Sunday, August 5, 2018

Dark Social- What You Can’t See, Can Hurt Your Hospital

Bright social, where you can see your handiwork, and revel in the brilliance of your content in attempts to influence the choice of the healthcare consumer and patients in selecting the hospital and physicians for treatment could be falling way short.

Falling short you say?

Not entirely mind you, but with the changes  in all of the social media platforms as a result of fake news,  phoney followers, misuse of user data etc.,  Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and other social media platforms as restrictive content publishing houses only represents one-third of all the activity in social media on the Internet of Things (IoT).

Where in the world is this going?

Two-thirds of internet social media activity occurs in what has been termed dark social. I am not speaking of the nefarious activities of drug dealers, gun runner’s, blackmailers, etc. using TOR or another program that allows one to search the web anonymously. I am referring to all the social media activity that can’t be traced such as email link sharing, some applications and one-on-one messaging.

Now what?

For example, a healthcare consumer is looking for a new physician or hospital.   The individual researches on the IoT, speaks with work colleagues and others, reads some published content about the brilliance of the physician or the hospital and utilizes several social media platforms. 

But in this process, friends and others may send an email, might use Facebook Messenger. Google Hangouts or WhatsApp Messenger, send an SMS text with a link to a source of information or solution that would be of interest. It is the method of sharing information that makes it dark and potentially untraceable.

And what is of interest to me at least, is not the quantity of dark social traffic, but the quality of that sharing traffic that goes on unseen.

Think about this for a moment.

How important is the recommendation from someone you know about a service or solution when you receive a link to a website or shares some meaningful information? It’s one-on-one messaging as compared to the mass messaging which has some traits of personalization, but still a mass market message.

Therein lays the opportunity. Remember all the talk and activity about word-of-mouth marketing that was always the perceived key to success over the years? Well, word-of-mouth marketing hasn’t gone away, it’s just gone dark. 

Pun intended.

So how do you reach the two-thirds of the internet that are currently not visible to you? Most marketers use some form of marketing automation providing us at least the fundamental information of  “shared.” Seeing the word “SHARED” can be the equivalent of shouting the word  “squirrel” and having the dog reaction of quickly turning around in the Disney movie Up.  Does your neck hurt yet?

But by who and where was it shared?

Was it shared externally or internally in the recipient’s organization?  Was it shared with a supportive recommendation message, or, reaching high in the chuckle factor? Important to know as dark sharing impacts and influences the healthcare consumers buyer’s journey.

Changing how we track what’s going on.

We are early in the process of discovering the hidden treasure trove of data in dark social, but there are ways to begin to understand how your information is being shared and used.

It’s all about the embedded code.

One way is to add trackable code to URLs someone may copy and paste in messages. Another way is to add trackable code to your website content for when it is copied and pasted.  When publishers participate with you short trackable code is added to any text for when it is copied and pasted into a message.

It’s early, and more ways are being developed to track the activity on dark social. But all marketers need to begin to understand and respond to the influence of dark social on their marketing and find ways to see to be able to leverage that which is unseen.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at 815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.


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