale and the importance of an effective and efficient social media program.  Or, to suggest social media channels as a starting point to drive engagement and business.  It’s another thing to discuss the how you do it in a time of scarce marketing resources, lack of knowledge or the willingness to lead change.

What follows are steps in a defined process  to embark on an integrated social media program for engagement?   
1.       Improve the organizational marketing process. Let face it, we all do things that don’t make any sense or has become so ingrained we react without thinking. Take a step back and look at the marketing processes. Find efficiencies and increase effectiveness. Stop doing what doesn’t work and move those resources to social media.    
2.       Find the one person in the organization that knows social media and put them full time on the job or hire someone.  It takes an FTE dedicated to run a successfully integrated, efficient, and engaging social media program.   
3.       Commit to social media all the time. The 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.   
4.      Measure everything.  Evaluate.  Adjust based on your findings. Redeploy budget as needed.  
5.      Use social media with brand evangelists, followers, customers, physicians, employees, etc., to communicate, build organizational support and loyalty.   
6.      Develop a content plan and editorial calendar.   
7.      Repurpose all content across social media channels.   
8.      Make it interesting and about the challenges the organization is solving.  All about you is boring and glossed over.  All about your customer’s or patient’s and how you are helping will.   
9.     In the end, if the human resources are not available in the department, consider outsourcing the social media function.

The bottom line is that the multiple stakeholders and audiences are out in social media searching for answers.  So it is probably about time that the provider or vendor is where they are, not where they would like them to be.

Think of one's personal experience as a healthcare consumer or patient.  Are you engaged? If not then the patients aren't either.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group, Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

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