Navigating Social Media in the Healthcare Industry
There is no doubt about the power of social media. In simple terms, it allows companies to talk directly with their stakeholders. Those companies that do it well are those that are willing to listen, engage and act.
Social media are the platforms for consumer interaction and relationship building. It’s not complicated to implement a social media strategy, but it will take resources both in the time spent and as part of the overall marketing budget.
Here are some tips on how healthcare companies can execute a social media campaign:
• Plan: Develop a strategic social media plan. The plan should answer: Who are your audiences? Are you talking to consumers, other businesses or both? What are your messages? What do you have to offer your target markets through social media? How will you measure success? Without a realistic plan you will be ineffective and disappointed in your social media outreach.
• Investigate: Not all social media properties fit all brands. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, a company blog or any number of other platforms are available. If you are a hospital, for example, you might want to establish a YouTube account to post videos of procedures, surgeries or lectures. If you are a growing heathcare company, you might want to start with LinkedIn as a way to promote job openings. One simple way to start is with a corporate blog that can be used to aggregate all published content to your other digital assets. The blog will also increase your search engine optimization (SEO) when you use key words and helps build inbound links and search engine trust. There’s flexibility with a blog; it can be used as a vehicle for corporate news and milestones, friendly reminders, customer Q&A and as a traffic driver for all social media assets or it can be an opinion piece on a timely healthcare topic.
• Content is still king: In real estate it’s all about location, location, location. Online, it’s all about content, content, content. Google recognizes new content which also builds your SEO. The best way to achieve content is to develop a content calendar that targets and engages your audience. Sometimes it’s as simple as providing content for Facebook that can also be adapted at the same time for Twitter. New content is the key to keeping fans. Without it, they will move on to another brand.
• Listen: This is probably one of the most important messages for the healthcare industry. It’s important to monitor social media properties for mentions of your brand and develop a tactical plan to document and take action when applicable, whether the online comments are positive or negative. Listening encourages engagement, builds trust and allows companies to cultivate a relationship with their customers.
• Budget: What type of resources do you want to devote to a social media campaign and what are your budget considerations? Multinational and global companies have a numerous social media staff members devoted to their outreach. You can consider hiring someone in-house to handle social media initiatives or you can hire an outside consultant. In many cases, we have found that if the social media function ends up on the “to do” list of someone internally, be realistic. Social media may end up dropping to the bottom of their list which means it will not get done in the timely manner that it should.
• Be patient: In the healthcare industry in particular, you likely will not experience social media success overnight. For any company starting out, this is a marathon, not a sprint. In time, you will build a following, grow your fan base and ultimately see a positive impact on business. With social media, you will only get out of it what you put in to it.
Maria Pierson, CEO of Pierson Grant, a public relations and marketing firm in Fort Lauderdale, can be reached at (954) 776-1999 or firstname.lastname@example.org.