Health brands are ideally suited to social media.
Across this broad category (from disease management; health care systems and hospitals; home health services and products; medical devices and equipment; nutritional and wellness products; pharma and OTC) there’s the common denominator of people really needing and wanting what these tools allow health brand marketers to provide:
- informative, even life-changing content
- talking back and forth, sharing stories and even emotionally supporting people who share common interests, ailments or illnesses
- learning from friends and providers (locally and from around the world)
- saving precious time and expense
Ultimately, social media allows you to help create healthier communities. Which leads to healthier co-creators. Which leads to a win-win for your customers, your company and society at-large.
For those brands interested in maintaining their relevancy and their value to their customers (meaning everyone), social media must be integrated into your mix. The extent of your social efforts is based on many organizational factors. But at a minimum, you need to get in the game.
Here are seven big opportunities (reasons why) for health brands to use social media:
1. Demonstrate that you practice what you preach. Social media allows you to demonstrate that you live up to the promises you make to audiences. As the traction around “engagement” continues to grow, actions will continue to speak much louder than words.
2. What benefits your audiences benefits your brand. The future of marketing is about doing things for and with audiences – on their terms. There’s simply too much opportunity for conversations, comments and collaboration for traditional one-way, tell and sell communications to work the way they did years ago.
3. Build loyalty through your brand. This is not the same as trying to build loyalty to your brand. Key is to help people achieve more than they can on their own. Helping them do this is how you gain their attention, loyalty and trust (as well as forgiveness if you ever find yourself needing it).
4. Help people live longer. Research has shown that greater social engagement helps people live longer, healthier lives. Pretty important benefit for a brand to be able to contribute to.
5. Your participation invitation is already extended. Whether you sent a formal invitation or not, participants are already gathering around the conversation (and your company).
6. Listen for rich category and brand insights. Social makes it easy to find out what people really want and need – from the category and from your brand. Which makes it easier to listen for ways to make your offering better. Covet the opportunity to collect and act on this information.
7. It’s all about establishing and earning trust. Which is one of the most important and sustainable advantages a company can build in this environment. The companies who understand this, and pay it off with the right “social” etiquette (doing for others), will see the most benefit.
Are there other reasons that should be added to this list? Please contribute your ideas.
This post refers back to Are You Really Satisfying Your Customers, written by Scott Monty, at his Social Media Marketing Blog. Scott is the head of social media for Ford Motor Company.
Scott’s point is that as it becomes harder for consumers to distinguish one company’s offerings from another, customer service is one (remaining) way to create greater value and gain competitive advantage. And social media channels, particularly Twitter, are well suited to help companies do this. He cites these three examples from Comcast, Best Buy and Zappos.
What do you think? Is the situation among health brands any different? What organizations are providing superior customer service experiences? And which are doing the best job of integrating social media into their efforts?
This is the first of many “Insider Insights” posts. Once a month, I’ll be featuring the personal perspective of a health brand CEO, senior marketer, digital or social media expert. I’m pleased to have Ed Bennett as our first participant. Ed is Director, Web Strategy at University of Maryland Medical System.
Each of these guests will address the same four questions, so that we’ll build a wealth of perspectives and knowledge around these four issues. Here’s what Ed has to say about the future of health brands and social media:
1. The organizations and brands that will thrive in the future are those that…
quickly adapt to new customer expectations. An entire generation is comfortable with Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Their expectation is to have direct, honest and rapid interactions with the brands they use. PR speak, and legalese will marginalize organizations, but authentic conversations will build customer loyalty and positive Word of Mouth.
2. Specific to social media, how has it impacted the way your organization conducts business? Healthcare, and hospitals in particular are very conservative. So far, most of these tools are seen as an extension of current practices, not as a new way to do business. We are seeing these services used to post news and events information, educational resources, and to re-purpose content like video. There is also some brand monitoring and service recovery going on, but it is not yet integrated into the basic business process.
3. What are the key challenges your organization is grappling with as it considers participation?
There are two major challenges:
A. Fear of HIPAA hold many healthcare organizations back. With no clear guidelines on what is allowed, hospitals in general are waiting on the sidelines. Out of the 5,000 US hospitals, only 360 are doing anything.
B. The other challenge is that IT departments in many hospitals block social media sites. Many times, work on them has to be done from home in the evening and weekends.
4. What are your top lessons learned for implementing a social media strategy?
You should start small, and only begin what you can maintain. Look to your internal experts, the people who use these tools in their personal life. They can see the benefits, and can be a great resource for your organization.
Consult with your legal team & create policies. There are two areas that need to be addressed: External comments / participation and Employee guidelines.
Be able to respond quickly – this is no place for a four-day multi-person review process.
How do we align the customer experience with social media?
This was the main topic of discussion in our client meeting the other day. With so much emphasis being placed on integrating social media into the marketing mix, this was a conversation about its impact on the total customer experience.
Given this perspective, many conversations about social media start too far downstream. First, even those that begin with objectives, audiences and strategies often bypass the fact that effective brand management is an organization-wide endeavor.
What this means is that all internal stakeholders across business functions need to play together on the same team, as audiences who are tweeting, posting, updating and uploading don’t care much about individual silo practices. And this means that an effective social media program must be “socialized” across the organization, as all disciplines must work together to deliver the brand promise. And delivering this promise depends on having the processes and systems in place to enable this to happen.
So how will your organization align the real-world customer experience with social media:
• how should you/will you respond to customer’s real-time questions, comments or concerns?
• which conversations are more important to business and relationships, and how do you know?
• how will you empower your customers so that they become an extension of your marketing and your sales force, and add value back to your brand?
These are a few of the questions we discussed in our meeting the other day. If you have any thoughts about this subject, please share.
A lesson to be learned for all health + healthy lifestyle brand marketers…
It’s back-to-school time. Travel a highway and you see parents taking their kids to school, and kids with cars filled to the brim with everything that could possibly fit in them. You also see a lot of Thule cargo racks.
So I went to Thule’s website today. And was saddened when I was there. Because, for starters, this is a brand with a great story, started by a gentleman who sold direct to end users at windsurf competitions on the New England shoreline out of his “station wagon” office. It’s the kind of story that many brands only wish they could tell. But it’s not really being told here.
It’s also a brand that consumers engage with in really important ways, at some really important times of their lives. Memorable times that will be with them, and their kids, forever. This brand makes people’s lives a lot sweeter, in ways that competitors (at least perceptually) just can’t match. Which is the making for great stories to be told!
The site is rich with functional details about the different kinds of Thule racks available for Bike, Snow, Water, etc. But we don’t buy features, we buy benefits. We buy with our guts, based on decisions charged with emotion. And I imagine that there’s some incredibly powerful associations wrapped around Thule that can be leveraged and brought to the foreground. Yes, Thule is functionally a means to help you safely get your things from here to there. But much more importantly, Thule is freedom, enabler, partner, protector, trusted friend…
This is a brand that could be engaging audiences much more meaningfully around their brand. It is a brand that should be inviting (probably very willing) customers to become allies in adding value back to Thule. It is a brand ripe for rich conversations and shared stories, which actually lets Thule spread their commercial messages more effectively.
But Thule is just one example of brands under leveraging relationships, fans and evangelists. What’s important to remember is that you need to let the conversations take place, and let the stories be told and shared around you. In the end, both customers and company will grow stronger.
I’m using this blog post to recognize the significant accomplishments of a Trajectory client, and to share how this organization has radically challenged convention and expectation to re-energize both its audiences and the organization itself.
Alpha Chi Omega is a national women’s organization represented in 40 states, with more than 200,000 members who join during their undergraduate college years and hopefully, remain members for the rest of their lives.
This past week, following our rebranding of the organization, ACO launched its new website. This was the final step in bringing its Real. Strong. Women. brand promise to life. In so doing, it changed the game for its members. And for the organization itself.
The new site changes the paradigm of the online experience for this forward thinking sorority to strengthen interactions, connections and conversations among its members. Its design, content and functionality offers both an information portal and community hub, further delivering on its promise to change the conversation for all Alpha Chi Omega women.
Among its many features, the site can be personalized to each Alpha Chi Omega member’s needs and interests by implementing a customizable platform within a sub site, My Alpha Chi. This is a major step forward for the organization, as the site is now relevant to all members regardless of lifestage or lifestyle. Other features of My Alpha Chi include:
• Starting Conversations – Alpha Chi Omega’s Blog
• Real Strong Woman of the Month – Stories of Alpha Chi Omegas who are making a difference.
• AX! Message Boards – Discuss issues whether Alpha Chi Omega or not.
• The Lyre Online – Top stories from The Lyre magazine.
• Connect with Alpha Chi –Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Flickr, LinkedIn and YouTube.
From the time that we had our first conversation with Alpha Chi Omega, they talked about two things. First, changing how women think and act about the idea of sorority. Second, changing the expectation of how a sorority will thrive, and be defined in the future. Their last major step in this journey is now complete. And for that, we congratulate this game-changing organization.
Mayo’s reputation for being a forerunner when it comes to all things “social media” isn’t news to those in and around the healthcare space. But even I was surprised at this finding.
As part of some secondary research for another client, we visited a lot of healthcare organization’s Facebook pages. Mayo has 8,811 fans. That’s a big number (at least in healthcare). Far greater than many other well-known institutions.
This means that 8,811 people are listening, discussing, messaging, updating, receiving Mayo’s feeds (which in turn gives these fans some viral power), interacting with Mayo and connecting with other people just like them (which we know in healthcare is very powerful in terms of improving health outcomes for people with a range of conditions).
Most importantly, this means that 8,811 people are telling (and participating in) personal and honest, living and breathing, powerful and overwhelmingly positive stories about Mayo in ways that traditional communications just can’t convey. Though I still believe that social media is not a single solution in itself, but one element of an integrated marketing communications plan.
It’s always been that people’s stories are important, not those of the organization. What an incredible, equity-enhancing benefit it is to have 8,000 plus people socially and passionately involved with your brand, while letting you (the marketer) actually spread your message more effectively.
Kudos (once again) to Mayo.
What companies are doing on the social web and how well they’re doing it.
This July 2009 study called Engagement db, prepared by Wetpaint and Altimeter reviewed and charted the top 100 brands based on their social media presence and level of engagement they have with their customers. And though there are no healthcare brands included, I think the findings are still relevant (supported by these few examples).
A few of the key insights include:
1. Having a presence on social networks and micro-blogging outlets is a must, as “social media reach alone may have a positive impact as the more touch-points used can cause a ripple effect, by increasing or boosting brand recognition and driving sales volume.” I have a feeling that Lee Aase, Manager, Syndication and Social Media at Mayo Clinic would agree.
2. Doing nothing is not an option, but doing it all may not be appropriate. Building a social media strategy depends on many factors including who your target is, your industry, etc. However, being where your customers are and a part of their online experience is critical. Humana made the decision to step-lightly-into social media, as the benefits (to deepen connections with consumers; collaborate better with doctors and hospitals) became apparent to the organization.
3. Find your sweet spot. Understand what resonates with your customers and engage with them using the channels they frequent and prefer. If resources are an issue – start small, lobby for more assets and engage fully. Hello Health is a new organization that mixes office and online visits to give patients personal attention when and how they want it.
The future of health + healthy lifestyle brand marketing is not about saying things to audiences. It is about saying and doing this with them.
As an addendum to my previous post, here are twelve principles for becoming a connecting versus campaigning organization. I refer to these principles as an Attraction Manifesto because of what “manifesto” implies – passion, game-changing, an appropriately public (social) declaration of your intentions and how you’ll set out to achieve them.
And because it’s a manifesto, it asks others to join together to make it a reality. Clearly, you’ll need to put your own spin on this doctrine to make it actionable for your organization and your audiences (which I hope you’ll do).
1. Coherence – our brand idea will serve as the nucleus for all of our actions, interactions and conversations.
2. Authenticity – our social media conversations should be similar to our daily interactions with friends, colleagues and family, i.e. open and honest, informal and in a personal voice.
3. Transparency – we’ll represent ourselves as people rather than an organization, because people connect with people, not organizations. We’ll also be honest about who we are, as trust is a huge barometer of engagement.
4. Collaborative – we’ll embrace the fact that true conversations are two-way, give and take exchanges; so that all participants ultimately grow stronger together.
5. Customized – we’ll create specific interest content and communities (thereby enhancing relevance to audiences) by collecting, categorizing, listening and responding.
6. Facilitating – we’ll allow conversations to go on around us without trying to control them, empowering people to connect through our brand, with content as the enabler.
7. Contagious – we’ll create “life-impacting” content and conversations that generate word-of-mouth and that people want to share with others.
8. Co-Creation – by working together, we all learn, grow and become stronger.
9. Evangelists – as feasible, we’ll create passionate and active advocates who will want to spread our message (for little expense).
10. Paced – we’ll start small, do what we can, when we can.
11. Context – we’ll recognize that social media is not a single solution in itself, but one element of an integrated marketing communications plan.
12. Bottom Line – there are lots of ways to measure social media success; so we’ll determine our success metrics (based on our objectives) before we begin our efforts.
As I’ve said previously, you have the opportunity now to benefit your organization by involving and empowering your audiences in conversations by being where they are and making it easier for them to connect, get informed and take action. It’s not a matter of “if”, but “when.” So what are you waiting for?